Relation between Patel and Nehru in Jan 1948

This is an excerpt from the Biography of Sardar Patel – Sardar Vallabhai Patel – India’s Iron Man by B. Krishna. The book was published by Rupa Publication in the year 2005. Incidentally Krishna’s father Gauri Shankar was a close friend of Bhagat Singh’s father Sardar Kishen Singh and had developed a *great affinity* for Sardar Patel and wanted his son to write a biography of the Sardar.

From Page 488 – 491 of the book:

Nehru sought Gandhi’s arbitration on his differences with Patel in a long note he submitted to him on January 6, 1948, to which Patel answered the Mahatma: ‘I have tried my best to appreciate what he (Nehru) says on that subject (Hindu – Muslim relations), but howsoever much I have tried to understand it on the twin basis of democracy and Cabinet responsibility, I have found myself unable to agree with his conception of the Prime Minister’s duties and functions. That conception, if accepted, would raise the Prime Minister to the position of a virtual dictator, for he claims “full freedom to act when and how he chooses.” This, in my opinion, is wholly opposed to democratic and Cabinet system of government. The Prime Minister’s position, according to my conception, is certainly pre-eminent; he is first among equals. But he has no overriding power over his colleagues; if he had any, a Cabinet and Cabinet responsibility would be superfluous. In my view, the Prime Minister, as the leader of the party and the head of the whole administration, is inevitably concerned that Cabinet decisions are effective and that there is no conflict between one ministry and another. But the entire responsibility for implementing the policy of Government rests upon the Ministers and ministries under them which are concerned with the subject matter of the cabinet decisions.’ The Prime Minister ‘has accordingly the right to ask for information from the Minster concerned as well as the right to consult and advise on the lines of policy to be adopted and even the manner in which the policy is to be implemented. But the responsibility for the implementation of the policy must be that of the ministry concerned and of the Minster-in-charge, and the Prime Minister should influence action by way of consultation with and advice to the Minister. I feel sure that this position of the Prime Minster not only fully safeguards his pre-eminence and makes him an effective head of the administration, but is also fully in accord with democratic principles and rules of ministerial and Cabinet responsibility.


Gandhi did not have the time to resolve the differences between Nehru and Patel. His assassination, however, did the job. A surge of sentimentalism in the wake of his martyrdom drifted away the dark clouds which had hung over Nehru and Patel, and united the two to jointly shoulder the burdens of an infant State which had gained her freedom less than six months earlier. Gandhi’s last visitor, before his assassination, was Patel, from whom he extracted a promise that he would look upon Nehru as his leader. Patel’s surrender was a sacrifice, perhaps unparalleled in history, on two counts: he enjoyed majority support in the party; and Nehru’s leadership was not through democratic process of election, but through nomination by Gandhi.

As stated above, the Author Krishna *worships* the Sardar, but that doesn’t take from the facts that he presents. Hope the current Cabinet reads and understands what the Sardar stood for. 



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