Was Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel more competent than Nehru in the race for the first PM of India?

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was certainly more pragmatic and practical than Jawaharlal Nehru. M.K Gandhi however was very fond of Nehru and wanted the world to deal with a more articulate and suave face.

Mr. Patel along with V.P Menon was responsible for the integration of the princely states into India; an achievement which was done after considerable hardwork. The British Empire had engineered a system of “divide and rule” in nearly every sector of India’s landscape; from education, army to the Indian princes(Maharajas and Nawabs).

All of them had their own tantrums. The wily princes with their Machiavellian thinking wanted to carve out niches of self-interest. A political adviser Sir Conrad Cornfield, a convinced royalist himself was the centrifuge of the machinations. At the very core of his strategy was to save at least two to three of the bigger princely states from Congress engulfment, in the main Hyderabad and Bhopal. The British disliked the Congress; and tried their best to make things as difficult as they could for India. Present-day Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir( Gilgit, Chitral) is also a gift of a defecting British army man to the Pakistani side; for which he was posthumously awarded.

It is safe to say Mountbatten and his wife were a little more fond of India. Although Churchill had recommended the last viceroy of India; his gradual affinity for the country led to the imperialist Churchill never speaking to Mountbatten for the rest of his life.

Sardar died in 1950; relatively early. So; it is a bit difficult to say whether he would have been better suited for the job than Nehru. But; hard-nosed and political realist that Vallabhbhai was; he would have not committed the kind of errors that Nehru did; alienation of the United States; leadership of the non-aligned movement; recognition and backing of Communist China when it was a pariah and outcast in global geopolitics. Britain was a spent force after World War II; and was merely America’s sidekick.

On the flip side; Gandhi’s fondness for Nehru was largely due to this fact; his intellectualism and world statesman aspirations and recognition. He also feared Nehru would revolt if he was not made Prime Minister. On the other hand; he knew that Patel was a true patriot; and would abide by “Bapu’s” wishes. In hindsight; Sardar seems to be the better person to be Prime Minister.

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