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Full text of "After Nehru Who"

$6 95 



As India, with, its 443 million people, strug- 
gles for existence, politic fiHy and economic^ 
ally, the question of who will succeed 
lawaharlal Nehru as Prime Minister it* of 
paramount importance, not only for India, 
but for tlie rest of Asia and for the "West 

Wiiether India endures under democratic 
or authoritarian institutions is the vital ques- 
tion, according to Welles Hangen, who lias 
spent three years JTI New Delhi as corres- 
pondent for the National Broadcasting Com- 
pany In this timely and informative boolc^ 
he presents penetrating portraits of eight 
outstanding Indian leaders 

Mr Htmgen's trenchant and teni ark ably 
objective studies are based on interviews not 
only v/ith the eight individuals he examines^ 
but with their friends and enemies in India 
and abroad In his gallery of potential suc- 
cessors are Morarji Desai^ Finance Minister ^ 
Nehru's daughter, Indira Gandhi.. Lai BEI- 
hadur Shastn, Minister of Home A ft curs, 
Y B Chavan, Defense Ivtinister, layapra- 
kash Narayan, S K Patil^ Minister of Food 
and Agriculture, and General IBnj Molima 
KauU Chief of the General Staff of the Indian 
Army He also includes a fascinating portrait 
of the Iilghly controversial V 1C Krishna 
Menon, who, though ousted as Defense 
Minister in October 1962, has, bc^n, and 
may again be> an important Ggiire in Indian 
politics Each of these people is intensely 
inter&sting in his own right, each, lias ab- 
sorbed and transformed in his own way 
the Gandhian principles of nonviolence and 
Nehru's own policies 

But this book is more than an intimate 
gallery of some of India's most eminent per- 
sonalities, it is also a brjlliant analysis of 
India's position today, and the economic and 
social problems that must be solved for the 
f LI tu re 

photo graphs 





923.2'"H23af 63-01292 $6,95 

Hangen, Welles, 1930- 
After Nehru, who? N.Y. , 

Harcourt, Brace & World [1963] 
303p. illus. 

T148 00547 6858 


NOV 2 2 19/8 

.,..1 ., 

After Nehru, Who? 



1963 by Welles Hangen 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be 

reproduced in any form or by any mechanical means, 

including mimeograph and tape recorder, without 

permission in writing from the publisher. 

first edition 

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 62-16736 
Printed in the United States of America 

To My Mother 

A* u'iw* *-* ^ * 

" 6301292 


EVER SINCE I first went overseas as a news correspondent in 
1948, I have been fascinated by the question that is the title 
of this book. Long before I came to India, I sought the answer 
from every Indian I knew in Cairo, Moscow, and other capi- 
tals where I was stationed. Since 1959 I have had the oppor- 
tunity to pursue my quest in India itself with people of all 
castes, classes, and political complexions. The result is this 

One argument I advanced in urging the National Broad- 
casting Company to set up a news bureau in New Delhi was 
that the Nehru period was drawing to a close and that India 
was entering a fateful hour of decision. NBC was quick to 
see the point and assigned me as its first full-time correspond- 
ent in India. 

When I arrived in India, I met many people who said that 
the question of Jawaharlal Nehru's successor was irrelevant. 
They had a touching faith in Nehru's durability and pre- 
ferred to close their eyes to the future. Others I talked to 
were willing to concede that the Prime Minister was mortal, 



but they insisted that the situation after Nehru would be 
so radically different that there was no point in trying to 
assay the prospects and performance of the present con- 
tenders for his position. 

Both these judgments struck me as counsels of despair. I 
could not believe that the Indian political scene was uniquely 
impervious to every technique of observation and analysis 
used with profit in other countries. Today I am more than 
ever convinced that it is not only possible, but essential, that 
an effort be made to delineate the personalities who now 
show most promise of being able to succeed Nehru or to 
exert decisive influence on the Indian scene after his passing. 
To say that no attempt should be made to assess those now 
vying for the premiership because new leaders may supplant 
them is like forbidding the study of presently known chemi- 
cal elements lest new and more important elements may some 
day be discovered. New personalities will of course enter 
Indian politics, but unless they are dropped from the sky, 
they will reflect much the same environment that has shaped 
the lives of the eight Indians whom I have tried to portray 
in this book. In fact, younger leaders will probably hold 
similar views and show the same attitudes as one or more of 
the subjects of this book. Therefore, I think it would be a 
fatal mistake for Americans or anyone else to suspend politi- 
cal judgment because it is not possible to predict with cer- 
tainty what will happen after Nehru. Indeed, who can pre- 
dict what will happen to India even while Nehru remains? 
Political probabilities have never been mathematically cal- 
culated in a country like India. 

One reason for the reluctance to conceive of India without 
Nehru is the astonishing ignorance, even in India, about the 
likely inheritors of his power. There is the mistaken notion 
that only Nehru stands between India and leaderless chaos. 
Soon after I arrived in India, I set out to test the validity of 
this idea. I visited every major Indian city and almost all the 
states. I interviewed hundreds of politicians and others inter- 
ested in Indian politics. I talked to India's urbane philosopher- 
President, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, and to untouchables 
in the slums of Bombay. My conclusion was that gifted leader- 


ship is available but little known even in India. This book 
is an effort to chart the political and personal contour lines 
of this leadership. The seven men and one woman who im- 
pressed me as the most significant or potentially most sig- 
nificant public personalities in India today are described in 
the chapters that follow. 

I have made no attempt to be all-inclusive. I have deliber- 
ately tried to get away from the standard approach of analyz- 
ing India in terms of its problems. My approach to the country 
is through eight of its leading political or military figures. 
Some weighty economic and sociological issues are slighted 
or ignored in favor of what I regard as the compelling aspects 
of these eight Indians and the country they aspire to lead. I 
think the personal approach is particularly valid in depicting 
India because personalities transcend programs, parties, plat- 
forms, and policies in India today. Myron Weiner and other 
students of Indian politics have adduced abundant evidence 
to support this conclusion. 

Besides being politically important, each of the subjects of 
this book is a vital and challenging human being. I venture 
to hope that even the reader who has no special interest in 
India or foreign affairs as such may be interested in meeting 
these eight Indians through my eyes. I have found these in- 
dividuals my most rewarding experience in India. 

One thing that surprised me when I started gathering ma- 
terial for this book was the dearth of published matter about 
anyone except Nehru and Gandhi. There was almost nothing 
available about most of the leading contenders to succeed 
Nehru. For this reason I have relied primarily on my eight 
subjects themselves what they have told me and others in 
recent years. My thanks go to each of my principal subjects 
for giving me many hours of their time since I came to India. 
All have been exceedingly generous and co-operative. Their 
frankness has enabled me to understand their outlook and 
personality in a way that no amount of academic research 
could have done. My gratitude has not, of course, deterred 
me from including unfavorable facts or pronouncing critical 
judgment on each of the potential Nehru heirs. If, as Gandhi 
said, God is truth, it would be sacrilegious to do otherwise. 


I trust that all my Indian friends, including the eight re- 
markable subjects of this book, will credit my sincerity in this. 

