NEW DELHI: Jawaharlal Nehru’s handpicked defence minister V. K. Krishna Menon may have plotted to stage a coup against the prime minister, a new book on Menon by Congress MP Jayaram Ramesh says.

In an interview with Karan Thapar for The Wire news portal on Monday, Mr Ramesh said Menon, who was in office when India lost the 1962 war with China, was unsuited to be defence minister and Nehru made a mistake appointing him.

“Menon demoralised and divided the army. He often gave Nehru poor and misleading advice and was a bad defence minister. He was a man possessed by demons and was possibly schizophrenic,” Mr Ramesh said.

In the book ‘A Chequered Brilliance: The many lives of V.K. Krishna Menon’ to be released on Wednesday, Mr Ramesh quotes the army chief of the day as saying that the defence minister had plotted to replace Nehru.

About the circumstances surrounding former army chief General K. S. Thimayya’s resignation in 1959, which he withdrew in 48 hours. Mr Ramesh spoke about accessing for the first time the papers of former British High Commissioner Malcolm MacDonald.

According to the papers, whilst serving as army chief Thimayya revealed in detail his problems with his prime minister and defence minister to the British High Commissioner. “Thimayya even told MacDonald that Menon had Bonapartist ambitions and could be involved in a political coup to replace Nehru.”

Mr Ramesh called the revelation “highly unusual” but in the interview to The Wire admitted Menon was unjustifiably soft and perhaps swayed by his fondness for Thimayya and that in fact this was “inexcusable” and “sackable”.

Menon was insecure and craved for reassurance of his worth and value. Consequently he frequently offered or threatened to resign and though close to Nehru also drained the former PMs patience and tolerance.

Published in Dawn, December 17th, 2019

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