Veer Vithalbhai Patel - Introduction
Born On : September 27th 1873 | Born In : Nadiad, Gujarat | Died On : October 22nd 1933
Career : Freedom Fighter, Legislator | Nationality : Indian
Mahatma Gandhi was the soul of the Indian political movement. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was its strength and Vithalbhai Patel was its character. Although Vithalbhai is a lesser known politician in the Indian freedom struggle than his brother Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, popularly known as the "Iron Man of India", he, nevertheless, surely holds a great role and an eminent position in the entire freedom movement. By entering into politics much before his renowned brother, Vithalbhai established the Swaraj Party that aimed at forming self-government and achieving freedom for the Indian people from the British Raj. He strongly opposed Mahatma Gandhi's decision to abandon the Non-Cooperation Movement with the occurrence of the Chauri Chaura tragedy.
Vithalbhai Jhaverbhai Patel was born as the third of the five Patel brothers in Nadiad district in the Indian state of Gujarat. He was four years elder to Vallabhbhai Patel, a prominent Indian freedom fighter. Being raised and brought up in Karamsad, he attained self education at Nadiad and Bombay. To earn his education and living, he worked as a pleader, or junior lawyer, at Godhra and Borsad. He was married off to a girl from Diwaliba village at a very young age. Following his footsteps, his younger brother Vallabhbhai Patel also educated himself and worked as a pleader. Since both were ambitious, they dreamt to study in England. To fulfill his dream, Vallabhbhai Patel had accumulated enough money and ordered for his passport and ticket to England. However, the parcel delivered by the postman was addressed to "Mr. V.J. Patel, Pleader".
Though the parcel was meant for Vallabhbhai Patel, but Vithalbhai insisted on traveling on his passport and tickets on the pretext of preventing social criticism of an elder brother following the lead of the younger one. Left with no option and considering it to be his fate, Vallabhbhai let his elder brother travel to England. Additionally, he even paid for his stay during the entire study course. Vithalbhai studied at the Middle Temple Inn in London and completed the 36-month course in just 30, thereby appearing as the topper of his class. He came back to India in 1913 and started working as a barrister in courts of Bombay and Ahmedabad. While his professional life was moving on smoothly, he met with a personal crises in 1915 when his wife died, leaving him a widower for the rest of his life.
Much before Vallabhbhai Patel could enter politics, Vithalbhai got into the political world and became a prominent name in the Indian independence movement. He managed to win a seat in Bombay Legislative Council with the help of a band of supporters. Though the body did not have any real functions, Vithalbhai tried working hard for one year but failed to achieve anything for national independence, self-government, or public welfare. After the incident of Chauri Chaura and the end of Non-cooperation Movement in 1922, Vithalbhai left Congress and established his own party called Swaraj Party, along with Chittaranjan Das and Motilal Nehru.
The basic aim of the party was to enter the councils and abolish the government run by the British. However, the party could get success in dividing the Congress and later itself as well. He became popular amongst the masses through his oratorical and witty speeches. Thereafter, he was elected to the Central Legislative Assembly in 1923 and later in 1925, became the Assembly's president. Despite not completely in sync with Mahatma Gandhi's philosophy and practices, Vithalbhai joined Congress and began his struggle for India's independence. He did not receive major support from any specific region, but still managed to get popular and influence people with this fiery and powerful speeches and articles published in the newspapers.
In 1929, several supporters of the Government of India made attempts to remove Vithalbhai from the presidentship of Imperial Legislative Assembly, or Central Legislative Assembly, but were stopped by the Viceroy Lord Irwin who was trying to win the support of many important nationalists. On failing to do so, Gandhi launched the Civil Disobedience Movement in 1930 resulting in Vithalbhai resigning from his the Central Legislative Assembly on the pretext of support the movement. He declared Purna Swaraj (complete independence) and re-entered Congress. For this, he was even imprisoned but was released in 1931 due to his declining health. For the same, he traveled to Europe to get himself medically treated. With the end of Salt Satyagraha, Vithalbhai yet again stood against Gandhi and joined Subhash Chandra Bose. Both met in Vienna in 1933 when Bose was released from Bhowali Sanitorium and set to Vienna for treatment, while Vithalbhai also went to Vienna to get himself treated. Sharing similar political views and desire for India's freedom, both got closer to each other and traveled extensively throughout Europe gathering funds and political support.
While touring Europe, Bose started showing improvement in his health, but Vithalbhai started declining further. On finding his immense support for the political work, Vithalbhai handed over the residual part of his property amounting to Rs. 1, 20,000 to Bose considering that the latter had no private means to earn nor would he receive a single penny from Congress. Vithalbhai passed away on October 22, 1933 in Geneva, Switzerland. His body was brought back to India and cremated in Bombay on November 10. He was 60 years old.