Triveni Journal

1927 | 11,233,916 words

Triveni is a journal dedicated to ancient Indian culture, history, philosophy, art, spirituality, music and all sorts of literature. Triveni was founded at Madras in 1927 and since that time various authors have donated their creativity in the form of articles, covering many aspects of public life....

Pattabhi-Patriot and Nation-Builder

M. Chalapathi Rau


Dr. Pattabhi is a misnomer, like many other misnomers, especially in modern Indian history. He was born in Bhogaraju family, but many forget it. He was named Pattabhi Sitaramayya because the Pattabhishekamof Rama was regularly celebrated in his home. In North India, he was known Pattabhai, as if it was meant to rhyme with Philippi. He was not an honorary doctor who insisted on prefixing his name with Dr. as many Andhra ministers and ex-ministers do. Even as a medical doctor he was not entitled to be called a Dr. unless he was an M. D., which he was not, but he was a master of Chirurgery, from which the word surgery was derived, and as M. S. equal to M. D., he was a doctor not only in name. For these details, I have had to depend on Dr. Prasanna Kumar’s excellent biography of Pattabhi, which presents a portrait of him, warts and all, except for an undertone of warmth without which nobody should write a biography and no biography is readable.

I propose to refer to Pattabhi as Pattabhi, dropping the decorative adjoint of Dr. and try to give a broad assessment of his achievements without projecting myself more than necessary. Broadly, his career has been summed up in a footnote about him given in the third volume of the “Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru”, of which Dr. S. Gopal is the General Editor and I am Chairman of the Advisory Board. “1880-1959; physician at Machilipatnam in Andhra; member, A. I. C. C. 1916-’52; member, Working Committee, 1929-’31, 1934-’36, 1938-’46, official candidate for Congress Presidentship defeated by Subhas Bose, 1939; President, All-India States People’s Conference at Karachi, 1936 and Navasari Convention 1938-’39 and Working President 1946-’48; President of the Congress 1948; Governor of Madhya Pradesh 1952-’57.” This is not exhaustive but it indicates broadly his political career, point counter point, till the final pianissimo, to maintain the music metaphor, or the anti-climax, in plain language.

From poverty, Pattabhi achieved prosperity after a fine career at school and college, till he was second onlyto Rangachari, the famous surgeon of Madras in the final medical examination. He held throughout his life with Bernard Shaw that poverty was a sin and frowned on the beggary. But he got stuck in Machilipatnam, a centre of culture but nowhere near Madras in the opportunities for further service or publicity, and Pattabhi had to allow himself to be dragged into the caste politics of coastal Andhra, on which foreign scholars have written with ironic objectivity, making use of Indian libraries and the Andhra talent for gossip. Besides medicine, in which he proved to be an early success, Pattabhi made patriotism his main profession, becoming in the process a pioneer in many fields, in national education, in banking, in insurance and in co-operation. He had been a patriot before he came under the influence ofGandhi, and the pre-Gandhian patriots cannot be forgotten in any history of modern India, though successive historians claiming to be scholarly have reduced modern Indian history mainly to footnotes. From Raghupati Venkataratnam, Pattabhi and others have learnt piety, devotion and some sing-song eloquence, which clings to the coastland, but the genius of Gandhi transformed them all – Pattabhi, Kopalle Hanumantha Rao and Mutnuri Krishna Rao. Machilipatnam was an Andhra Manchester with characters ranging from C. P. Scott to C. E. Montagu. But, in spite of the imitative Andhra love of sobriquets, Andhra Nestor, Andhra Gokhale, Andhra Gardiner or Andhra Hanuman, there is no need to hunt for parallels in the case of Pattabhi.