Besides the chosen eight, I am deeply indebted to many 
others in India, America, and Britain. It is not possible to 
name everyone who has shared in some way in the making 
of this book. I am particularly grateful to Paul Grimes, former 
New York Times correspondent in India, and to Chanchal 
Sarkar, a Delhi editor of the Statesman, who read portions of 
the manuscript and offered many valuable suggestions. They 
bear no responsibility for whatever factual errors remain or 
for editorial judgments expressed in these pages. Of the many 
Indian newspapermen who contributed their knowledge and 
perspective to this book, I want particularly to mention Sri 
Mulgaokar, of the Hindustan Times; Prem Bhatia, of the 
Times of India; and Frank Moraes, D. R. Mankekar, and C. L. 
Suri, of the Indian Express. Other Indians who were exceed- 
ingly helpful, and I deem it a privilege to thank, were Mrs. 
Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, C. D. Deshmukh, Rajkumari Amrit 
Kaur, Dr. Ram Subhag Singh, General K. S. Thimayya (ret.), 
U. N. Dhebar, G. D. Birla, Hardit Singh Malik, Purshottam 
Trikumdas, J. J. Singh, Rafik Zakaria, K. M. Panikkar, Mrs. 
Kusum Nair, Mrs. Rajen Nehru, Mrs. Violet Alva, Minoo R. 
Masani, V. Viswanathan, L. P. Singh, C. D. Pande, Mahesh 
Saran, and Sadiq AH, Among the foreign community in India, 
my gratitude goes to U.S. Ambassador John Kenneth Gal- 
braith, Albert A. Lakeland, Jr., Craig Baxter, Horace J. Davis, 
Miss Jane Abel, Myron Weiner, Donald Kerr, Douglas Ens- 
minger, and Everett M. Woodman (who has since left India 
to become president of Colby Junior College for Women, in 
New London, New Hampshire) for their advice and helpful- 
ness. In England I was fortunate in having the sympathetic 
assistance of Mrs. Harold Laski, Reginald Sorensen, M.P., 
John Strachey, M.P., Sir Penderel Moon, Michael Edwardes, 
Mrs. John Bonham, and a number of others who had served 
in India or knew the subjects of this book when they were in 

I have found the following books particularly useful and 
have occasionally drawn upon them: India Today, by Frank 
Moraes (Macmillan, 1960), Communism in India, by Gene D. 


Overstreet and Marshall Windmiller (University of California 
Press, 1959), and Leadership and Political Institutions in 
India, edited by Richard L. Park and Irene Tinker (Prince- 
ton University Press, 1959), particularly the chapters "Busi- 
ness Organization and Leadership in India Today/' by Helen 
B. Lamb, and "Dynamics of Socialist Leadership in India," 
by Thomas A. Rusch. 

I am happy to acknowledge the assistance I received from 
the Government of India's Press Information Bureau and 
from Captain G. S. Pablay, of the Defense Ministry, in ob- 
taining photographs for this book. My thanks are also due to 
Girja Kumar, chief librarian of Sapru House, and to R. D. 
Pradhan, private secretary to the Chief Minister of Maharash- 
tra, both of whom provided valuable facilities and back- 
ground material. Special mention is due my able and devoted 
office manager, P. K. Khanna, who pursued the most elusive 
data with tireless persistence. 

Through the laborious process of researching and writing 
this book, the National Broadcasting Company has been ex- 
ceptionally helpful and indulgent. I am beholden to William 
R. McAndrew, executive vice president for news, who cheer- 
fully allowed me to take a leave of absence from the network 
to finish the writing, and to Leonard Allen, the manager of 
news, who followed my difficulties with understanding and 

The worst tribulations of this book were borne by my wife 
with such even-tempered grace and unfailing sagacity that 
I feel I should list her as a coauthor. In many ways she is. 
Her enthusiasm for the idea behind this book kept mine 
aflame, and her critical comments on each successive draft 
of the manuscript saved me from the sin of complacency. 
Whatever sins do appear in these pages must be charged 
solely to me. 

No one can write, or even think, about India without a 
certain feeling of awe. What presumption to dream of meas- 
uring the infinite! At the risk of being doubly presumptuous, 
I find solace in the words that Victor Hugo wrote at the 
opening of Les Misdrables: 

"As long as there exists by reason of law or custom, a social 


order that artificially creates hells on earth and complicates 
a destiny that is divine . . . books like this cannot be useless." 

New Delhi 
November 1962 


Preface vii 

Introduction 3 




Y. B. CHAVAN 130 



S. K. PATIL 220 


Conclusion 273 

Glossary of Indian Terms 289 

Index 297 




Finance Minister Morarji Desai at his desk, 1960 

W. B. Iliff, Vice-President of the World Bank, with Morarji Desai at 
a reception, October 1960 

Former Defense Minister V. K. Krishna Menon with Minister of 

Food and Agriculture S. K. Patil 


Krishna Menon addressing jawans at Ferozepore in January 1960 

Minister of Home Affairs Lai Bahadur Shastri in his office 

Lai Bahadur Shastri 

Y. B. Chavan, Defense Minister 

Y. B. Chavan in his office in Bombay when he was Chief Minister of 


Mrs. Indira Gandhi with the Dalai Lama at the Prime Minister's 

house in New Delhi 

Mrs. Indira Gandhi with her father, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru 

Jayaprakash Narayan with Prime Minister Nehru at the National In- 
tegration Conference in New Delhi, October 1961 

Jayaprakash Narayan addressing a meeting at Delhi University 

Minister of Food and Agriculture S. K. Patil addressing a meeting of 
traders in Delhi 

S. K. Patil with Secretary of State Dean Rusk in Washington, June 



General B. M. Kaul with Krishna Menon and Prime Minister Nehru 
at Ambala, 1958 

General K. S. Thimayya and General B. M. Kaul watching Krishna 
Menon laying the foundation stone of the Defence Pavilion in New 
Delhi, August 1958 



GERTRUDE STEIN SAID that the United States was the oldest 
country in the world because it entered the twentieth century 
first. By her reckoning India will be one of the youngest. It 
will be born in its twentieth-century incarnation some time 
after the year 2000. Today India is a nation in the fetal stage 
fighting for life in the womb of history. 

The struggle for existence is not new for India. It was 
chronicled even before the Aryans from the north flooded 
the plains of Hindustan some 4,500 years ago, setting a pat- 
tern of invasion and subjugation to be repeated each time 
India was reborn. The difference now is that if India is 
subjugated in its present preincarnation, even the Hindu 
Law of Karma may not be able to contrive a rebirth in free- 
dom. Modern techniques of suppression coupled with old 
habits of submission are not likely to give the country a 
second chance in our time. And if India, the largest body 
of uncoerced humanity on earth today, were energized as well 
as enslaved, a calamity of incalculable consequences would 
have befallen the world. 



Attention must therefore be paid to this country and its 
people. One may harden his heart but not close his mind to 
the fate of a nation with twice as many inhabitants as Western 

It is fashionable in the West, especially in the United 
States, to say that India is important because it is competing 
with Communist China for the mind of Asia. India repre- 
sents democracy; China, totalitarianism. Each, it is said, is 
striving desperately to outdistance the other in the race for 
"development" and higher living standards. The outcome 
will supposedly decide the future of representative govern- 
ment not only in Asia but perhaps in the rest of the under- 
developed world. In such an apocalyptic struggle India as- 
sumes transcendent importance. According to proponents of 
this view, the United States and other Western democracies 
must give India unstinting support, including massive eco- 
nomic assistance, to enable it to conduct its epic defense of 

I have met many Americans and some Europeans who 
accept this Wagnerian vision of Asian colossi in collision. 
I have yet to meet an Asian outside India who does. The 
reason is simple. Anyone familiar with Asia knows that India 
has never been acknowledged as leader or pace-setter of the 
continent, least of all now in the heyday of Asian national- 
isms. The Chinese feel even more contempt for the Indians 
than for other foreigners. The Japanese might as well live 
in Europe or America for all the affinity they feel for Mother 
India. Ceylon, Burma, Nepal, Bhutan, and Sikkim are suspi- 
cious of Indian intentions or fearful of being swamped by 
India's expanding population. They have little affection for 
their giant neighbor. You need only utter the word "Kashmir" 
to gauge a Pakistani's reaction to India. 

