31 October has great significance in modern Indian History


It is not without a reason that 31 October is one of the most significant dates in modern Indian history. It was on this day, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the Iron man of India was born and it was also on this day that Indira Gandhi, the greatest mass leader of the last century was assassinated in her own house by her two bodyguards. Patel was not only an unifier but a very able administrator who through his grit and determination ensured that the over 600 princely Riyasats became a part of the Indian Nation. A staunch Congressman, he could have made a very good Prime Minister as well but bowed to the wishes of Mahatma Gandhi who preferred Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru for the coveted job. Nehru and Patel were devoted followers of the Father of the Nation and could never ever dream of letting him down. Gandhiji probably took the decision because he saw in Nehru a person who could lay the foundation of an Independent India and moreover in his view Patel was much older at that point of time. Patel passed away in 1950, three years after the country got its freedom, leaving behind his rich legacy. Such is his legacy that over the years, the Bharatiya Janata Party which is vehemently opposed to the ideology of the Congress has tried to appropriate it. First it was Mr L.K.Advani, who saw himself as an Iron Man as well and later the current BJP leadership contyinues to be in total awe of this tall personality. Patel and Nehru were often not on the same page but that did not prevent them from working together. Both loved their country and always had the Nation’s interests in mind. Indira Gandhi was one of the strongest leaders to have led the central government. She never shirked away from challenges and first carved out a place for herself by breaking the Congress in 1969 in order to take on the combined might of many senior leaders during the Presidential election where her nominee, V.V.Giri defeated the official party candidate, Neelam Sanjiva Reddy by a very close margin. Next, she defied the United State President Richard Nixon who had been openly siding with Pakistan despite its brutalities on the Bengali population of its own country. Indira Gandhi took the decision to end this violation of human rights and the mass murders and rapes of the Bengalis by taking Pakistan head on. The result was that Bangladesh was created and the Indian Army took 93,000 Pakistani soldiers as Prisoners of War. The then Jan Sangh leader and later the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee compared her with Goddess Durga at that time. Indira Gandhi committed several mistakes also like imposing the Emergency in 1975 for which she paid a heavy price; she was defeated from Rae Bareilly in the 1977 general elections. The second mistake was sending the Army into the Golden Temple complex, which also subsequently became the reason for her assassination. The anti-Sikh riots that followed her killing shall always remain a big blot on our history. On Monday, a grateful Nation should remember and pay tributes to two of the finest leaders we have had.
Pankaj Vohra