Jaishankar spars with Jairam on Nehru

Minister praises book that posited that former PM didn’t want Patel in his Cabinet.

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar exchanged sharp messages on social media on Thursday with Rajya Sabha member Jairam Ramesh, after the Minister praised a book for arguing that Jawaharlal Nehru had planned to exclude Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel from the first post-independence Cabinet. 

“Learnt from the book that Nehru did not want Patel in the Cabinet in 1947 and omitted him from the initial Cabinet list. Clearly, a subject for much debate. Noted that the author stood her ground on this revelation,” said Mr. Jaishankar, praising the book on late bureaucrat V.P. Menon who was part of the transition of power. 

The Minister was referring to the biography of V.P. Menon by historian Narayani Basu, titled V.P. Menon: The Unsung Architect of Modern India. He highlighted the section where Mr. Menon said that Nehru’s government began a “deliberate campaign” to erase Patel’s memory after the latter died. 

Quick response

Mr. Jaishankar’s comment drew a quick response from Congress leader Jairam Ramesh.

 “Problem with this very accomplished and erudite Foreign Minister is that he wishes to forget the books he read before becoming Foreign Secretary in January 2015,” Mr. Ramesh posted, attaching scanned copies of letters from Volume Three of Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru to contradict the view that the Minister had supported. He cited Nehru’s letter written on July 19, 1947, where the former Prime Minister placed Patel on the top of the list of members for the first Cabinet. 

The list showed Patel at the top of the nine-member Cabinet and Nehru’s name at the bottom. Mr. Ramesh also cited Nehru’s letter of August 14, 1947, where he placed Patel as second in the Cabinet. The letters indicated that Nehru shared a close working relationship with Patel on issues such as the repression of people in some princely states. 

Historian Ramchandra Guha tweeted describing Ms. Basu’s argument as a “myth”. 

Mr. Jaishankar retorted, “Some Foreign Ministers do read books. Maybe a good habit for some Professors too.”

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Printable version | Feb 28, 2020 7:36:04 AM |

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