Prime Minister Modi while speaking on Budget made one of grievance that Congress did not make Patel as the Prime Minister. Unfortunately no one had advised Modi that the Nehru was Gandhi Ji's choice. He had equal respect for both Nehru and Patel.
There was no rivalry between Nehru and Patel,as both realized that India can only prosper if there was good relation and mutual respect for each other. Patel, even when he could muster majority in parliament, did not try to supplant Nehru.
Let me give some instances of the respect which Nehru and Patel showed to each other.
In 1952, the Congress returned to power with a clear majority in the Punjab Assembly elections. My father became the Chief Minister of Punjab, which then comprised of present-day Haryana and Himachal Pradesh.
I had, in 1946, become an active member of Socialist party founded by J.P. and Dr. Lohia and others. I myself had a personal experience, in 1955, when I was the chairperson of the Socialist Party (Punjab) and the general secretary of the Punjab High Court Bar Association. In 1955, the Punjab High Court was shifting from Simla to Chandigarh. It was to be inaugurated by Nehru, and he had come to Chandigarh the evening before.
My father, who was then the Chief Minister of Punjab, invited Nehru for an informal breakfast at our residence. I was staying with my father, though my office was in another sector. It was a rare occasion for a young man like me, who had admired Nehru a lot during the freedom straggle. But, I had grown up by then.
Our party was convinced (rightly or wrongly time alone will tell) that Nehru, who had shown the vision of socialism to us, had not kept that pace following wrong policies. Our differences with his policies were deep. I was a small fry in part of that milieu. But I told my father that I will not be at the breakfast table to receive Nehru. My father and I had a beautiful understanding and respected each other’s view. He realized my reluctance, but mentioned that I was being childish.
I went to my office before Nehru arrived because I could not think of being at home and be rude by not joining him for breakfast. Of course, we received Nehru with all the dignity and deference due to him when he came to the High Court for inauguration.
Now I laugh at my presumptuousness — a chit of boy, whom Nehru will not even notice, beating his chest by not attending and denying himself a rare close breakfast meeting with one of the greatest of leaders of India and who had been a hero of our time. One may laugh now, but one does not demean conduct because at that time it represented what I like to feel was a youthful, genuine and unshakeable faith in socialism – which fortunately, I have still not lost.
Whatever little was left of democracy vanished when Indira Gandhi imposed Emergency and stifled the press violating Nehru’s warning. My father, an old congressman, wrote a letter to Indira Gandhi during Emergency of what Nehru had said namely;
“To my mind, the freedom of the press is not just a slogan from the larger point of view, but it is an essential attribute of the democratic process. I have no doubt that even if the Government dislikes the liberties taken by the Press and considers them dangerous, it is wrong to interfere with the freedom of the Press. By imposing restriction you do not change anything; you merely suppress the public manifestation of certain things, thereby causing the idea and thought underlying them to spread further. Therefore, I would rather have a completely free Press, with all the dangers involved in the wrong use of that freedom, than a suppressed or regulated Press.”
Let me give a few instances where, even when they differed on State policy, Nehru and Patel accepted the others point of view. In 1947 Maharaja J & K after tribal attack from Pakistan realized that it was no longer possible to remain Independent. So he sent his Prime Minister Justice Mahajan with a letter to Pt. Nehru of acceding of J & K to India so that military assistance could be sent to J & K.
Mahajan was finding difficult to convince Nehru about immediate acceptance of accession of Kashmir, though Patel agreed with Mahajan. Heated debate was going, but Nehru still showing reluctance. At this time Sheikh Abdullah, who was listening to this debate, came out from the adjacent room to tell Nehru to accept the view of Patel and Mahajan. It was in these circumstances of mutual respect for each other that accession of J & K to India took place.
Another important event concerned the accession of Hyderabad. It is well known that while Patel was for taking strong action against Nizam of Hyderabad, who was wanting to remain Independent and not accede to India (even when his boundaries had no direct linkage with Pakistan), Nehru was still against Military action, but finding that the conditions would become irredeemable Patel decided on his own to send security forces.
While the security forces were moving in, Nehru came to know about it and telephoned N.V. Gadgil, Minister of State for home and told him that he immediately wants to talk to Patel about this action. Gadgil then phoned Patel and told him about what Nehru had said. Patel naturally sensed that Nehru would want to stop action against Nizam. So he told Gadgil that he should tell Nehru that he has not been able to contact Patel. The result was that security forces moved, in and Nizam immediately signed the latter of accession to India.
Nizam realized and understood the working of Nehru and Patel. This is shown by the fact that soon after Nehru went to Hyderabad, Nizam did not show the courtesy of receiving him at the airport. But soon after Patel went to Hyderabad, he realized the consequence of repeating his foolishness and quietly went to Airport to receive Patel, which was the correct protocol.