I lived for a number of years in the Middle East, but I 
cannot remember one Arab or Iranian or Turk who thought 
his country's future would be affected, let alone decided, by 
what happened to parliamentary government in India. In 
the Far East and southeast Asia, China may be the focus of 
fear, but India is certainly not the wellspring of hope. 

It is not what happens in India that will shape the rest of 


Asia in the next decade; it is what happens in the individual 
Asian countries themselves. Democrats in Korea, Thailand, 
and Syria will receive no sudden accretion of strength because 
democratic India's growth rate has finally caught up with 
China's. The problem for Asian democrats as for Asian 
despots has little to do with what happens in India or China. 
It has everything to do with local conditions in each Asian 
country. There is no convenient mold into which all the 
countries of the largest continent can be neatly fitted. Their 
politics, like their coffee, is brewed at home. The external 
forces able to change the local blend are the great powers, 
primarily the United States, China, and the Soviet Union. 
Impoverished, overburdened India, unable even to assure 
street lighting in New Delhi, is no beacon for the rest of Asia. 
India may boast a parliament; it also has the lowest standard 
of living and the lowest per capita income anywhere in non- 
Communist Asia outside Pakistan. 

If Asia is hostile or indifferent to India, India returns the 
compliment. Even educated Indians are surprisingly ignorant 
about their continent. Indian diplomats resist being posted to 
Asian capitals; Indian students want to attend European or 
American universities; Indian businessmen prefer to trade 
with the West; Indian scholars know more about English 
Chartists than they do about Asian nationalists, and Indian 
customs officials give fellow Asians the hardest time of all. 
Nehru discovered India after he was thirty, but he still has 
not discovered the rest of Asia except in his speeches. 

If India is not the beacon and bellwether of Asia, does it 
follow that India is unimportant and that the West can 
safely ignore it? I believe not. India is important for itself, 
simply because it is too big to ignore. More than one seventh 
of the human race, or more than the combined population of 
Africa and South America, lives in India today. One out of 
every three people in the emergent countries of the non- 
Communist world is an Indian. As the London Economist 
says, "A third of the problem to be solved lies within India's 
boundaries/' Moreover, India's 443 million people (at latest 
count) are increasing their numbers by seven or eight million 
a year, adding the equivalent of another New York City every 


twelve months. From 1951 to 1961 the number of Indians in 
India rose by seventy-seven million, more than the population 
of Brazil. By 1981 India is expected to have 630 million 

The birth rate is relatively static, but the death rate has been 
halved since 1901 and, even more important, infant mortality 
has sunk from 232 per 1,000 live births in that year to ninety- 
eight today. In 1931 life expectancy in India was only twenty- 
three; now it is estimated to be forty-five. 

To my way of thinking, such a volcanic eruption of hu- 
manity hardly needs to solicit the world's attention by its 
political example. India compels by sheer magnitude. A few 
statistics may be of interest. If the government allotted less 
than a yard and a half more cloth to every person in the coun- 
try, the entire export surplus would disappear. If every Indian 
were to consume just one ounce more of rice or wheat a day, 
every grain warehouse in the country would be emptied and 
India's stockpile of American wheat and rice would be dissi- 
pated in less than a year. There are as many students in school 
in India as there are people in France. Nehru often talks about 
India's having entered the bicycle age, but he does not often 
mention that it will take a little over 400 years at current rates 
of output to produce one bicycle for everyone living in India 

India's geographical dimensions are equally staggering. The 
country is two thirds the size of Europe (excluding Russia) and 
more than one third as large as the United States. Thirteen 
Britains could be comfortably spread over India's broad face. 
You can travel by train for eight days and nights without ever 
changing direction and still you will not have traversed the 
length or breadth of India. From north to south and from east 
to west, India measures about 2,000 miles each way the dis- 
tance from New York to Mexico City. 

You don't have to travel 2,000 miles in India to retrace sev- 
eral millenniums of history. You can cover a thousand years in 
a few hundred miles. You go by plane and train and bus and 
ricksha and bullock cart. You pass cotton fields planted with 
irradiated seed and irrigated by the Persian wheel. Crated 
machine tools from Russia and the West move on the backs 


of groaning coolies clad in nothing but a loincloth. Peasant 
women wearing silver bangles and carrying naked children bal- 
ance stacks of bricks on their heads as they toil to build an 
air-conditioned office building. 

The landscape changes even more than the people, because 
there is a sameness about the face of poverty everywhere. I 
remember in 1961 going from the torrid, sun-parched plains 
of northern India to the eroded upland of the Deccan, in the 
south; then to the delightful Nilgiris (Blue Hills), in Madras 
state, where the red-coated master of the hunt completes a 
landscape that might have been lifted from Sussex. Like all 
cool places in India, the Nilgiris are an interlude that passes 
too quickly. My next stop was Coimbatore, the new textile 
city that grew up out of cotton fields. Finally, Kerala, India's 
stepchild and the country's largest exporter of pepper and edu- 
cated brains. 

If you go west to east, you start from Bombay, that sultry 
queen of Indian cities, where everything in the country seems 
to begin. You make a kind of arc passing through the slightly 
more prosperous farmland of Gujarat, past the old textile mills 
of Ahmedabad and into the strange world of Raj as than, with 
the old Rajput forts on the hills looking as if they had been 
copied from the Rhineland or the Scottish Highlands. Old 
Delhi is dusty and New Delhi is neuter and the plains go on 
forever. Misery's chief milestone is the eastern part of sprawl- 
ing Uttar Pradesh (what the British called the United Prov- 
inces), where the peasants live in the ground like animals and 
remind you of descriptions of French serfs before 1789. The 
coal and steel towns of Bihar and West Bengal are as raw, 
grimy, and impersonal as anything Karl Marx ever saw. And 
he certainly never saw anything like the nightmare city of Cal- 
cutta, where the pavements are the biggest housing project. 
And at last you find another of those cool interludes in the tea 
gardens of Assam. You're weary but you still have not seen 
much of India nothing of divided Kashmir or the bustling 
Punjab or the proud city of Madras or the naked primitiveness 
of Orissa and Andhra, in the southeast. 

At least the statistics are now comprehensible. You under- 
stand why India speaks 845 languages and dialects, why more 


than 300 castes and subcastes hold society in their vicelike grip, 
and why fifteen semiautonomous Indian states (with a six- 
teenth in formation) compete savagely for a larger share of the 
purse. You have seen enough untouchables to believe the gov- 
ernment when it says that India's outcastes alone outnumber 
the two most populous African countries combined. Who 
thinks of India as a tribal country? Yet its thirty million tribal 
people, many just emerging from the Late Stone Age, exceed 
the total population of California and Texas. 

Such are a few of the dimensions of the sprawling, clay- 
footed colossus that stretches from the Karakoram Mountains 
in the north to Kanyakumari (Cape Comorin) in the south and 
from the Great Indian Desert in the west to the jungles of 
Burma in the east. 

