SARDAR Vallabhbhai Jhaverbhai Patel, born and grew up in rural Gujarat and educated through vernacular language, is rightly called unifier of India post bifurcation of the country into two nations -India and Pakistan- in 1947.A successful lawyer and prominent independence activist, he remained India’s first Deputy Prime Minister with home portfolio in the Council of Ministers headed by Jawaharlal Nehru until his passing away at the age of 75 on December 15, 1950 in Mumbai. While Nehru (1889-1964),an idealist , a nationalist and freedom fighter, was doubling as the country’s first foreign minister dedicated himself to improve relations particularly with the emerging socialist world, Sardar Patel’s priority was integration of the strategic princely states with the Indian Union. Popularly called Sardar Patel, he had acted as Home Minister during the political integration of India and the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947. He had performed the task with aplomb. Patel is remembered as the man who united India. He is very often compared with Otto von Bismarck of Germany who had united the disintegrated country into one nation in 1860s. More than 562 princely states were given the option of joining either India or Pakistan, or choosing independence. Indian nationalists and think -tanks feared that if these states did not accede to the Indian Union, most of the people and territory would be fragmented and would cause immense problem in future to India’s unity and integrity. India’s enemies might utilize them for constantly trying to harm the country. Then ruling Congress think tank and senior British officials considered Patel the best man for assigning the task of integrating the princely states with the Indian dominion. Gandhi had said to Patel: “The problem of the States is so difficult that you alone can solve it”. Sardar Patel was not a mere visionary like then PM Nehru. Patel was statesman per excellence, a man of integrity and was aware of the ground reality .With V. P. Menon, a senior civil servant, he started interacting with then princes. Patel used social meetings and unofficial environs to engage most of the monarchs inviting them to lunch and tea at his home. Patel explained that there was no inherent conflict between the ruling Congress and the princely order. Patel invoked the patriotism of India’s monarchs, asking them to join the Indian Union in mutual interest. He persuaded the princes of 565 states of the impossibility of remaining independent from the Indian republic. He had reached the deadline of August 15, 1947 to merge most of the princely states with India offering favourable terms including Privy Purse and retention of their honorific titles to the rulers. He had however problem in convincing Junagadh and Hyderabad rules about accession to the Indian Union. Patel ordered reconstruction of ancient Somnath temple in Gujarat annoying PM Nehru. Patel succeed in merging Junagadh and Hyderabad and would have succeeded in uniting Jammu & Kashmir as well with India. When the Indian army was driving away the Pakistani soldiers from the border state, UN intervened at the instance of then PM Nehru. After 72 years, his unfinished task of integrating Jammu & Kashmir with the rest of Indian nation was completed by the NDA Government headed by Narendra Damodardas Modi on August 5, 2019 when Indian Parliament approved reorganisation of Jammu & Kashmir. Paying tribute to Patel on his 114th birth anniversary, PM Modi credited Patel for India’s unification saying diversity is our strength, not weakness. On his birth anniversary on October 31, PM Modi has dedicated abrogation of special status in Jammu & Kashmir to Sardar Patel recalling integration and unity of India was the mission of the Iron Man he had lived for till his last breath (picture courtesy to Livemint).