Veer Vithalbhai Patel
Vithalbhai Patel was born in Nadiad, on September 27, 1873. He was educated to middle school level in Karamsad and then joined the high school at Nadiad. He was known as an alert student who enjoyed practical jokes, and had a phenomenal memory. Soon after finishing high school went to study law in Bombay and qualified to start his own independent legal practice in Borsad, at a relatively young age. He was a very dedicated lawyer gaining an impressive reputation within the region.
At the age of 32, in 1905, Vithalbhai went to England in order to expand his knowledge and gain some more qualifications. At this point his brother Sardar Vallabhai Patel looked after his wife, Diwaliben, carrying the entire financial burden on his shoulders. Not forgetting this act, Vithalbhai in return looked after Sardar’s children when Sardar went to England. Unfortunately, Vithalbhai ’s wife died in 1908, the year he returned from England.
Vithalbhai spent much time on the civic affairs of Bandra as well as practicing law. In 1922-23 he formed a small party and entered the Bombay Municipality with a band of supporters. They worked hard for a year, leading the municipal franchise to widen and democracy to become more prevalent. He also organised the municipal election. 40 nationalists were returned in the teeth of strong opposition from vested interests – thus came into existence the Bombay Nationalist Municipal Party, with Vithalbhai as its head and soul.
In recognition of his devoted civic services, he was elected President of the Bombay Municipality, in which capacity he more than maintained the traditions handed down by Sir Pherozeshah Mehta.
Vithalbhai refused to present the Address to Lord Reading, the then Viceroy of India, because of his repeated attempts to impose his will on India by the use of autocratic powers. Vithalbhai resigned his post, but was re-elected without him bending to their will. By his re-election, he proved that popular opinion supported his action.
He gave up practicing law with an aim to devote all his time to the Bombay Legislative Council, so as to give more to the national cause of freeing India. Here he was responsible for attempts to carry out social reform through the legislature. His one ambition was the betterment of his countrymen, socially, educationally and politically.
Vithalbhai travelled to America in November 1932, regardless of his bad health caused from his imprisonment in India and four surgical operations. He went to many places in America to illustrate India’s need for self-rule.
He then travelled to Europe, and even though gravely ill, he tried his best to awaken active interest in India. It was in Geneva on 22 October 1933, that Vithalbhai had a seizure and died at the age of 60.