Whenever I am back in America, people ask me if India will 
succeed. I am always hard put to answer. To say that India is a 
logical impossibility is to speak of a fact that (as Tagore might 
have said) is too apparent to be completely true. But to an- 
swer, "Yes, India will succeed," is like predicting that the 
Ganges will succeed. The truth about India and the Ganges 
seems to be that they will neither succeed nor fail; they will 
endure. For India this is no mean accomplishment. Whether 
India endures under democratic or authoritarian institutions 
is the vital question. It really concerns only India, unless the 
country were again subjugated by a foreign conqueror (which 
seems unlikely) or a native Indian authoritarianism could suc- 
ceed in mobilizing and activizing India's vast human resources. 
India, like China, could then become a threat to its neighbors 
and the world. Barring full-scale invasion or the catastrophe of 
world war, I have always felt that the answer to the question of 
how India will endure in the years ahead does not lie in Wash- 
ington or Moscow or Peking, but in India itself. India's leaders 
must ultimately decide the fate of their country. The foremost 
Indian leader of his generation, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, is 
now in his seventies. Before very long he must relinquish the 
responsibilities he has carried so many years. A new generation, 
now waiting in the wings, will come on stage. This book is an 
attempt to sketch the human and ideological contours of some 


outstanding members of the new generation as well as of sev- 
eral influential holdovers from the old. 

Most books about India are neatly compartmentalized into 
chapters on the country's political, economic, and social prob- 
lems. There is usually no more than a fleeting glance at some 
of the leaders who will have to wrestle with these problems in 
what Selig Harrison calls India's "most dangerous decades." I 
have chosen a different approach. I shall try to depict India in 
terms of the ideas and experiences of eight Indians whom I 
consider interesting, important, and representative. One of the 
eight may or may not be India's next prime minister, but each 
of them stands for something in Indian life that will, I believe, 
endure with India itself. Each of the eight commands some 
following. Each, it seems to me, is a living refutation of the 
widely accepted notion (not only outside India) that Nehru 
is the sole leader who can pilot India, that after he leaves, the 
ship of state will be like a derelict in a typhoon. One thing 
that has struck me since I first came to India in 1959 is that 
Nehru is indispensable only so long as Indians believe he is. 
There is no real vacuum of leadership in India, only a vacuum 
of recognition. Scholars are fond of saying that Nehru is the 
last of the charismatic leaders who can unite India by personal 
and emotional appeal. This is true but not necessarily tragic. 
India cannot always be held together by the prestige of those 
who went to jail under the British. Nehru is no more irre- 
placeable today than Franklin D. Roosevelt was in 1945. One 
reason that Nehru appears indispensable is the gulf that sets 
him apart from his fellow countrymen. As Philip Deane has 
said, Nehru is still ruling a mentally foreign country. His tools 
are the obsolete doctrines of English Fabian socialism. Unable 
to communicate with most of his colleagues, the Prime Min- 
ister has tended to take all important questions in his own 
hands. One of his cabinet ministers calls Nehru India's biggest 
banyan tree, in whose deep shade not a blade of grass grows. 
The shade extends far beyond the central government offices 
in New Delhi. I sometimes feel that Nehru stunts everyone 
else in the country. The new mantra seems to be, "There is 
no thought but Nehru's." If squatters' huts obstruct New 


Delhi traffic, if two states quarrel over the price of electricity, 
or if Calcutta's garbage starts piling higher than usual, Nehru 
is asked to find the answer or at least to sanction an answer 
found by lesser mortals. If a parade or a Boy Scout jamboree is 
to be held in the capital, the Prime Minister's advice is ear- 
nestly solicited. Indians have come to assume that Nehru must 
attend all ground-breakings, lay all cornerstones, cut all rib- 
bons, inaugurate or close all conferences, send messages of 
encouragement to all worthy organizations, scold all wrong- 
doers, and uplift all those who are sorely tried. 

Much of his time is spent in receiving foreign dignitaries at 
the airport and even (as when President Dwight D. Eisenhower 
visited Delhi) in getting out of his car to clear a path for them 
through enthusiastic crowds. 

Nehru is prime minister, minister of external affairs (in- 
cluding Commonwealth affairs), defense minister, head of the 
Atomic Energy Department, chairman of the Planning Com- 
mission, majority leader in both houses of Parliament, and de 
facto head of the eight-million-member Congress party, which 
has ruled India since independence. Nehru is beloved by In- 
dia's masses and intelligentsia as an aristocrat who sacrificed 
wealth and position to spend more than ten years in British 
jails during the long struggle for freedom. He is the univer- 
sally revered "political heir" of Mohandas Karamchand Gan- 
dhi, the apostle of nonviolent resistance to British rule. The 
Mahatma ("great soul") differed with Nehru on many issues 
but recognized that the best way to moderate his radical so- 
cialism was to make Nehru leader of Congress * and the coun- 
try. Nehru has run India's central or Union government since 
1946, when he was named operating head of the interim ad- 
ministration under the British before India and Pakistan 
were given formal independence on August 15, 1947. He has 
been a kind of benevolent mogul, eschewing compulsion but 
reserving all important decisions for himself. He has mo- 

* Whenever I use the term "Congress" or "Congress party" in this book, 
I refer to the Indian National Congress, the political movement founded in 
1885 that spearheaded the demand for Indian independence from Britain. 
Similarly, the term "Congressman" always refers to a member of the party, 
not a legislator. 


nopolized authority in New Delhi not for its own sake, but 
because he has always been convinced of his own pre-eminent 
wisdom. At the same time he has meticulously nurtured In- 
dia's imported parliamentary institutions, seemingly in hopes 
they might someday be a check on the ambitions of an un- 
benevolent despot. 

Many people in India who concede that Nehru can now 
be replaced have told me that only he could have held the 
country together in the early years after the partition of Brit- 
ish India. I have never been able to accept this idea. Sardar 
Vallabhbhai Patel, deputy prime minister in Nehru's first 
cabinet and chief architect of the integration of India's 555 
princely states with the rest of the country, enjoyed virtually 
equal status with Nehru. I feel that Patel could have ruled 
successfully until his death in December 1950. By that time 
more than three years had elapsed since the monstrous slaugh- 
ter and forcible transfers of population that accompanied the 
withdrawal of British power from the subcontinent. India had 
found an uneasy peace by December 1950. Congress party stal- 
warts like the late Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, then education 
minister, and Pandit Govind Ballabh Pant, later Union home 
minister, could have carried on after Patel if there had been 
no Nehru. The Indian Army, the Civil Service, and the Con- 
gress party all antedate Nehru. I think their vested interest in 
maintaining Indian unity would have been as effectively as- 
serted in the early years as it is likely to be after Nehru goes. 

The historical fact, however, is that Nehru was there and 
that he enjoyed unchallenged supremacy in the Congress party 
after Patel's death. He became the party spokesman on do- 
mestic policy as he was already its authority on foreign affairs. 
The difference was that in foreign policy Nehru could put his 
conception of Indian nonalignment into practice. Whatever 
misgivings conservative Indian Congressmen may have felt, the 
Prime Minister could walk a tightrope between the two power 
blocs, befriending each and extracting aid from each. He could 
keep India in the Commonwealth and simultaneously preach 
anticolonialism in Africa and Asia. He could conclude the now 
repudiated agreement with Communist China espousing Panch 
Sheel, or the "five principles of peaceful coexistence/' and 


recognize Peking's authority over India's historic buffer, Tibet, 
without evoking more than a murmur from skeptics in his own 
party until the Tibetan revolt broke out in March 1959. 

