History

'Not Job of Foreign Minister': Jaishankar, Ramachandra Guha in Spat Over Nehru's Patel 'Snub'

Jaishankar had claimed that civil servant V.P. Menon remembered Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel as having been excluded from the initial Cabinet minister's list by Nehru.

New Delhi: External affairs minister S. Jaishankar and historian Ramachandra Guha on Thursday got into a Twitter spat over whether India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru had kept Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel off the country’s first Cabinet.

On Wednesday, Jaishankar unveiled a new book on civil servant and one of the key players during the formation of India’s first government, V.P. Menon.

After the event, Jaishankar tweeted thrice:

The book in question is Narayani Basu’s The Unsung Architect of Modern India. “[In it] Basu cites an interview which Menon had given to H.V. Hodson in which he confirmed the claim [that Nehru had excluded Patel from the list of people he had chosen for the first Cabinet],” The Print noted in its report. 

Menon’s mediation, the book says, got Patel included eventually.

Nehru has long since been a target in a campaign of retrospective vilification led by the Bharatiya Janata Party, whose government at the Centre Jaishankar is a part of. A component of the smear drive has been the steady attention to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel by the BJP, whose leaders allege he was brushed aside by Nehru and forgotten by the Congress.

Also read: The BJP Wants to Erase Nehru. Let’s See What India Would Have Been Without Him

Jaishankar had kept the debate comparatively open-ended in his tweets.

Meanwhile, historian Ramachandra Guha wrote in with his criticism of the line of thought that Nehru had kept Patel out of the Cabinet. In a tweet, Guha said such promotion of “fake news” did not befit the minister and was best left to the BJP’s online army.

To this, Jaishankar was sharp in retort, and said some foreign ministers do read books.

Guha then made a pointed reference to books Jaishankar must have read in his JNU days.


Guha also pointed to an article by Ashoka University professor Srinath Raghavan, which was recently published on The Print, as evidence that the claim of the snub was untrue.

Raghavan, too, got involved in the debate and cited documents which could debunk Jaishankar’s claim, retweeting Jaishankar’s original tweet.

As the back and forth over the Nehru-Patel debate expanded to include more people, the book’s author herself tweeted that it was detrimental to the topic of the book, which meant to focus on V.P. Menon, to “focus on that particular dynamic.”


In the meantime, Congress brass too got involved. Rajya Sabha MP Jairam Ramesh sought to remind Jaishankar that his supposition was false by tweeting photographs of letters written by Nehru to Lord Mountbatten, in which Patel’s name is on top of the list of Cabinet ministers.

Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor too said that Jaishankar (and perhaps Menon’s recollections of Patel’s exclusion) were wrong.