At the time of Independence, India comprised British India and the Princely States. The Princely States covered about two-fifths of the geographic territory. While the Indian Independence Act ceded control of British India to the Indian Government, rulers of the Princely States were given the option to decide whether they wanted to accede to India or Pakistan or neither. In these circumstances, Sardar Patel took up the monumental challenge of accession of the princely states and integrating them into the Union of India.
The goal Patel envisioned was that of a strong and United India.
The path was characterized by steep challenges. The process is encumbered by the onerous expectations of the princely states. There were several difficulties. Plenty of surprises. And many twists and turns as the process of accession unfolded.
These hurdles were overcome one by one as Sardar Patel and V.P. Menon began the enormous task of integration. Together, they brought about the unification of these princely states with the Dominion of India in record time. In no other nation or era has the integration of such a vast population comprising such diverse people taken place within such a short span of time.
The peaceful accession of over 560 Princely States into the Union of India is one of Sardar Patel’s most lasting legacies.
This timeline identifies major landmarks in this saga of Accession that gave shape to modern India.
After 1945, a number of war surplus Dakota DC-3 planes were available for sale in India. They were known as “Work Horse of the Air” and Douglas had manufactured some 11,000 during World War II.
Douglas Aircraft Company had authorized Hindustan Aircraft Company (then part-owned by Mysore) to service and overhaul them. They were converted into 21-seater passenger planes. Soon in 1946, Maharaja of Mysore also acquired one and it was known as Mysore Dakota VT-AXX.
Capt. V. Sundaram then working with Tata Airlines, became Mysore Maharaja’s personal Pilot. After Independence, this plane was in great demand by the Indian leaders and Maharaja had left the plane at their disposal most of the time.
Sardar Patel had clocked more than 1,00,000 miles on Mysore Dakota, he was yet to visit Mysore ! So he decided to visit Mysore in Feb. 1949. On Feb. 21, 1949, Mysore Dakota took off from Safdarjung Airport to Madras along with Sardar Patel, his daughter Maniben Patel and his Secretary V. Shankar among others. After a few days of official work and meeting with political leaders, Sardar and his entourage left Madras on Feb. 24 for Mysore.
His Highness the Maharaja received the Deputy Prime Minister at the Mandakalli Aerodrome and introduced him to the prominent officials and non-officials present. After inspecting the guard of honour presented by the Maharaja’s own Infantry, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel accompanied by the Maharaja drove to Lalitha Mahal Palace.
After a few minutes’ rest, Sardar Patel visited Sri Chamarajendra Technical Institute (on Sayyaji Rao Road) and evinced keen interest in the artware displayed there. In the afternoon, the Deputy Prime Minister drove to the Rangacharlu Memorial Town Hall where a Civic Address was presented to him by the Mysore City Municipal Council.
Replying to the Civic Address, Sardar Patel recalled his visit to the State twelve years ago and said that between then and now several changes had taken place in the affairs of the world, of India, and of Mysore. He said that the Princes of India had shown rare patriotism and that it was this commendable spirit that made the achievement of liberty possible.
Referring particularly to Mysore, Sardar Patel said that for a long time the people of Mysore wanted Responsible Government and that the Maharaja had now granted self-rule to his people, thereby establishing for himself an abiding place in Indian polity.
Sardar had a special word of advice to the Municipal Councillors which is quite relevant even today! Stressing that municipal work was really an enviable job, he exhorted the Councillors to devote themselves wholeheartedly to improving the lot of the poor. He said municipal work was more interesting than mere politics and warned the Councillors against importing politics into municipal work!
The Deputy Prime Minister then laid the foundation stone of the Gandhi Stupa near the Town Hall donated by Sri Venkatasubbiah Setty.
Later in the evening, His Highness the Maharaja entertained Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel at a Garden Party in the Chamundi Gymkhana. Afterward, the Deputy Prime Minister drove to Chamundi Hill and the Brindavan Gardens.
Deputy Prime Minister left for Bangalore on Feb. 25 and had a public meeting hosted by the Bangalore City Municipal Council and the Civil Station Municipal Commission.
Sardar Patel left for Hyderabad on Feb. 26 by the Mysore Dakota from Jakkur Aerodrome. After reaching Hyderabad, Sardar promptly sent a Telegram to Maharaja wherein he particularly thanked the Police arrangement thus: “I should like to send Your Highness, your Government and the people of Mysore my sincere gratitude for the magnificent reception they gave me and for the generous hospitality and affection extended to me during my short visit to Mysore. It was a real pleasure to me to renew my acquaintance and contact with Your Highness and your State after twelve years and to find that under Your Highness’ aegis the people of Mysore have attained fulfillment of their aspirations and are making such excellent progress on the road to happiness and prosperity. Mysore’s role as the prominent progressive State is being worthily maintained by Your Highness and your Government. I shall be most grateful if Your Highness will kindly convey to all concerned my warm thanks for the excellent arrangements made for my visit. In particular, I should like to say a special word about the Police. Their arrangements left nothing to be desired and the orderly and smooth execution of the program was largely due to their zeal and keen sense of duty displayed by them. Finally, I should like to assure Your Highness that we are carrying with us most happy recollections of our visit and deeply appreciate the consideration and kindness extended to us by Your Highness personally.” Those were the glorious days when one could have a personal Dakota Plane for under Rs. 50,000 and a personal pilot for Rs. 1,500 and an attractive pilot’s wife doubling as Co-Pilot and Hostess as an added bonus !!
Mysuru Maharaja had given his private aircraft to Sardar Patel to fly around the country for the Unification of India purposes. The aircraft was called as Mysuru Dakota