Pattabhi, emerging from the exciting phase of the politics of the partition of Bengal, attending Congress sessions, became a Gandhian and remained a Gandhian. It took several years for Nehru to understand Gandhi completely, though from protest to revolt and from revolt to dialogue, he was writing on him with grace and growing favour. Among the conformists, Kripalani and Pattabhi were the best commentators, In his “The Gandhian Way”, Kripalani explained the Gandhian strategy of Satyagraha and constructive work, like a Clausewitz of non-violence. Pattabhi did equal service in explaining with mastery and eloquence Gandhi’s economics. In neither case could there be any Gandhism, for Gandhi did not provide a system of thought and neither Kriplani nor Pattabhi propounded any such thing. By the time of independence, both Gandhi’s ethics and economics were being knocked out, and Pyarelal could only become a biographer and Gandhi Bhavans vegetarian guest-houses.

Like Tilak, Gandhi, Nehru and others, Pattabhi was a publicist, but while he promised much, he did not perform as much. These leaders did not take to journalism because they thought they were writers; they were men of action who needed the aid of journalism, defining its function as partly thought and partly action. Gandhi was probably the greatest journalist the world has known; at least the weeklies he produced and edited without advertisements but making them self-sufficient were the greatest weeklies the world has known. Those who followed him could not but possess a high sense of purpose. Pattabhi edited Krishna Patrika for sometime. He ran Janmabhoomifor years, till other work and frequent calls of civil disobedience took him away from journalism. In its last days, Janmabhoomiinspired me as a student, giving much information in a short space, the sentences exploding like crackers. Pattabhi had not only sparkle but wit, he had none of the elephantine syntax which some. Andhras seem to have inherited along with their admiration for the elephantine walk of the heroines of their classics.

This is the place where Pattabhi’s contribution to freedom of speech and expression, when there were no constitutional guarantees, can be referred to. He was a very articulate, very eloquent person. Prakasam could roar like a lion or remain choked with emotion, though I was witness to a steady flow of clear argument from him at an A. I. C. C. session at Wardha in 1942. Pattabhi had no tendency to fatal fluency. It has seemed that in a nation of orators, there have been few debators, and among them have been Jinnah, Pattabhi, Pant and Rajaji. Rajaji gave the appearance of casuistry in the days of controversies in the Congress, though he later ripened into a sage. Pattabhi was always ready to intervene and could pile up statistics or produce bounts of rhetoric. Jinnah was a great actor, a George Arliss, dramatic, full of questions and answers. Pant was both an orator and debator, depending on the occasion, and could be devastating in his persistence and argument as at the Tripuri Congress. But Pattabhi was for years an outstanding star in the subjects committee of the Congress, willing to spare nobody. He often ruffled others’ sentiments and suffered silently.

Pattabhi will be remembered for two outstanding contributions to nation-building–linguistic states and the prolonged states people’s struggle for freedom leading to states integration and states reorganisation. From the beginning of his association with the Congress, he fought persistently for the formation of provincial Congress Committees on the basis of linguistic regions and then for the formation of states on the linguistic basis. On this question I was with him and differed from Nehru. The movement for separation of Andhra had its own powerful causes, when Andhra was full of Tamil munsiffs and Tamil engineers and the revenues of the Godavari and Krishna deltas were being sunk in the Mettur and other projects, but the logic of linguistic provinces was irresistible and Pattabhi was the main logician. The credit that has been given to Patel for states integration, apart from V. P. Menon for his perfunctory distribution of privy purses, should go to Pattabhi also, and if he had not roused the states peoples as he did along with local leaders like Thanu Pillai of Travancore, Jaynarain Vyas of Jaipur, Avadesh Prasad Singh of Rewa, Ramanand Tirth of Hyderabad, Gundappa of Mysore and others, the princes whom the British had left behind as independent, in spite of Butler’s affirmation of the Paramountcy of British India, would not have easily surrendered to the Indian Union.

