New Delhi: An interesting battle has erupted between External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and historian Ramachandra Guha over whether India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru did not want Sardar Patel in his first cabinet.
The war erupted over Twitter after Jaishankar released a book on V.P. Menon, a senior civil servant who worked closely with Patel, by Narayani Basu and endorsed the view that Nehru did not want Patel in his Cabinet. The Twitter exchange has now carried on for two days in spurts.
“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,” Jaishankar tweeted on Wednesday.
“Sharp contrast between Patel’s Menon and Nehru’s Menon. Much awaited justice done to a truly historical figure,” he said.
Jaishankar went on to say, quoting Menon, that there was a deliberate campaign to efface Sardar Patel’s memory.
“‘Exercise of writing history for politics in the past needs honest treatment. When Sardar died, a deliberate campaign was begun to efface his memory. I know this, because I have seen it, and at times, I fell victim to it myself’. So says VP Menon,” Jaishankar said in a series of tweets.
Reacting to the Minister’s statement that Nehru did not want Patel in his Cabinet, historian Ramachandra Guha called it a “myth” which has comprehensively demolished by Professor Srinath Raghavan.
Guha went on to say that it is not the “job of the Foreign Minister to promote fake news, false rivalries which should be left to BJP’s IT Cell”.
“Besides, promoting fake news about, and false rivalries between, the builders of modern India is not the job of the Foreign Minister. He should leave this to the BJP’s IT Cell,” Guha said in a sarcastic tweet.
Jaishankar then made a repartee.
“Some Foreign Ministers do read books. May be a good habit for some Professors too. In that case, strongly recommend the one I released yesterday,” he said.
Backing up his argument with documents, Guha then posted a letter from Nehru to Patel dated August 1, 1947. In the letter, Nehru invites Patel to join the first Cabinet of free India, calling him the “strongest pillar” of that Cabinet.
“Can someone show this to Jaishankar, please,” Guha asked on Twitter. Tagging Jaishankar’s ‘foreign ministers do read books’ tweet, the historian added, “Sir, since you have a Ph D from JNU you must surely have read more books than me.
“Among them must have been the published correspondence of Nehru and Patel which documents how Nehru wanted Patel as the ‘strongest pillar’ of his first Cabinet. Do consult those books again.”
Joining the conversation, Congress Rajya Sabha MP Jairam Ramesh said: “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” and released a series of letter showing that Nehru called Patel “a pillar of the Cabinet”.
Ramesh released a Nehru letter to Patel dated August 1 1947, where he writes, “you are the strongest pillar of the Cabinet.”
He also posted Nehru’s letter to Mountbatten of July 19, 1947 with Patel right on top of the new cabinet list. He also shared Nehru’s letter to Patel dated August 4, 1947 with the cabinet list including the latter’s name.