New Delhi, Feb 14: The debate over the presence of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in Jawaharlal Nehru's initial cabinet list in 1947 was divided on Thursday with External Affairs minister S Jaishankar on one side and senior Congress leaders on the other side, contesting his claim.
A twitter furore broke out after Mr Jaishankar referred to a new book that claimed that Nehru did not want to accomodate Patel in his cabinet, a claim debunked by historian Ramachandra Guha. The minister triggered the twitter war when he posted that he had read a biography of senior bureaucrat VP Menon, a close associate to Patel, authored by Narayani Basu and plugged it as having done "much awaited justice to a truly historical figure".
Mr Jaishankar tweeted: "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."
Not ready to take it lying down, Rajya Sabha Congress MP Jairam Ramesh retorted that in light of the "fake news" doing the rounds that Nehru did not want Patel in his cabinet, he was sharing a series of letters and documents including India's first prime minister's July 19, 1947 letter to Mountbatten listing Patel's name right on top of the new cabinet list as well as Nehru's letter to Patel dated August 4, 1947 with the cabinet list which too carried the Iron Man's name. "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 said in a reference to the External Affairs minister.
Senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, who tagged Mr Jaishankar, shared Professor Srinath Raghavan's article that states Nehru never excluded Patel from his cabinet list.
Historian Ram Chandra Guha, jumping into the fray, opined that "this is a myth that has been comprehensively demolished by Professor Srinath Raghavan". Slamming the minister, he wrote "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."
Countering this, Mr Jaishankar retaliated saying some foreign ministers do read books and it may be a good habit for some professors too. "In that case, strongly recommend the one I released yesterday," the minister said. Mr Guha posted an August 1, 1947 letter from Nehru to Patel inviting him to join the first Cabinet of free India, calling him the "strongest pillar" of that Cabinet. "Can someone show this to Jaishankar, please," the historian asked on the micro blogging site.
"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," the historian suggested, in probably having the last word on the subject. (UNI)