On the domestic front, however, Nehru's socialism collided 
from the beginning with the conservative majority in the Con- 
gress party. He can enunciate party policy and push through 
high-sounding resolutions on land reform, state-owned indus- 
try, co-operative farming, and a "socialistic pattern of society." 
But the resolutions remain largely on paper because the power- 
ful landowners and business and professional interests who 
dominate the Congress party in the state capitals can usually 
frustrate Nehru's dreams by what one Delhi editor calls their 
"masterly inactivity/' 

To understand this impasse you must understand the Con- 
gress party, the most important and baffling political phenom- 
enon in India today. It is a huge, amorphous, crumbling coali- 
tion of conflicting regional, linguistic, caste, and political inter- 
ests. Once bound together in pursuit of independence from 
British rule, party members are now united in little but their 
self-interest. The president and theoretical head of the party 
at the time of writing is Damodaram Sanjivayya, a youthful 
untouchable who was chief minister of the south Indian state 
of Andhra. In fact, the Congress president is completely over- 
shadowed by Nehru, assisted in party matters by Nehru's 
daughter, Mrs. Indira Gandhi (no relative of the Mahatma), 
and the present Union Home Minister, Lai Bahadur Shastri. 
But to think Congress has a single head is a gross misreading 
of political anatomy. Like some of the Hindu deities, the party 
actually has many heads. 

Real power at the Center (as Indians call New Delhi) lies 
with Nehru. In states where the Congress party is not at odds 
with itself, the chief minister usually dominates. He controls 
the Congress majority in the provincial legislature as well as 
the state party organization. The chief minister dispenses 
patronage, runs the state government, and oversees the police. 
In practice he decides how law and order are to be maintained 
in the state and how far directives from Delhi are to be imple- 
mented. No law passed by the central Parliament can be really 
effective in a state without the chief minister's concurrence. By 


going to the Union government in Delhi, Indian politicians 
often lose their grass-roots support. A capable chief minister 
like Kamaraj K. Nadar, of Madras, can maintain a powerful 
political machine in his state and simultaneously influence 
the Center. 

In most states the Congress party tends to be conservative, 
or at least pragmatic. The rank and file, made up of small land- 
owners, merchants, and government servants, are as suspicious 
of change as any Bombay textile magnate or Assam tea planter. 
They dare not openly oppose Nehru's brand of socialism, but, 
as I pointed out, they can often thwart its application in their 
own areas. Land reform is delayed, then evaded. Village co- 
operatives are set up on paper and promptly forgotten or 
taken over by the local moneylender or landlord. The same 
fate often awaits the village panchayats, or councils, that 
Nehru has sought to revive as a means of stimulating local self- 
government and decentralizing authority. They become the 
mouthpiece of local officials or of the dominant caste in the vil- 
lage. Nehru preaches against communalism,* and none in Con- 
gress will dissent. But Congress is increasingly a Hindu organi- 
zation with a few tame Moslems, Sikhs, and Christians avail- 
able for display purposes. Brahman Congressmen in the vil- 
lages are as zealous as any of their caste brothers in excluding 
untouchables (dubbed Harijans, or "children of God," by 
Gandhi) from the village well, the temple, and even the cre- 
mation ground. The sanctimonious, khaddar-clad rural Con- 
gressman often does more to enflame communal passions than 
avowed extremists. In parts of India the Congressman's white 
Gandhi cap and mouthing of Gandhian precepts about love of 
one's fellow man have become symbols of hypocrisy. 

What is called the Right Wing of the Congress party is a 
disparate collection of big businessmen, landlords, petty trad- 
ers, and a scattering of professional men. Among them are free 
enterprisers, advocates of a mixed economy, and "Gandhian 
socialists" who champion village industry. Not surprisingly, 

* A catchall term widely used in India to denote any sectarian appeal or 
allegiance based on caste or religion. The term usually refers to Hindu- 
Moslem friction although it is also applied to differences between the 
Hindu majority and India's Sikh and Christian minorities. 


there is no recognized leader of the Right Wing. In the central 
cabinet, Finance Minister Morarji Desai is generally consid- 
ered the leading Right Wing spokesman although he denies he 
is a conservative and calls himself a socialist. He has many 
challengers for the Right Wing following. The only cement 
that holds the Congress Right Wing together is its fear of the 
Left Wing. 

The Congress Leftists, who are a minority, preach socialism 
and secularism. Nehru is in the Left Wing but not of it. He 
tries to dissociate himself in public from all factions, although 
his sympathies are unmistakable. The socialism propounded 
by the Congress Left Wing includes an expanding "public 
sector" and nationalization of industries where monopoly con- 
trol exists. It is also interpreted to mean achievement of 
Nehru's goal of "voluntary collective farming," or collectiviza- 
tion by majority vote of the cultivators. The Congress Left 
Wing demands a strong central government and controls on 
prices, profits, and incomes. It wants the state to take a stronger 
line against caste survivals and other divisive tendencies in the 
country. In foreign policy the Congress Leftists would pursue 
Nehru's version of nonalignment with an even more pro- 
nounced pro-Soviet bias. 

Like the Right Wing, the Congress Leftists lack an all-India 
leader capable of taking over from Nehru. In recent years they 
have gravitated toward Krishna Menon and Mrs. Indira Gan- 
dhi, but a cohesive group with loyalty to anyone but Nehru 
has yet to emerge. 

For his part, Nehru shelters and protects the Congress Left 
Wing, not only because it mirrors his ideas, but because he has 
an old Fabian socialist's horror of Right Wing reaction. I will 
never forget his pounding the table in anger when I asked him 
at a news conference in March 1962? whether he considered 
Right Wing parties a more serious threat to India than the 
Communists. "Right Wing parties are always the greatest 
threat," he boomed. "I think nothing can be worse than the 
Right Wing, because the Right Wing means going back to an 
ancient world, feudalism and all that. I can't stand a feudalist 
conception of India. It means ignorance, decay, stagnation, and 
all that goes to the death of a nation/' 


As long as he lives, Nehru will be emotionally inclined to- 
ward the Congress Left Wing, although he may not always 
support it in practice. When he goes, the Left will be on its 
own, faced by the Rightist majority. 

It would be a grave error, however, to conclude that all or 
even most divisions in the Congress party are on policy or 
ideological questions. The real cause of trouble is personal 
rivalries and factional antagonism based on caste, language, 
region, or the age-old craving of the "outs" to get in. In Ma- 
dhya Pradesh, in central India, group infighting has crippled 
Congress and endangered its control of the state. In Rajasthan 
and Mysore, caste feuds for control of the local Congress party 
have made opposition gains possible. Nehru and his chief lieu- 
tenants have repeatedly had to intervene to settle group squab- 
bles that threatened to destroy Congress in the states. Many 
Congressmen privately predict that the party will split after 
Nehru. A Right-Left cleavage would be the ostensible reason 
for the breakup of the party. But in fact, the cloak of ideology 
is likely to be used to conceal a straight factional split based 
on personal rivalry. Once disintegration began, Congress might 
well splinter into a number of state-based parties appealing to 
a caste or regional electorate. A genuine two-party system is 
not yet in sight for India. 

As long as Congress maintains a precarious unity, the most 
important organized opposition (despite Nehru's table-thump- 
ing answer to my question) is clearly the Indian Communist 
party. The Communist party majority treads the "parliamen- 
tary" road to power prescribed by Soviet ideologists since the 
Twentieth Party Congress in 1956. A small but vocal minority 
of Indian comrades demands "direct action" of the kind that 
brought the Chinese Communists to power. This basic split is 
reflected in every facet of Indian Communism. The "Rightist" 
faction succeeded (with on-the-spot help from Soviet theore- 
tician Mikhail A. Suslov) in getting the party's Vijayawada 
congress in 1961 to endorse co-operation with "all democratic, 
secular and progressive forces" in the Congress party and out- 
side. This "popular-front" line calls for infiltrating Congress in 
hopes of neutralizing the conservatives and capturing the Left 
Wing after Nehru. But the Communists' own Left Wingers 


reject these tactics and insist on an all-out drive to unseat Con- 
gress, which they regard as hopelessly lost to bourgeois reaction. 
Instead of a popular front, the Communist Left raises the 
slogan of "alternative government." 

