A Tryst with 'Benevolent Chachaji': This is How Maniben Patel was Treated by Nehru After Sardar Patel's Death!
Maniben Patel with her father Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, 1946
“I thought he (Nehru) might ask me how I would manage now, or at least ask if there was anything he could do to help me. But he never asked.” Maniben Patel told Dr Verghese Kurien
Dr Verghese Kurien, popularly known as India's Milk Man, in his autobiography ‘I Too Had A Dream’, has narrated a heart wrenching account about the meeting between Maniben Patel, the daughter of India's Iron Man Sardar Vallabai Patel, and the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
Verghese Kurien remembers Maniben as a woman who upheld her father’s legacy, the pride and dignity inherited from him, to her last breath. Neither she sought any favours from the Congress leaders, nor did they help her, at the critical junctures of her life even when she was struggling to make ends meet after the passing away of her father.
Here is the author's account (‘I Too Had A Dream’ Page: 37 to 39), as Maniben Patel told him, about an incident when she went to meet Jawaharlal Nehru after Sardar Patel’s death:
"Maniben Patel, Sardar Patel’s daughter, was a woman of tremendous honesty and loyalty. She told me that when Sardar Patel passed way, she picked up a book and a bag that belonged to him and went to meet Jawaharlal Nehru in Delhi. She handed them to Nehru, telling him that her father had instructed her that when she died she should give these items to Nehru and no one else. The bag contained Rs 35 Lakh that belonged to the Congress Party and the book was the party’s book of accounts. Nehru took them and thanked her. Maniben waited expectantly, hoping he would say something more, but he did not, so she got up and left.
I asked her what she had expected Nehru to say to her. ‘I thought he might ask me how I would manage now, or at least ask if there was anything he could do to help me. But he never asked.’ she explained. She was extremely disheartened and in a way the incident revealed the strain in the Nehru-Sardar Patel relationship. It was quite distressing to see that neither Nehru nor any of the other national leaders of the Congress ever bothered to find out what happened to Maniben after her father died.”
“After all the sacrifices that Sardar Patel made for the nation, it was very sad that the nation did nothing for his daughter. In her later years, when her eyesight weakened, she would walk unaided down the streets of Ahmedabad, often stumble and fall until some passerby helped her up. When she was dying, the Chief Minister of Gujarat, Chimanbhai Patel, came to her bedside with a photographer. He stood behind her bed and instructed him to take a picture. The photograph was published in all the newspapers the next day. With a little effort, they could so easily have made her last years comfortable.”