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‘Don’t see him with 1962 lens’

Jairam Ramesh in coversation with former West Bengal Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi in Chennai.

Jairam Ramesh in coversation with former West Bengal Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi in Chennai.  

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Krishna Menon’s contributions were remarkable, says Jairam Ramesh

Former Defence Minister V.K. Krishna Menon was often “seen with the lens of 1962” [war with China], while there was more to him before 1946 and during the 1950s, said senior Congress leader and Rajya Sabha MP Jairam Ramesh here on Tuesday. Menon’s contributions in the drafting of the Constitution before 1946 and his actions during the 1950s were remarkable.

During a public discussion on ‘The Making of Independent India and V.K. Krishna Menon’ organised by The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy at the Music Academy, Mr. Ramesh recalled incidents from Menon’s life since his college days until his death to capture various phases — both personal and political.

In his conversation with former West Bengal Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi, Mr. Ramesh said it was Menon, who first came up with the idea of ‘Make in India’. When India had options from the United States of America and the United Kingdom from whom it had to purchase fighter aircraft, he wanted the purchase to be from a country that allowed eventual manufacturing of aircraft in India.

“That was how fighter jet MiG-21 came to be manufactured in India,” pointed out Mr. Ramesh, who authored A Chequered Brilliance: The Many Lives of V.K. Krishna Menon. The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) came about during Menon’s tenure.

Though Menon enjoyed proximity with then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and the latter too believed in the former’s judgment, the Council of Ministers did not approve of Menon’s ideas, Mr. Ramesh pointed out.

Even a few years before the war with China, Menon was for a settlement with the neighbouring country, but did not enjoy the support from the Cabinet, opposition and the media. “But, eventually Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had in 2003 put in place a boundary talk mechanism with China,” Mr. Ramesh said.

Recalling an incident in the United Nations, Mr. Gandhi said when the Foreign Minister of Pakistan repeatedly insisted on a plebiscite in Kashmir, a witty Menon had asked whether Pakistan had seen a ballot box recently.

Notwithstanding the criticism that he was a leftist, Mr. Ramesh said he was “not at all a communist” but supported the Communist Party of Great Britain only because it supported full freedom for India. Mr. Ramesh said Menon was against creating Kerala from the then Madras Presidency, arguing with Nehru it would become a “bastion of communists.”

Madras connection

President of All India Home Rule League Annie Besant discovered the talent in him during his days in then Madras when he went to the Presidency College.

Even after his resignation in December 1962, it was Madras which hosted him. At a public meeting on the Marina beach front, noted lyricist Kannadasan lauded the qualities of Menon, Mr. Gandhi recalled.

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2020 12:23:56 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/dont-see-him-with-1962-lens/article30572105.ece

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