The party was demoralized and disrupted by Communist 
China's open attack on India in October 1962. Seven state 
councils of the party quickly denounced Peking and declared 
their solidarity with the Nehru government. The Communist 
organ New Age followed suit with a front-page editorial flatly 
accusing the Chinese of violating India's "territorial integrity" 
and calling on all "patriotic Indians" to rally to the country's 
defense. This truly amazing Communist document appeared 
the same day that Pravda warned the Indian comrades against 
"chauvinist tendencies" and admonished them to support 
Peking's three-point "peace" plan, which Nehru had already 
turned down. Only a handful of extreme Left Wing Indian 
Communists refused to follow the line laid down by New Age. 

The same factional struggle had all but paralyzed the lead- 
ership of Indian Communism long before the Chinese at- 
tacked. At the meeting of the party's no-member National 
Council (Central Committee) in April 1962, an untenable 
compromise was reached to avoid a walkout by the Leftist 
faction. The new position of party chairman was created for 
the veteran "Rightist" Shripad Amrit Dange, while the Left- 
leaning former chief minister of the Communist government 
in Kerala, E. M. S. Namboodripad, was elected general sec- 
retary of the party. This two-headed executive was part of an 
expanded nine-member inner politburo, or "secretariat," in 
which the Leftists enjoyed a five-to-four majority. However, 
in the Central Executive, or full politburo, the "Rightist," 
or pro-Soviet, wing dominated. In the National Council 
neither faction could command a stable majority until the 
Chinese attack gave the "Rightists" the ascendancy. The bit- 
ter intriguing and infighting left the Indian Communists 
leaderless and divided at the national level. 

Neither Namboodripad nor Dange, the party's two top office- 
holders, can be sure of winning majority support in the party 
on any key issue. Neither has a national following. Dange, who 
was the party's leader in the lower house of Parliament for 


many years, was defeated in 1962 for re-election from his home 
constituency in Bombay. Namboodripad no longer controls 
even the Kerala unit of the Communist party. No younger 
Communist leaders of national stature are in sight. 

The party's ambiguous stand during the years before the 
Chinese attack in October 1962 made it the target of intense 
national indignation when the Himalayan front burst into 
flames. Communist headquarters in Delhi was invaded by thou- 
sands of demonstrators, who made a bonfire of party literature 
and set fire to the offices. Communist speakers were forcibly 
prevented from addressing progovernment rallies. A number 
of party workers were beaten up. The National Council (Cen- 
tral Committee) met in emergency session soon after the 
Chinese attack and passed an epochal resolution condemning 
Peking as an aggressor, refuting Chinese charges that Nehru is 
an "imperialist," and pledging full support to the Prime 
Minister in the struggle to recover Indian territory. In an 
even more astonishing departure from Communist dogma, the 
Indian comrades endorsed the purchase of American and other 
Western arms to bolster India's defenses. The effect of the 
resolution was to set the Indian party at odds with every other 
Communist party in the world. Indian Communists had ex- 
plicitly taken issue with both Moscow (which reluctantly sup- 
ported the Chinese) and Peking. The immediate result of the 
changed situation was to drive three "pro-Chinese" leaders out 
of the party Secretariat, thereby giving Dange and the "na- 
tionalists" an iron grip on the party. The eclipse of the Left- 
ists was^ complete when Indian police began rounding them up 
under emergency regulations empowering the government to 
suspend civil rights during wartime. 

Even before the denouement of October 1962 the party's 
equivocations on Tibet and the border dispute with China 
had cost it heavily in prestige and membership, which de- 
clined to 178,000 by early 1962 a drop of 40,000 in four years. 
Namboodripad is reputed to have said that as many as half 
of those who carry party cards are "completely nonfunction- 
ing." The Indian Communists have admitted publicly that 
party propaganda and political work is often ineffective and 
disorganized. The All-India Students' Federation, one of the 


oldest Communist-front organizations, was dissolved in the 
fall of 1961. The Communist-dominated All-India Trade 
Union Congress (AITUC) has steadily lost members. 

Factionalism has plagued the Indian Communist party ever 
since it was founded in 1922. The present disarray is likely to 
continue at least as long as the Moscow-Peking rift. The In- 
dian Communists long regarded Krishna Menon as their only 
hope in the early post-Nehru period. They campaigned to re- 
elect him to Parliament in 1962 and would probably support 
him if he made a bid for power after Nehru. For this reason 
I have included Menon in this book rather than any of the 
Communist party leaders. 

Despite their debacle on the all-India level, the Communists 
have managed to retain and even slightly improve their posi- 
tion as the leading opposition party by exploiting caste and 
regional grievances in such states as Kerala and Andhra. Com- 
munist votes in those states are primarily an expression of 
caste consciousness coupled with social protest. The Commu- 
nist party in both places has become closely identified with 
low-caste Hindu laborers and untouchables. In Kerala the Com- 
munists are also active among impoverished Roman Catholic 
peasants. Unemployment and high prices may prompt other 
castes and non-Hindus to vote Communist, but the party's real 
strength is its identification with specific depressed groups. 
There is a fair chance that the Communists may recapture 
Kerala, which they ruled in 1957 to 1959 for twenty-eight 

At the state level the Communists are less vulnerable on 
such national issues as their attitude toward China. Moreover, 
since the state Communist organization is usually controlled 
by one faction of the party or the other, the effect of dissension 
in the leadership is less noticeable there. The upshot is that 
state units of the Communist party now frequently defy the 
National Council and the high command in New Delhi. The 
party shows signs of becoming state-based. As long as they are 
reduced to playing on local caste antipathies, the Communists 
cannot hope to wield decisive power on a national scale in 
India. But it would be foolish to underestimate their potential. 
The leadership rift may not last forever. Meanwhile, class con- 


sciousness is beginning to displace caste feelings among India's 
growing industrial proletariat. Defeat in war or economic col- 
lapse could make possible a Communist take-over in India, 
but my impression is that this danger is generally exaggerated 
in the West. 

Apart from the Communist party, there is now no effective 
Left Wing opposition to Congress. The Praja (People's) Social- 
ist party (PSP), descendant of the old socialist group in Con- 
gress, has been deserted by three of its four principal founders. 
It was routed in the 1962 election. Jayaprakash Narayan, one 
of the deserters, has repudiated party politics but still com- 
mands a sizable following in the Hindi-speaking areas of north 
and central India. I have devoted a somewhat long chapter to 
him, not because I think his prospects for succeeding Nehru 
are good (in fact, they are very poor), but because I think his 
career is a fascinating example of the power of Indian reality 
to subdue the most ardent revolutionary. The only other non- 
Communist group on the Left is the Socialist party, a small 
radical splinter group headed by that most cantankerous of 
all Indian politicians, Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia. 

To the Right of Congress the thunder is loud but not yet 
dangerous. The party that worries Nehru most is the Bhar- 
atiya Jan Sangh (Indian People's party), the standard-bearer of 
Hindu traditionalism, which now ranks second only to Con- 
gress in Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. In the country as a whole, 
however, the Jan Sangh won only 6.1 per cent of the vote in 
the 1962 elections. The party denies it is anti-Moslem, but its 
leaders never tire of denouncing Pakistan and casting doubt on 
the loyalty of India's fifty million Moslems. The sinister side 
of the Jan Sangh is its undercover association with the Rash- 
triya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), or National Volunteer As- 
sociation, the militant Hindu organization, one of whose mem- 
bers assassinated Gandhi. Many Indians fear that the Jan 
Sangh, the RSS, and kindred organizations of Hindu ex- 
tremists may try to unleash anti-Moslem pogroms immediately 
after Nehru dies. 