Similarly, credit was given to Pant for states reorganization on a unilingual basis, on the recommendations of the Fazl Ali Commission, but the credit partly belongs to Pattabhi. Against all opposition, he had been pleading with convincing statistics for linguistic states, and his logic was vindicated. When the Dhar Committee had been appointed earlier, I had written that it was too late to argue against the logic of linguistic states. Dr. Pannalal, one of the members of the committee, who was in Lucknow, wanted to meet me to discuss the logic. He was not convinced, nor was the committee, though it made an exception in the case of Andhra. Potti Sriramulu’s fast was wasteful, though nobody has died of a fast unto death apart from Jatin Das, Potti Sriramulu and Suman Deva of Tehri Garhwal, at least in this century in this Country. It was senseless for Andhras to waste time in claiming Madras as the capital, when Hyderabad was available and satisfied sentiment better. A sample of Pattabhi’s rhetoric may be recalled. “The future Andhra Province will be more than twice the size of Scotland, Ireland, Bulgaria and Greece, more than five times the size of Switzerland, or a little larger than Turkey and a little smaller than Italy.” It is for political scientists to consider India as a nation of sub-nations or a multi-national state. Even today, there is no realization among our leaders of what it is, with the result that there is confusion and confrontation in the North-East and national minorities are still called Scheduled Tribes, merely because the British put them in some “schedule.”

Pattabhi figured in two Congress Presidential elections. In 1939 he was defeated narrowly by Subhas Bose, when false issues were raised and when with tactful handling Pattabhi could have been unanimously elected and he could have been a national figure in war time and a principal Congress representative in the subsequent negotiations with Britain. In the 1948 election he won closely against Tandon. In Lucknow, Kidwai dramatically arrived from Delhi and turned the tables, though in 1939, he had worked for Bose as a leftist with Nehru remaining un-decided. But by 1948, Congress Presidentship was an appendage to Prime Ministership, and Pattabhi’s presidential address at Jaipur read like a progress report of departments. It was long denied justice for him; he just joined the calendar of Congress Presidents. He had been a vigorous participant in some crucial debates in the Constituent Assembly and was mainly responsible for securing Shanmukham Chetty’s resignation from Finance Ministership for favours to big business.

Nehru’s allergy to Pattabhi was a part of his allergy to Andhras who appeared to him to possess the ruggedness of rough diamonds, apart from exceptions like Dr. Radhakrishnan whom he considered a Quixote, who could speak excellent English. Pattabhi was also a Gandhian who was identified with the right wing and his interventions were considered abrasive. Whatever the provocation from Pattabhi’s side, Nehru’s treatment of him in his last years was not justified. Governorship was an insult to him, particularly on an year-to-year basis. Kripalani rejected Governorship, Pattabhi was persuaded to accept it by Rajendra Prasad, who had admired him and persuaded him to write the “History of the Congress” at short notice. It was a prodigious effort with many imperfections. If chiselled and sub-edited skillfully, it can be turned into a classic, though the history of the latter-day Congress would require a Gibbon, not a Pattabhi. Pattabhi was also unfortunate in the book he wrote in Ahmadnagar Fort. While Nehru was writing “The Discovery of India,” Narendra Deva wrote a scholarly book in Hindi on Buddhism, and Pant was writing letters to his children, in the manner of Lord Chesterfield, Pattabhi emerged with his “Feathers and Stones”, a poor miscellany of odds and ends with a poor title. This did not raise his literary reputation in Nehru’s eyes.

Pattabhi wrote about a young journalist in 1937 that he had “an original and telling way of writing English.” Whether that commendation was right or wrong, Pattabhi had “an original and telling” way of writing and speaking both English and Telugu. But he did not acquire the literary reputation he deserved. It was because of intellectual dissipation and cavalier indifference. But he was for more than half a century a freedom-fighter, a steadfast patriot, an indefatigable publicist, who used syllogisms as Rajaji used parallels, and remained uncorrupted by power or by lack of it. He lacked passion but nobody with such a powerful brain could use passion without losing a part of his reason. He was too loyal to Gandhi to be loyal to Nehru or anyone else. And Gandhi was a man of the centuries.

Pattabhi was an Andhra but I would not call him just a great Andhra. He was an outstanding Indian. He may he assessed and reassessed, but his role in the movement for linguistic states and in states reorganization cannot be forgotten or erased. There is no need to bring in foreign or even North Indian parallels. He was Pattabhi and that is enough. “We, fellows of All Souls, are sui generis”said someone, Pattabhi was sui generis.

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: