Art 370 – How Nehru let down Patel after his death

V Shankar was, apart from V P Menon and Maniben closest to Patel during his last few years. This is an extract from His book *Reminiscences of Patel – Vol 2* Pg 62 – 63. Incidentally Gopalaswamy Ayyangar was close to Nehru and had caused some friction between Nehru and Patel.

Finally, this view prevailed and Gopalaswamy Ayyangar’s draft with necessary modifications was adopted. A last minute plea of Maulana Azad to endorse Sheikh Abdullah’s point of view was turned down summarily and the Constituent Assembly without much debate and with the non-participation of Sheikh Abdullah adopted the Article which later figured as Article 370. I was somewhat taken aback at Sardar’s acquiescence in the draft formula of Gopalaswamy Ayyangar and strongly felt that Sardar had compromised the position of the Indian Union and other States in accepting that formula as the basis. Frankly speaking, I was resentful of Sardar’s attitude and when we returned to his residence during the lunch break, I was silent and sullen and repaired straight to my office room. Maniben came to call me for lunch; I declined to go and told her about the pain and anguish I inwardly felt, adding that for the first time I nursed a grievance of betrayal on the part of Sardar. She conveyed my feeling of resentment to Sardar who sent her back to tell me that I should join lunch table atleast for a talk. I did so, accordingly. As soon as I was seated, Sardar spoke: ‘So you are annoyed with me for having accepted Gopalaswamy’s formula.’ I queried that if he felt that way why did he not indicate his mind earlier. He said, ‘I was deeply concerned at the situation. Gopalaswamy had acted under Panditji’s advice. If Jawaharlal were here I could have had it out with him. But how could I do so with Gopalaswamy who was only acting under orders? If i did, people would have said that i was taking revenge on his confidante when he was away. Gopalaswamy had appealed to me for help. How could I have let him down in the absence of his Chief?”

I then asked why he had left down the country and the other States whose Constituent Assemblies had been scrapped in accordance with his advice and policy. He conceded the validity of the criticism but pointed out the delicate international position of the State and the issue of its relationship with India. We felt that the present situation had to be tided over without giving up the eventuality and this has been done under the formula. He said that after all, neither Sheikh Abdullah nor Gopalaswamy was permanent. The future would depend on the strength we do not deserve to exist as a nation.’

With this high-minded explanation of his action I had no further arguments to put forward and conceded that he had shown both strength and statesmanship in dealing with the problem and acknowledged the sense of chivalry which had prompted him to come to the aid of a colleague in trouble even though the latter had been opposing him virtually as a matter of routine in order to keep Panditji company.

I am happy to state that Gopalaswamy fully appreciated the nobility of Sardar’s action. I was fortunate to have won Gopalaswamy’s affection after Sardar’s death and was a recipient of both his trust and confidence in an unusual measure. When I was working as his Joint Secretary in July 1952 the self same article came in for criticism in the Lok Sabha. In defence, Pandit Nehru took the stand that the Article was dealt with by Sardar in his absence and he was not responsible for it. I met Gopalaswamy the same evening as he was walking on the lawn of his residence. I questioned the bonafides of Pandit Nehru’s stand. Gopalaswamy’s reaction was one of anger and he said ‘It is an ill return to Sardar for the magnanimity he had shown in accepting Panditji’s point of view against his better judgement.’ He added ‘I have told Jawaharlal this already.’


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