The irony is that the advent of a form of democracy and the 
end of total stagnation in rural India have aroused the very 
forces of obscurantism that Nehru most dreads. When there 


were no economic opportunities in the village, there was no 
competition. Now a few openings exist, and the struggle for 
them is waged with every mildewed weapon of caste and re- 
ligious prejudice. The worst fanatics are not unlettered coolies 
from the rice paddies; they are half-educated youths who 
lounge around teashops or on street corners spoiling for 
trouble. Economic depression or political turmoil would swell 
the ranks of such idlers and heighten the danger of communal 
outbursts. In the short run the Jan Sangh and the RSS would 
benefit more than the Communists from such a situation, be- 
cause the Right Wing Hindu groups could exploit anti- 
Moslem sentiment more effectively. A proletarian revolution 
is much less likely under present conditions than a communal 
reaction led by disgruntled petty-bourgeois elements and 
Hindu extremists in the countryside. Such a reaction would be 
violent but short-lived. For this reason I regard the Commu- 
nists as the most serious long-term threat. 

I considered including one of the Jan Sangh leaders in this 
book, but decided against it because no one in the party has 
yet achieved national standing or even clear political defini- 
tion. Professor Balraj Madhok, of Delhi, formerly the party's 
most articulate spokesman In Parliament, was defeated in the 
1962 election. A. B. Vajpayee, another Jan Sangh leader in 
Parliament, failed to keep his seat in the Lok Sabha, or lower 
house, although he was later returned to the upper chamber, 
the Rajya Sabha. To an even greater extent than the Com- 
munists, the Jan Sangh is a state-based party. Its strength is 
nominal outside the Hindi-speaking areas and among pockets 
of Hindu refugees from Pakistan. The Jan Sangh has no na- 
tional leadership, but its revivalist program does have an ap- 
peal in the northern and central states. It reflects the inevitable 
reaction to the Westernizing and modernizing influences that 
have impinged on India with increasing effect since independ- 
ence. Many Right Wing Congressmen in the states find Jan 
Sangh ideas congenial. The Jan Sangh organ betrayed surpris- 
ing sympathy for Finance Minister Morarji Desai in July 
1962 when it denounced suggestions that Indira Gandhi was 
her father's logical successor. The party obviously prefers 
Desai to any other Congress candidate for the premiership. 


The Jan Sangh's relationship to the Congress Right Wing is 
roughly equivalent to the Communists' position vis-4-vis the 
Congress Left Wing. 

The only other Rightist party of national importance is the 
Swatantra (Freedom) party, founded in 1959 by Chakravarti 
Rajagopalachari, of Madras, a wily octogenarian Brahman who 
worked with Gandhi and Nehru before independence and was 
governor-general (the only Indian to hold the office) when 
India became a republic in 1950. Rajaji, as he is known in 
India, later broke with Nehru on the issue of increasing stat- 
ism, or "permit raj." He founded Swatantra on a platform 
promising free enterprise and opposing co-operative farming 
and central planning. The party is closer to the British Tories 
or the American Republicans than any other Indian political 
group is, but its membership is curiously mixed: disgruntled 
former Congressmen, former landlords, recalcitrant former 
civil servants, some big businessmen, a handful of princes- 
turned-politician, and some other traditional leaders. The 
comely Maharani of Jaipur was elected to Parliament in 1962 
on the Swatantra ticket. She and other members of former rul- 
ing houses enabled Swatantra to become the leading opposition 
party in Rajasthan and Gujarat, where traditional peasant loy- 
alties are still strong. With due respect to the Maharani, I fear 
Swatantra's blue bloods are a wasting political asset. Nowhere 
in the 1962 election did the party's laissez-faire economics 
strike a responsive chord among voters. This did not surprise 
me, because I have never seen hungry men clamoring to make 
sure that the well-fed are relieved of the burden of government 
controls. Nevertheless, many conservative Congressmen secretly 
share Swatantra's abhorrence of socialism, and several large 
Indian business houses prudently contribute to both Congress 
and Swatantra. Rajaji admits that he has been disappointed by 
the party's performance. Swatantra is often described as a party 
of the future, but I doubt that the future will ever materialize 
for it unless it finds younger leaders and a popular issue. 

Everything I have seen in India since 1959 leads me to accept 
the conclusion of one opposition leader, who says that India 
has a "government without an alternative." There is no alter- 
native to Congress even though the party's leaders may expose 


the country to mortal danger by their negligency (as -was dem- 
onstrated at the time of the Chinese attack in October 1962). 
No matter how enfeebled he becomes, Nehru can remain 
prime minister as long as he wants the job. Even after he goes, 
Congress can still dominate Indian politics provided it does 
not split. If a nonparty leader like Narayan were called in to 
take the reins, the call could only come from Congress. A take- 
over by the Army is unlikely as long as economic conditions 
are no worse and there is some prospect of improvement. To 
be on the safe side, I have included one army leader in my 
eight profiles. Except for Narayan, all the rest are members 
of the Congress party. 

I often wonder why anyone would want to be prime minister 
of India. What could be more difficult than running the 
world's most populous democracy by a combination of per- 
suasion, pressure, and pugnacity? The pay is modest (only 
1,600 rupees, or $340, a month after taxes), satisfactions are 
few, and there is no security. The burdens that come to rest on 
the shoulders of India's prime minister dwarf the Himalayas. 
Those somber mountains no longer protect India from the 
most awesome threat to its independent existence today- 
Chinese Communist expansionism. The Himalayan struggle 
may wax hot or cold over the years but India must henceforth 
live with the fact of Chinese hostility. The hot phase that be- 
gan with the Chinese attack on October 20, 1962, melted many 
differences and divisions in the Indian polity, including the 
Congress party. But the national and party unity generated in 
the first heat of conflict was more apparent than real. Nothing 
has been done to arrest the slow disintegration of Congress. 

Next to the Chinese dragon in the Himalayas, the most 
urgent problem facing Nehru's successor, whoever he is, will 
be people. I have already cited the population statistics. The 
only statistic that India can offer in rebuttal is the $100 
million allocated in the third five-year plan (1961-1966) for 
birth control, or "family planning," as it is delicately re- 
ferred to in Delhi. Under present conditions of more than 75- 
per-cent illiteracy, the government could as well teach Sanskrit 
to every peasant as persuade him to forgo the only truly pleas- 
urable and productive activity in his life. In rural India today, 


children, especially sons, are the highest status symbol. The 
farmer regards children as an economic asset. 

The multiplication of such hungry assets has eaten into the 
real gains expected from what the Economist calls "the world's 
biggest essay in human improvement." Per capita income, ac- 
cording to the government, rose about 17 per cent, to the 
equivalent of $69.30 at current prices, in the decade ending in 
1960-1961. Even this modest increase is misleading. Surveys of 
consumer spending show that three quarters of the low-income 
groups report that their earnings have remained unchanged. 
Only 10 per cent have improved their position. The number of 
unemployed continues to rise faster than new job opportuni- 
ties. The second five-year plan (which was stretched out to six 
years) was supposed to create eight million new nonfarm jobs. 
In fact, it created no more than six and a half million. Even if 
all targets of the current third five-year plan are attained on 
schedule (now highly doubtful), the pool of jobless will be 
around ten million at the end of the planone million more 
than at the beginning. Such calculations obscure the fact that 
no one really knows how many Indians are unemployed or 
underemployed. Professor P. C. Mahalonobis, head of the In- 
dian Statistical Institute and one of the framers of the second 
five-year plan, has estimated that besides the totally unem- 
ployed, some twenty million Indians have work for one hour a 
day or less, another twenty-seven million work less than two 
hours a day, and forty-five million for less than four hours a 
day. Whether waste of human resources on such a gigantic 
scale can be overcome without labor direction and other coer- 
cive methods has yet to be demonstrated. 

