Vallabhbhai Patel was born on October 31, 1875, in a farmer's family in Nadiad, Gujarat. His father, Zaverbhai, had served in the army of Jhansi ki Rani, and his mother, Ladbai, was a deeply religious woman. Vallabhbhai's initial schooling was in Gujarati. His brother Vithalbhai, after completing middle school, had enrolled himself in English tutorial classes in a nearby town. Vallabhbhai followed suit. Vallabhbhai's superior organizational skills became evident while he was in high school at Petlad when he coordinated the entire campaign for a poor teacher who he thought deserved a seat on the local municipal committee. Vallabhbhai persuaded his fellow students to work for the campaign. So impressively was the campaign handled that the teacher was elected over the rich local businessman. Vallabhbhai matriculated from Nadiad High School in 1897. Vallabhbhai was married to Zaverbai in 1891. The couple had two children-a daughter Maniben, born in April of 1904, and a son Dayabhai, born in November of 1905. Zaverbai died in January of 1909. Vallabhbhai sailed for England in August of 1910 to study law. He qualified as a barrister in 1913 and returned to India to a lucrative practice in Ahmedabad. He joined the Gujarat Club and took to western dressing and a comfortable lifestyle. Gandhiji started coming to the Gujarat Club to give lectures. He came again and again, propagating the idea of his newly wielded weapon of "satyagraha" or truth force. Vallabhbhai was impressed with Gandhiji and slowly began to adopt his view. The relationship between Gandhiji and Vallabhbhai was concretely defined when Gandhiji was elected the President of the Gujarat Sabha and Vallabhbhai the Secretary, in 1917. It was a relationship of a guru (teacher) and disciple. Vallabhbhai took to spinning the charkha, boycotted foreign goods and clothes and burned his foreign possessions on public bonfires. He even discarded the western dresses he once so coveted. There was no stopping Vallabhbhai. He participated in the Nagpur flag satyagraha from May to August in 1923 in protest against the stopping of a procession which carried the national flag.
In 1928, Vallabhbhai once again came to the rescue of the farmers, this time it was in Bardoli, which was then a part of Surat district. The Government increased the tax on the land. Vallabhbhai urged the farmers not to pay, declaring the hike unjust. He prepared the farmers for satyagraha. The farmers refused to pay the tax hike. In retaliation, the Government confiscated their land, cattle and crops and arrested hundreds of farmers. There was a mass exodus from Bardoli to escape the Government's atrocities. The farmers that remained continued the satyagraha.
Vallabhbhai told the farmers not to sell milk, vegetables and necessities to any person unless they produced a chit assigned by the local satyagraha committee. The "peaceful" war raged for six months. Finally Vithalbhai, Vallabhbhai's brother, who was President of the Central Legislative Assembly, brokered a comprise. The Government agreed to hold an inquiry into the justification of the tax hike, released the satyagrahis and returned all confiscated items back to the farmers. So pleased was Gandhiji with Vallabhbhai's effort that he gave him the title of "Sardar" or leader.
On March 12, 1930, Sardar Patel left for Dandi to prepare for Gandhiji's Salt satyagraha. He went to villages to organize for the food and lodging of the marchers. In every village he went, he made stirring speeches, rousing the people to join the march to Dandi. The Government swooped down and arrested him while he was in the village of Ras. This was Sardar Patel's first prison sentence. He was released after the Gandhi-Irwin pact of March 1931. That year he presided over the Congress session in Karachi. Gandhiji sailed for London to attend the Round Table Conference in 1931. Sardar Patel regularly updated him on the situation in India....
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