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VK Krishna Menon’s Dark Side

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh’s biography of VK Krishna Menon — A Chequered Brilliance: The Many Lives of V.K. Krishna Menon — based on fresh archival material, reveals that the then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru entrusted Menon with responsibilities such as the post of high commissioner to the UK and defence minister, although Nehru had himself diagnosed Menon as suffering from depression and dark mood swings, as early as 1938. When asked to leave as high commissioner, Menon in a letter acknowledged to Nehru that he took sedatives and hypnotics, but insisted that the barbiturates were not habit-forming. The mercurial Menon, who had strong likes and dislikes, usually created divisions wherever he worked. As defence minister Menon played havoc. He encouraged army chief General PN Thapar to humiliate and charge-sheet two of the most outstanding officers in the Indian Army, General KS Thimayya and General SPP Thorat, who were later exonerated. He instigated his favourite, General BM Kaul, to hold a court of inquiry against Lt General Sam Manekshaw, who was to be later appointed India’s first field marshal. Clearly, even the best of leaders can be fickle-minded – and a disaster.