Book Review: ‘A Plain, Blunt Man’ by Urvish Kothari

Rediscovering Sardar Patel: A New Outlook

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Book Title: A Plain, Blunt Man: The Essential Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel
Edited By: Urvish Kothari
Publisher: Aleph Book Company
Number of Pages: 328
ISBN: 978-9393852786
Date Published: Aug. 05, 2023
Price: INR 602

A Plain, Blunt Man by Urvish Kothari Book Cover

Book Review

Urvish Kothari stands as one of Gujarat’s prominent intellectual figures. The Kothari family’s close association with Acharya Kripalani exposed them to numerous leaders during the Emergency era. Yet, the Kotharis’ core identity lies in academia rather than activism. This book is a curated collection of Patel’s letters and speeches.

Kothari’s extended introduction contributes significantly to the book’s readability. Through this introduction, he skillfully consolidates scattered references. For instance, Kothari counters a prevalent fallacy concerning the Sardars, illustrating how their stance towards Muslims is best encapsulated in Patel’s words: “I am not Gandhi, but undoubtedly a disciple of Gandhiji!” The introduction embodies straightforward yet profound sentences.

Over the past nine years, numerous attempts have been made to correct the misinterpretations surrounding Sardar Patel’s legacy. Discussions have revolved around the ban imposed on the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh after Gandhi’s assassination. Patel’s commitment to reconstructing the Somnath temple was articulated during a public gathering on November 12, 1947, in Junagadh. This region didn’t integrate into India until February 1948 and had contemplated joining Pakistan.

However, Kothari introduces fresh queries and offers atypical explanations. Kothari raises one such question: Why did Sardar Patel not promptly dissuade Gandhi from undertaking a hunger strike in 1948? Patel’s renowned response was that Gandhi wouldn’t heed Patel’s or Nehru’s counsel. Yet, Patel likely pondered Gandhi’s reluctance to listen and the potential impact of his fast. Patel also hoped for support from Bihar’s Muslim community for Gandhi. Kothari reports that the hunger strike yielded no results. A quote from Sardar Patel supports this perspective.

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The book, “A Plain, Blunt Man: The Essential Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel” also delves into Gandhi’s relationship with the Birla family, known for their industrial prominence. Patel emphasizes the responsibility of safeguarding other minorities and underscores that the state’s purpose encompasses all individuals regardless of caste or religion. Dated June 10, 1947, this letter vividly portrays Sardar Patel’s secular stance, a recurring theme in the book.

While Sardar Patel acknowledged Gandhi’s emphasis on a transformation of hearts, he also recognized the limitations of this approach within his political demeanor focused on demonstrable actions.

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