Differences of opinion caused Nehru to consider Patel enemy

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    Ever since BJP veteran L K Advani triggered a controversy over differences between Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel, the autobiography of a bureaucrat of the post-Independence era has returned to the limelight, a quarter century after his death.
    Meppally Keshava Pillai Krishnan Nayar, author of 'Story of an era told without ill will', left his imprint on the bureaucracy, industrial and art sectors in a career spanning 25 years.

    Nayar's autobiography was first serialised in a Malayalam weekly in mid 1980s. "In 1987, when Nayar died at the age of 66 due to cancer, the autobiography was still running in the weekly. Realising his death was near, he rushed through the final chapters of the book," recalls Gopakumar M Nair, who translated the work into English and is waiting for a publisher.

    A native of Kollam, Nayar started his career as a divisional accountant and telephones manager in 1941. Two years later, he joined as planning and coordination officer in the defence department's ordnance factory in Secundarabad, bringing him closer to Patel.

    Nayar's writings reveal how he kept Patel informed about the conspiracy to strengthen the Nizam's army. Nayar's house was a haunt of the top brass of the Nizam's government and he learnt many things from their discussions. Initially, Patel did not take him seriously, but he soon realised that some of Nayar's alerts had come true. When Nayar met Patel in Delhi, the latter had asked his secretary to take his messages directly to him.

    On how he became privy to Nehru-Patel relations and what transpired between May and September, 1948, Nayar said it was partly what he knew himself and partly what he came to know from civil servant V P Menon.

    "Differences of opinion between Nehru and Patel caused Nehru to look upon Patel as an enemy. Nehru was not above personal hatred and he did two vengeful things: the day Patel died, Nehru sent two memos to the Home Ministry and they arrived at V P Menon's desk. The first was to instruct that the Cadillac car that Patel used should be returned the very next morning to the Foreign Ministry," Nayar wrote. "Patel had died in Bombay. Nehru's second memo was that officers who wished to attend the funeral must travel on their own expense. V P Menon called together officers of his Ministry and, without divulging Nehru's order, asked who all were interested in attending the funeral. About a dozen officers wanted to. He bought their air tickets at his expense. When Nehru learned of this, he was annoyed even more."

    In 1948, Nayar left for England for higher studies after taking the IAS exam. He returned to India on being selected to the IAS in 1949. From 1952-56, he was deputy secretary with the Commerce and Industry Ministry. He came in touch with Nehru during this period.

    Nehru deputed him to study problems at the Rourkela steel plant and Nayar took over as managing director of the Fertilizers and Chemicals, Travancore Ltd (FACT) in Kochi, where he continued till 1971. "During Nayar's term, FACT got financial assistance from World Bank — the first time a public enterprise received a World Bank loan," said Gopakumar M Nair.

    Nayar was then appointed joint secretary and adviser to the Planning Commission. In 1974, he was suspended from service after the CBI registered two cases of alleged corruption during his term in FACT. Nayar was exonerated by the CBI court 12 years later, but by then he had attained superannuation. "There were many in Delhi who believed that if I had not been trapped in these false cases, I would perhaps have become Cabinet Secretary in 1977," he said.

    While serving at FACT, Nayar was invited by J R D Tata to build up the chemical industry for Tata. But he turned down the offer so he could serve the public sector. Years later, Tata asked Nayar, "If you had accepted my offer, would these miseries have occurred?"

    Differences of opinion caused Nehru to consider Patel enemy: Nayar book - Indian Express

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