Out of my mind: Legacy Wars Meghnad Desai Was Thomas Jefferson a pioneer of freedom or a hypocritical slave owner? Was Winston Churchill a war hero or a racist? The Americans and British debate such matters all the time. Indians are shy of debating even their recent history. The Congress, having nothing to show on the economic or governance front, is nervous that its last strong card â€” its monopoly of Indian history â€” is being challenged by Narendra Modi, who recently claimed Sardar Patel as his icon. The Congress believes it made India's history all by itself â€” the Independence movement led by Gandhi-Nehru and the Nehru-Gandhi years in government. Suddenly, Congress leaders are falling over each other praising Patel. But alas, their knowledge of their own history is fragile since the memory of Patel has been erased from books written by their house historians. Patel is now hailed as 'secular and liberal', and an enemy of the RSS. For those who were alive then, history is very different. The Congress had, from 1885 onwards, a predominantly Hindu membership. This was inevitable because the Hindu elite had taken advantage of British education and joined new professions. Muslims lagged behind. Gandhiji tried to forge a united Hindu-Muslim struggle for Khilafat. When he abandoned it after Chauri-Chaura, he alienated Muslims. The Congress never regained the support of the Muslims. The Motilal Nehru Report spurned Jinnah's request for seat sharing because the Hindu Mahasabha was against it. The Congress promised a coalition with the Muslim League in UP after the 1937 elections. When it got absolute majority, Nehru reneged on the promise. In the 1946 Constituent Assembly polls, the Congress did not win a single Muslim seat, despite the fact that Maulana Azad was its president. The leadership of the party was largely Hindu. Nehru was isolated as a rare secular liberal leader who had the backing of a few 'nationalist' Muslims and socialists. And he was Gandhiji's choice for PM. The other leaders â€” Patel, Rajendra Prasad, Purushottamdas Tandon â€” were staunch Hindu traditionalists. Mountbatten first convinced Patel about why Partition made sense. Patel got Nehru to go along. Patel was much more staunchly anti-Pakistan than Nehru. They quarrelled about protecting Muslims in India, who were being attacked by refugees arriving from Pakistan. The Hindu traditionalist wing of the Congress wanted the RSS to merge with the Congress but Nehru was against this. The Nehru-Patel quarrel nearly split the government. They asked Gandhiji to intervene, but he was assassinated on the very day he was going to reconcile them. This shook Patel. He was blamed for the lapse of security which led to Godse getting close to Gandhiji. The government remained tense. Nehru was Prime Minister, but did not dominate the party. Tandon, Kripalani, Patel and Prasad were more powerful. It was only after Patel's death in December 1950 that Nehru had Tandon removed from the post of president. During the Fifties, Nehru neutralised JP, who then gave up politics. The Communist party decided to support him on the basis that Nehru led the progressive forces within the Congress and that the reactionary forces had to be countered. Who were these reactionary forces? They were the Hindu traditionalists. Patel, deemed their leader, was now gone. Prasad, Tandon and Rajaji were marginalised. Only Nehru remained as the sole Congress leader. And Gandhiji. Once he was dominant, Nehru cracked the whip for secularism. Prasad wanted to inaugurate the restored Somnath temple but Nehru did not agree as it violated the code of secularism. It was K M Munshi who took the lead to promote Hindu revival with his movement to restore Somnath. Hindu revival thus became a Gujarati project. Patel may have been downgraded in Delhi, but he remained a Gujarati icon. Indira Gandhi split the Congress in 1969. It was Gujarat which took the lead against her in 1974 with the Navanirman movement. Morarji Desai, ejected from the Congress by Indira, returned as the leader of the Janata Party to defeat her. It is this old Congress-Janata tradition which claims Patel as its icon. It is too late for the Congress to reclaim him. Out of my mind: Legacy Wars - Indian Express ****************************************************************************** Indeed the Americans and British do debate the controversial characer of their leader. We deify our leaders and close our minds to entomb the memories in perpetuity as the Gospel Truth! Patel was never given the place in modern India and in fact wiped out of national memory in deference to boost the Nehru Gandhi image leaving Nehru as the sole architect to the wonders achieved by India past and till he lived! Ambedkar was thrown in now and then since it was politically prudent for favourable results at the hustings. From the speeches of Patel one would be straining hard at the bit to believe that he was secular as the meaning of 'secular' is bandied today. In fact, if he were alive today, he would be an embarrassment to the Congress Party. Therefore, the lost lost love for Patel and his high 'secularism' is a charade that is being orchestrated by the Congress is patently false and more as a reaction to Modi having usurped the legacy of Patel as his true successor. The Congress is aware that Modi usurping the Patel would do immense damage to the Congress and its election prospects, given the lacklustre governance and the wimpish handling of national security issue, the latter signaturing a crawling and kowtowing before the neighbours to include insignificant specks like the Maldives. By preventing Modi from playing the natural inheritor of Patel's legacy and scrambling to claim that Patel was theirs, the Congress apparently believes that some of that "iron Man" effect would rub off on the Congress and people will forget the wimpish and cowardly handling of issues with neighbours who have transgressed into Indian territory and one, even killed Indian soldiers! Patel was a hardliner as others and was chalk to cheese when compared to Nehru, whose family has overtaken the Party as their sole inheritance!