While inaugurating the world’s tallest statue, Statue of Unity, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today took a jibe on Congress President Rahul Gandhi and said had it not been for Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, ‘Shiv Bhakts’ would have needed a visa to visit Somnath.
Modi was referring to Sardar Patel’s efforts of uniting the princely states of India after independence. Princely states of Junagadh, Travancore, Jodhpur, Hyderabad and Bhopal had initially turned down the offer to be part of India. Junagadh, one of the most important states comprising of the Kathiawar region was ruled by Muhammad Mahabat Khanji III over the predominantly Hindu population, who chose to side with Pakistan, much to the displeasure of people.
On 16th September 1947, when Pakistan accepted Junagadh’s Nawab’s Instrument of Accession, India was enraged. Sardar Patel was of the opinion that if Junagadh goes to Pakistan, it will flare the communal tension in the state. Junagadh was surrounded by India from all sides and Arabian sea through which it could reach Pakistan.
Fearing for his life, the Nawab fled to Karachi, Pakistan, with his family. While Patel offered Pakistan to allow a plebiscite in Junagadh, he eventually sent in troops to force annexation of three of its principalities. Owing to the shortage of funds and forces, the Dewan was forced to accede to the Indian government. Eventually, on February 20, 1948, a plebiscite was held in the state wherein all but 91 out of the 1,90,870 who voted chose to side with India.
Hence, had it not been for Sardar Patel, the Asiatic Lions of Gir and the Somnath temple which is located in Junagadh would have become part of Pakistan and Congress President Rahul Gandhi, who has recently discovered his ‘Shiv Bhakt‘ side and often goes on temple runs during elections, might have required visa to worship at Somnath.