Vithalbhai Patel was an Indian legislator and political leader, and co-founder of the Swaraj Party. Born in Nadiad, in the Indian state of Gujarat, Vithalbhai Jhaverbhai Patel was the third of five Patel brothers, four years elder to Vallabhbhai Patel, raised in the village of Karamsad. Vithalbhai educated himself in Nadiad and in Bombay, and worked as a pleader (a junior lawyer) in the courts of Godhra and Borsad. At a very young age, he was married to a girl from another village, Diwaliba. His younger brother Vallabhbhai Patel had similarly studied by himself and worked as a pleader. Studying in England was a dream to both men, although they did not know this. Vallabhbhai had saved enough money and ordered his passport and travel tickets, when the postman delivered them to Vithalbhai, on account that it was 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. Vithalbhai 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. However, his wife died in 1915, and he remained a widower. Patel entered politics before his more renowned brother, winning a seat on the Bombay Legislative Council, a body with no real functions. Although failing to achieve anything concrete in terms of the fight for national independence, self-government or public welfare, Patel grew popular and respected by his oratorical and witty mastery and belittling of the Raj’s officials, winning many a battle of wit, which bore little overall significance. He rose to the presidency of the Imperial Legislative Council, a collage of pro-British elected and appointed Indians and Englishmen designated to rubber-stamp the Viceroy’s decisions.
Although never truly accepting the philosophy and leadership of Mohandas Gandhi, Patel joined the Congress and the struggle for freedom. He had no regional base of support, yet he was an influential leader who expanded the struggle through fiery speeches and articles published. When Gandhi aborted the struggle in 1922 following the Chauri Chaura Incident, 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. The party only succeeded in dividing the Congress and finally itself, but Patel and others were important voices who rebelled against the leadership of Gandhi when the nation anguished over the abortion of the Non-Cooperation Movement. Vithalbhai Patel rejoined the Congress in 1930 upon the declaration of Purna Swaraj (Complete Independence), yet later gave it up after the end of the Salt Satyagraha. He became a fierce critic of Gandhi and a strong ally of Subhas Chandra Bose. Bose and Patel travelled across Europe, gathering funds and political support – among others, they met Eamon DeValera, President of Ireland. However, Patel fell seriously ill, and died in Geneva, Switzerland.