Rajni Patel – Indian politician and barrister from Mumbai

Rajni Patel (1915 – 1982) was an Indian politician belonging to Indian National Congress, a freedom fighter, trade union leader and a well-known barrister. His name is also linked with the high profile ‘K. M. Nanavati v. State of Maharashtra’ court case of 1959, one among the last jury trails in Mumbai. A close associative of Nehru family, he was a stanch believer of Nehru’s principles. He also served as the Congress Pradesh Committee President of Mumbai in the 1970s. He was a very influential person in Mumbai in political circle as well as judiciary during his lifetime. He is the paternal grandfather of popular Bollywood actors, Ameesha Patel and Ashmit Patel.

He participated in Swadeshi Movement during his early teens

Cover page of the memoir authored by his wife

Rajni Patel hailed from Anand, Gujarat. Sarsa was his hometown. He joined freedom struggle movement at a very young age, deeply influenced by the words of Mahatma Gandhi. He participated in the Swadeshi Movement during his early teens, picketed outside liquor shops and got jailed as well. In the early 1930s he moved to UK and returned as barrister from London in 1939. He started his professional career in Mumbai.

He met Jawaharlal Nehru at London for the first time during his studies

During his higher studies in UK too, he was involved with nationalist movement. He was educated in Cambridge. He met Jawaharlal Nehru at London, and as suggested by him, he gathered more Indians in England to participate in freedom struggle movement. On his return to India by ship, he was arrested by British and not allowed to disembark. They took him to Nashik jail.

He joined active politics after he retired as barrister

He had a successful career as a barrister in Mumbai, and he joined active politics only after Indian independence in the 1960s. He joined Indian National Congress in the late 1960s after his retirement, and remained a close associative of Indira Gandhi, who was India’s Prime Minister then. Later he became the president of the Mumbai Pradesh Congress Committee in the early 1970s. His progressive, secular and liberal views, and efforts to promote art and science made him one of the popular leaders of his time.

Rajni Patel – Some interesting and less-known facts

Rajni Patel with his wife

1. Rajni is considered to be one among the youngest freedom fighters of India who got jailed in his early teens.

2. When he returned to Mumbai from UK after studies by ship, Jawaharlal Nehru stood at the Gateway of India to receive him. But the beautiful moment didn’t happen as Patel got arrested just before he landed Mumbai, and was taken to Nasik by that ship itself.

3. As a barrister he is best known for defending naval officer Kawas Manekshaw Nanavati in K. M. Nanavati v. State of Maharashtra case of 1959.

4. He conceptualized Nehru centre in Mumbai in 1972.

5. His wife Bakul Patel became sheriff of Mumbai in 1992, 10 years after his death.

6. After his death, his wife accounted his life and close association with Nehru family, and published as a book titled “Remembering Rajni” in 2018.

7. Barrister Rajni Patel Marg, a road at Marine Drive at Nariman Point was named after him in 1986.

8. Rajni Patel Memorial Foundation has been instituted in his memory.


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A freelance writer and blogger by profession since October 2011, interested in writing over a wide range of topics. Hope you enjoy my writings. I belong to one of the beautiful places of the world, Kerala, nicknamed as 'God's own country'.

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