Narendra Modi is right: Jawaharlal Nehru failed to appreciate foresight of General Thimayya, Field Marshal Cariappa


History is replete with facts which are uncomfortable to a family and its apologists. So whenever an uncomfortable fact comes out to the public, these people go all out to discredit the messenger. On Thursday as soon as Prime Minister Narendra Modi brought out some facts which have been hidden in the pages of history, the cabal of family apologists started attacking him. These people have been nitpicking on the General Kodandera Subayya Thimayya point that Modi made during his campaign in Karnataka. The fact is that both Nehru and VK Krishna Menon insulted General Thimayya, the latter’s behaviour led to Thimayya’s resignation and that can never be whitewashed. Modi was right when he spoke of General Thimayya defeating Pakistan in 1948. The fake Swarajists must know that “Timmy (Thimayya) had displayed great courage and dash amidst bursting shells in Kashmir in 1948, and he had driven the Pakistanis out of Chad Bet in Kutch in 1956, by a bold stroke even while the Cabinet was debating schemes to accomplish this.”

Thus, General Thimayya did defeat Pakistani forces both in 1948 and 1956 and his confrontation with Krishna Menon happened in 1959, by when he was not only a decorated soldier with wide popularity but also the Chief of Army Staff. Modi was right thus when he said that General Thimayya had defeated Pakistan. But because Modi is a habitual kaamdar and not an naamdar Swarajist or a historian, with ample time to smoke the pipes of time-pass intellectualism, his arguments are broad and yet historically correct. Unfortunately, since Modi did not learn his history and the practice of footnoting from the exalted halls and classrooms of a war college or institution abroad like so many of us, he can be laughed off by the naamdars as muddling up, in spite of his argument and tenor being to the point and on the dot!

Veteran journalist and an astute India observer, the legendary Durga Das, for example, writes in his wide survey of modern India how Nehru himself treated General Thimayya in a cavalier fashion when he openly ticked off Thimayya, then Chief of Army Staff, “at a Governor’s Conference for even suggesting the possibility of an attack by China”.

In his detailed study of the Nehru years – Nehru: a Troubled Legacy the veteran scholar RNP Singh devotes an entire chapter to defence policy in post-independence India (1947-1962) and argues that “The way Nehru handled the resignation of General Thimayya dealt a bad blow to the discipline of the Armed Forces and their self-confidence.”

General Thimayya resigned on 1 September 1959, “in protest against Defence Minister VK Krishna Menon’s” discourteous behaviour and repeated refusal to “consider his plans for better preparation of the army”. Nehru was aware that the “relations between the Defence Minister and the chief of army were strained” but he had done nothing to sort the issue out or to assuage the feelings of General Thimayya. Obviously, his obsessive admiration for and dependence on Menon had adversely influenced his capacities for independent thinking when it came to the defence establishment and its challenges. All that the prime minister did was to tell Parliament that the chief of army staff had resigned on “issues trivial and of no consequences which had arisen out of temperamental conflict”.

This was Nehru’s cavalier response to the resignation of one of the greatest generals of India and one of the most illustrious sons of the soil of Karnataka. “If the prime minister was letting down and humiliating the chief of army staff, he was also ignoring the fact that the general’s resignation had sprung from valid grounds which were relevant to the discipline and efficiency of the armed forces at a time when the country’s frontiers were being threatened,” wrote Durga Das. 1962 was not far away, and the debacle that year proved General Thimayya’s prescience.

So acerbic was Nehru when alerted that the army and its structures and appointments were being politicised that on another occasion when General Kodandera M Cariappa observed that “politics was slowly creeping into the army”, Nehru retorted that “What General Cariappa calls politics is something which he does not like.”

Modi has hit where it hurts the most and has reiterated the historic reality that Nehru had insulted General Thimayya. And his great-grandson, Rahul Gandhi, continues with the tirade against the armed forces, insulting their bravery by questioning the truth of the surgical strikes and supporting those subversive elements who rejoice when members of our security forces are killed in encounters by terrorists or ambushed by cowardly Naxals.

I rejoice at the fact that periodically Modi publicly reiterates crucial facets from the history of our immediate past so that the memory of the discrimination faced by some of our most illustrious patriots at the hands of a confused and arrogant political family is kept alive in the collective consciousness of our proud and great nation.

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