At the urging of his friends, Patel won an election to become the sanitation commissioner of Ahmedabad in 1917. While often clashing with British officials on civic issues, he did not show any interest in politics. Upon hearing of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, he joked to the lawyer and political activist, Ganesh Vasudev Mavlankar, that “Gandhi would ask you if you know how to shift pebbles from wheat. And that is supposed to bring independence.” A subsequent meeting with Gandhi, in October 1917 brought a radical change in Patel and ushered him into the Indian freedom struggle. In September 1917, Patel had given a speech in Borsad, encouraging Indians nationwide to sign Gandhi’s petition demanding Swaraj – self-rule – from Britain. A month later, he met Gandhi for the first time at the Gujarat Political Conference in Godhra. On Gandhi’s encouragement, Patel became the secretary of the Gujarat Sabha, a public body that would become the Gujarati arm of the Indian National Congress.