Ramachandra Guha, Jairam Ramesh Tweet Letters as Jaishankar Says Nehru Didn't Want Patel in Cabinet


New Delhi: External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar triggered a Twitter storm on Thursday with a statement that he learnt from VP Menon's autobiography that the first Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru did not want Vallabhbhai Patel in his Cabinet in 1947.

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh and noted historian Ramachandra Guha took umbrage at the claim and tweeted out screenshots of letters by Nehru written in 1947, in which Patel was on top of the new Cabinet list and was also referred to as “the strongest pillar of the Cabinet.”

Jaishankar, in a tweet had stated, “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 was referring to a new book by historian and analyst Narayani Basu, ‘V.P. Menon: The Unsung Architect of Modern India’. The external affairs minister was invited for the launch of this book.

Basu is the great-granddaughter of VP Menon, a British-era civil servant, who was political reforms commissioner to multiple viceroys. Menon played a key role in overseeing the Partition and integration of princely states into the Indian Union and worked closely with Patel in the period after independence.

The book claims Nehru did not include the name of Patel in the list he submitted for independent India's first cabinet to viceroy Lord Louis Mountbatten. Narayani Basu writes V.P. Menon went to Mountbatten and warned "you will start a war of succession. Congress will split in two...". The book claims Sardar Patel's name was included in the name of ministers after Mountbatten met Mahatma Gandhi.

The first to take on Jasihankar’s post was Guha, who termed the claim a “myth.”

“This is a myth that has been comprehensively demolished by Professor Srinath Raghavan in The Print. 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,” he tweeted.

In response to this tweet by Guha, the External Affairs Minister said, "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.”

Guha, in response, then uploaded the picture of a letter by Nehru on August 1, 1947, inviting Patel to be part of the Cabinet where he addresses him as “the strongest pillar of the Cabinet.”

Patel was India’s first Home Minister.

Guha again took a dig at Jaishankar stating, “Sir, since you have a PhD 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.”

Getting into the debate, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh also tweeted a series of letters written between July 19, 1947 and August 14, 1947 by Nehru, in each of which Patel was “right on top of new cabinet list.”

Several BJP leaders have made the claim the country would have taken a different path if Sardar Patel was the first prime minister. In February 2018, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the Lok Sabha, “Had Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel been the first prime minister, a part of Kashmir would not have been under control of Pakistan.”

The critics of Nehru and his successors in the Nehru-Gandhi family allege that Sardar Patel's legacy had been ignored by successive Congress governments.