Sardar Patel was "unquestionably" the freedom movement's first-rank leader and the largest credit for shaping the current geography of India goes to him despite which he was "not officially glamourised", senior minister Arun Jaitley said on Monday.
Jaitley, the minister for finance and information and broadcasting, regretted that many people are unaware of the contribution of Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel, the first Home Minister of India, and contended that his greatness is being realised as the time passes.
"If Gandhiji had probably the greatest contribution in the Independence struggle, I have not the least doubt that the integration of this country and its present geography, the largest credit goes to Sardar and yet he was not a highly glamourised personality," he said while delivering the Sardar Patel Memorial Lecture.
"As time passes by, the contribution of Sardar Patel is increasingly felt and he was unquestionably a first rank leader of the freedom movement," he added.
Jaitley said the best of Patel was seen after Independence but regretted that he did not live very long after 1947.
"He did not live very long after independence just about two and half years and in that short period this country owes its present geography literally to him," Jaitley said.
Patel persuaded people, influenced the rulers and pulled out every card in order to ensure that India attains its present geography, the senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader said about the late leader who is credited with unifying the country by ensuring merger of princely states after Independence.
"The manner in which he handled Junagadh, the manner in which he handled Hyderabad, Tranvancore, Bhopal, these were not easy states to handle in the process of integration of states," Jaitley said.
While talking about the lack of adequate knowledge among many people about Patel, Jaitley said that one day he asked his political colleagues as what was Sardar's background but not many knew he was actually one of the most distinguished barristers of pre-independent India.
It was realised only in 1970s that there was no official biography of Patel and then Rajmohan Gandhi was requested by Sardar Patel Trust to author it, he said.
He said even Rajmohan Gandhi has mentioned that the greater challenge for him while writing a book was to find the photograph and the name of Sardar's wife.
"Since unquestionably he (Patel) had not been one of those who were officially glamourised and he (Rajmohan Gandhi) explains the details of the research he had to do for the name he had to do and finally he did discover but nobody could produce the photograph of his wife," Jaitley said.