Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while speaking on the budget pointed out that Congress did not make Vallabhbhai Patel Prime Minister. In fact, Nehru was the choice of Gandhi, who respected both him and Patel. There was no rivalry between Nehru and Patel as both realised that India could prosper only if they had mutual respect for each other. Patel, even when he could muster majority in Parliament, did not try to supplant Nehru. Let me give a few instances where even when they differed on state policy, Nehru and Patel accepted each other’s points of view. In 1947, the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, after a tribal attack from Pakistan realised that it was no longer possible to stay independent. So he sent his Prime Minister, Justice Mehr Chand Mahajan with a letter to Jawaharlal Nehru about Jammu and Kashmir’s accession to India so that military assistance could be sent to the state.
Mahajan was finding difficult to convince Nehru about the immediate acceptance of the accession of Kashmir, though Patel agreed with Mahajan. A heated debate was going on, but Nehru was still showing reluctance. At the time, Sheikh Abdullah, who was listening to this debate, came out from the adjacent room to tell Nehru to accept the views of Patel and Mahajan. It was in these circumstances of mutual respect for each other that J&K’s accession to India took place.
Another important event concerned the accession of Hyderabad. It is well known that Patel was for taking strong action against the Nizam of Hyderabad, who wanted to remain independent and not accede to India, even when his boundaries did not have any direct links with Pakistan. Nehru was against military action, but finding that the conditions would become irredeemable, Patel decided on his own to send the security forces to Hyderabad.
While the security forces were moving in, Nehru came to know about this and telephoned N.V. Gadgil, Minister of State for Home and told him that he wanted to talk to Patel immediately about it. Gadgil phoned Patel and told him what Nehru had said. Patel naturally sensed that Nehru would want to stop him from taking action against the Nizam. So he told Gadgil that he should tell Nehru that he was not able to contact Patel. The result was that the security forces moved in and Nizam immediately signed the letter of accession to India.
The Nizam realised and understood how Nehru and Patel functioned on the matter. This was proved by the fact that soon after Nehru went to Hyderabad, the Nizam did not show the courtesy of receiving him at the airport. But soon after Patel went to Hyderabad he realised the consequence of repeating his foolishness and quietly went to airport to receive Patel, which was the correct protocol.