Vithalbhai Patel was an Indian legislator and political leader, co-founder of the Swaraj Party and elder brother of Sardar Patel. He was born in Sept.1873 in Nadiad, Gujarat. He was the third of five Patel brothers, two years elder to Vallabhbhai Patel.
Vithalbhai educated himself in Nadiad and in Bombay, and worked as a a junior lawyer in the courts of Godhra and Borsad.
His younger brother, Vallabhbhai Patel, had similarly studied by himself and worked as a pleader. Studying in England was a dream for both men. Vallabhbhai had saved enough money and ordered his passport and travel tickets, when the postman delivered them to Vithalbhai, it having been addressed to a Mr. V.J. Patel, Pleader.
Vithalbhai insisted on traveling on those documents actually meant for Vallabhbhai, pointing out that it would be socially criticized that an older brother followed the lead of the younger. Respecting his brother despite the obvious cruelty of fate on his own hard work, Vallabhbhai allowed him to proceed to England, and even paid for his stay.
He entered the Middle Temple Inn in London, and completed the 36-month course in 30, emerging at the top of his class. Returning to Gujarat in 1913, Vithalbhai became an important barrister in the courts of Bombay and Ahmedabad.
In 1914, Vithalbhai played a prominent role in two bills on the Bombay provincial legislative council, “the Bombay District Municipal Act Amendment Bill” and “The Town Planning Bill” in 1914.
His most well known proposal for which he received praise was for the extension of primary education to municipal districts in the Bombay presidency outside of the city of Bombay in 1917. After a long battle, the bill was passed after several amendments and modifications.
Although never truly accepting the philosophy and leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, Patel joined the Congress and the struggle for freedom.
In 1922, Patel left the Congress to form the Swaraj Party with Chittaranjan Das and Motilal Nehru, which would seek to foil the Raj by sabotaging the government after gaining entry in the councils.
He rose to become the first elected President (the equivalent of Speaker) of the Central Legislative Assembly in India and helped put in place many legislative procedures that still exist today.
In his later years, Vithalbhai travelled in the United States and Europe. His health worsened in Europe.
As his last political act, Patel signed a statement written by Bose which proclaimed Gandhi as a failed leader and called for a militant form of non-cooperation.
On his deathbed he left a will of sorts, bequeathing three-quarters of his money to Bose to use in promoting India’s cause in other countries.
Vitthalbhai died in Geneva, Switzerland, on 22 October 1933. His body was cremated in Bombay on 10 November in front of a crowd of over 3 lakh people.
When Vallabhbhai Patel saw a copy of the letter in which his brother had left a majority of his estate to Bose, he asked a series of questions.
Patel may even have doubted the veracity of the signature on the document. The case went to court and after a legal battle that lasted more than a year, the courts judged that Vithalbhai’s estate could only be inherited by his legal heirs, that is, his family. Patel promptly handed the money over to the Vithalbhai Memorial Trust.