Bardoli Satyagraha: A turning Point for India

Plainly Speaking  by Dr.Hari Desai   
Bardoli Satyagraha: A turning Point for India

Once Patel was convinced, Gandhiji blessed and gave green signal:
           Boarding train following resignation made him  “Sardar of India”


It was July 1927. In many parts of Gujarat and Kathiawad the rainfall was so heavy, so continuous and was accompanied by such strong winds as had never before been known in the memory of the oldest living persons in those areas. Barrister Vallabhbhai Patel was re-elected as the President of Ahmedabad Municipality in 1927 with reduced majority. Patel, along with his municipality staff and even the Collector of Ahmedabad district, was busy fighting the calamity and extending assistance to the affected people. Even the Collector of Kheda asked the Collector of Ahmedabad for help in securing a supply of essential commodities for his flood affected district. Patel came to their rescue in obtaining quantities of wheat, rice, sugar, kerosene etc., and sent them off to the Ahmedabad station together with a group of volunteers. The Collector of Kheda was greatly relieved when the commodities reached Kheda.
Barrister Vitthalbhai Patel, the elder brother of Vallabhbhai, was the President of the Central Legislature. He not only started a flood relief fund of his own, but rushed to Gujarat to assist his brother immediately after the session of the Legislature was over at Simla. He drew attention of the Viceroy. Lord Irvin, who came to Gujarat for a two-day visit in the second week of December along with Lady Irwin, was impressed by the relief work being carried out under the leadership of Patels.
Even Bombay Government was pleased. “When he presented the statement of expenditure in connection with the flood relief to the Legislature, Sir Chunilal Mehta, the Finance Member (Minister) greatly praised Vallabhbhai’s alertness and organizing ability and said that in Gandhiji’s absence, Vallabhbhai had taken his place and discharged his duties creditably. He admitted that the discipline and the ability which the volunteers had shown was the result of years of training given to them by Gandhiji and Vallabhbhai,” records Narhari D. Parikh in “Sardar Vallbhbhai Patel”.
For two years, Bardoli was protesting and petitioning against proposals for an increase in land revenue tax even with the support of Surat district’s representatives in the Bombay Legislative Council, but the Raj did not budge. In July 1928 itself, the Government refused to consider peoples’ perspective and declared that the revised tax was not being collected on the basis of agriculture prices but on the statistical conclusions of lease and rental calculated purely by talaatis or junior revenue officials in Bardoli taluka.
The Revenue Commissioner F. G. H. Anderson jacked up the rates for Bardoli taluka by 22 per cent in January 1928.The reaction of Bardoli’s peasants was that they could not accept the new rates. Since the Government declined to have a dialogue with moderates in the nationalists groups, they decided to seek assistance of  Vallabhbhai Patel who had past experience in leading the Nagpur, Kheda and Borsad Satyagraha.
Vallabhbhai got appreciation for his public service but all was not well in the Ahmedabad Municipality under his Presidentship. He repeatedly faced opposition from his own friends like Ambalal Sarabhai and Kasturbhai Lalbhai, both prominent industrialists and even Gulzarilal Nada, the leader of the textile workers, who were among the new members. Patel tendered resignation as the President of the Municipality in 1927 and was persuaded to withdraw. On 13 April 1928, he finally resigned when his nominee for the Chief Officer’s post lost support of the Board.
Rajmohan Gandhi describes the episode in “Patel: A Life”:“Ambalal, Kasturbhai and Gulzarilal recommended the name of (Morarji) Desai, who was a government servant at the time, and (G.V.) Mavalankar supported the suggestion. Patel, who had assured (H.L.) Dewan of his backing, expressed disagreement. He also told Ambalal and the others that he would quit if Bhagat was chosen. The council voted on the question on 13 April. In a three-cornered contest, Bhagat emerged ahead of both Dewan and Desai, with Desai getting more votes than Dewan….The minute he heard the result, Vallabhbhai picked up pen and paper and wrote out his resignation…A few hours later, he was on a train to Bardoli.”
Though defeated at the Municipality, he was destined to emerge as the Sardar at the national level after the success of Bardoli Satyagraha. A most powerful leader of the Congress, Patel became the first Deputy Prime Minister of India. Nanda became the interim PM twice and Desai rose to become the PM in 1977.
Though Patel had planned Civil Disobedience activities in Bardoli following the Congress Session of 1921 at Ahmedabad, he was not prepared to accept the leadership of the peasants of Bardoli without verifying their commitment not to give up. When he was approached, he asked them to go to the Members of the Legislature. Again when they approached him along with the Members of the Legislature, he wanted all of them to go back. His advice was: “You go back to Bardoli. If the agriculturists are prepared to withhold not merely the increase in the land revenue but the whole of the land revenue, and if they are prepared to face all the dire consequences, that would undoubtedly ensue, I am willing to come. Go through the whole Taluka, ascertain what the people have to say. Find out how many are ready and then tell me.”
This was around 20 January 1928.The first installment of the land revenue fell due on the 5th February, so that the whole of the inquiry had to be completed in the course of 8 to 10 days. They completed the exercise and returned to Ahmedabad. Vallabhbhai accompanied them to Gandhiji. On hearing the justification from Patel, the Mahatma blessed: “Well, then, there is nothing more to be considered. Go forward and victory to Gujarat.”
On 4th February, Vallabhbhai reached Bardoli, presided over the conference and gave seven days’ time to think over carefully the risks involved and come to a firm decision. He returned to Ahmedabad and wrote a detailed letter on the 6th February to the Governor of Bombay in which he requested him to postpone the recovery of the revised land revenue until such time as the whole matter could be reviewed. “If you feel it will help to discuss the matter with me personally, I am ready to come whenever you desire.”
Vallabhbhai received in reply “a very short and curt reply” signed by the Private Secretary to the Governor to the effect that the letter had been sent to the Revenue Department for disposal. No further communication was received from the Revenue Department until the 11th. And Vallabhbhai had reached Bardoli on the 12th February, the day he preferred to launch the Bardoli Satyagraha after consulting all concerned.  (To be continued)                
 (11 June 2019)

Bardoli Satyagraha: A turning Point for India Bardoli Satyagraha: A turning Point for India Reviewed by Dr.Hari Desai on June 11, 2019 Rating: 5

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