The enormity of India's problem is illustrated by the simple 
fact that by the end of the fifth five-year plan, in 1976, assum- 
ing that all goals are achieved on time, per capita income in 
India will be about $112 a year in current prices less than 
Ceylon's per capita income today and about the same as 
Egypt's. The Indian figure will be two thirds of Ghana's per 
capita income today and less than one third the present Yugo- 
slav level. 

Such comparisons indicate that Nehru's successors can count 
themselves successful if India achieves anything above normal 


subsistence levels. Nevertheless, a phalanx of Indian planners 
and Western friends of India talks glibly today of "take-off" 
at the end of the fourth or fifth plan to the cherished stage of 
"self-generating growth." When this day dawns, it is said, 
India's need for "extraordinary" outside assistance will end, 
Asian democracy will have been redeemed, and men of good 
will everywhere can breathe a sigh of relief. 

How India can achieve such wonders by democratic means 
when its per capita income will not even have reached the level 
of Ceylon or Ghana today has never been explained. Even if 
considerable resources had not been diverted to military ex- 
penditure beginning in October 1962, India's need for aid 
would probably have increased, rather than diminished, 
throughout the ig6o's and 1970*5, because imports for main- 
tence of its productive plant were rising faster than earnings 
from exports or such things as tourism. Foreign gifts or long- 
term loans will be required if India's economy is not to go into 
reverse. Even the United States, which started from a much 
higher level than India, continued to import large amounts of 
capital throughout the nineteenth century. The chimera of 
self-generating growth is, I am afraid, fated to remain always 
just beyond the end of the "next" five-year plan. Despite all 
the talk about take-off, India's bullock-cart economy will be 
earth-bound for the better part of a generation. 

Does this mean that almost $5 billion of American aid to 
India since 1951 has been wasted and that further help should 
be discontinued? My answer would be an emphatic no. Amer- 
ican loans and grants, especially surplus foodstuffs provided 
under Public Law 480, have helped maintain stable govern- 
ment and an open society in India by enabling the Nehru gov- 
ernment to keep pace with the population increase and raise 
living standards slightly. Emergency shipments of American 
arms after the Chinese attack in October 1962 improved the 
Indian Army's fighting capabilities and boosted its morale after 
a series of reverses on the Himalayan frontier. America's con- 
tribution to expanding Indian power production and modern- 
izing the rail system has been indispensable to the industrial- 
ization program that has so diversified India's output. Without 
large-scale Western assistance, India would either have con- 


tinued to stagnate economically or have been obliged to lean 
heavily on the Soviet bloc. Such dependence could hardly have 
been without political consequences for the fledgling Indian 
republic. From this standpoint I think American aid to India 
can be said to have been reasonably effective. The cumulative 
totals are astronomic, but yearly allocations at the current rate 
of about $500 million amount to less than one eightieth of the 
annual budget of the U.S. Defense Department. As Barbara 
Ward has pointed out, even if the West were to give India as 
much as $2.25 billion a year (more than twice the current 
amount), it would still not exceed two fifths of i per cent of 
the combined national incomes of the aid-giving countries. 
The largest item in American aid is surplus farm commodi- 
ties, whose book value has little relation to what they would 
fetch on the open market; they are far more of a burden in an 
American warehouse than in the stomach of a hungry Indian 

Such considerations do not detract from the continuing gen- 
erosity the United States has shown India. Nehru's grudging 
acknowledgment of American help has been far less generous 
than could reasonably be expected. The Indian government 
talks about its forever dwindling foreign-exchange reserves as 
if the future depended on them. The fact is that India's own 
reserves are no longer of much importance. The economy 
would collapse tomorrow if it were not for the steady input of 
large amounts of Western, mainly American, aid. Nor could 
India have possibly re-equipped its Army after the Chinese 
attack in October 1962 without large-scale American arms aid 
provided without any hope of eventual dollar payment. 

I think a good deal of anguish could be taken out of the aid 
debate if the United States recognized that its loans and grants 
will not soon make India self-supporting, nor will they earn 
much official gratitude in New Delhi. If all goes well, India's 
need for outright grant aid may taper off in the next fifteen 
years, but long-term loans at low interest will still be required. 
If all does not go well, and Indian democracy dies in its cradle, 
Washington would, of course, have to review its policy. It 
would probably help even a totalitarian India if it were not 
Communist. After all, it has helped many other undemocratic 


governments around the world, and its investment in India is 
larger than anywhere else. 

But to return to Nehru's harried successor (whoever he is), 
sitting behind the boomerang-shaped desk in New Delhi's 
South Block office building, it is apparent that Chinese expan- 
sionism, population, living standards, and foreign aid will be 
only some of the more immediate problems on his desk. He 
will also have to grapple with what Indians call "fissiparous 
tendencies" the divisive forces unleashed by caste hatreds, re- 
ligious fanaticism, regional animosities, and linguistic par- 
ticularisms. But behind and beyond all these pressing matters, 
there is something more fundamental. Unless the value system 
of Indian society undergoes a peaceful but thoroughgoing 
revolution, problems of production and reproduction will re- 
main unsolved. The tragedy of India is not poverty, but the 
mentality that accepts, even condones, poverty. The need is 
not so much machinery, as motivation. 

The most perceptive thing I have read about India is a little 
book called Blossoms in the Dust, by Kusum Nair, an Indian 
lady of the fourth estate. She was commissioned by the Indian 
government to tour the country to gather material for a book 
on the accomplishments of the community-development pro- 
gram. She wrote a book, but not the one the government ex- 
pected. She found that the root cause of stagnation is not ma- 
terial, but mental the stagnant mentality of most Indian 
peasants. Planners in Delhi and Washington may assume that 
everyone living at or near subsistence level is bent on improv- 
ing his life. Indeed, the argument runs, the poor man's "expec- 
tations" have now been aroused to such fever pitch that he may 
well take the law into his own hands or turn to totalitarian 
panaceas unless his wants are satisfied by an indulgent demo- 
cratic government. No one who has seen even a part of the 
Indian landscape at close range can accept such a theory. The 
problem in rural India is not rising expectations; it is static 
expectations or none at all. Kusura Nair had to plead with 
many south Indian peasants to persuade them even to imagine 
how much land they would need to support their families. The 
horizons of most were so narrow that they could not visualize 
anything substantially better than what they had. She talked 


to thousands of peasants who had refused to take up irrigation 
water flowing near their fields or to adopt improved seeds and 
better methods of cultivation offered by government extension 
workers. It was not that the peasants were unaware of the in- 
creased yields and higher income they would derive from such 
improvements. But they were reluctant to risk money or make 
the extra effort required. Many peasants who have taken the 
plunge and succeeded in augmenting their earnings squander 
them on nonessentials or look for easier work in town. The In- 
dian village and its inhabitants are all too often lost in what 
Tagore called "the dreary desert sand of dead habit/' The 
material resources for a better life do not automatically stimu- 
late a desire for it in the caste-ridden Indian countryside. Some 
groups, of course, want more and are willing to work for it. 
But, as Kusum Nair says, "The upper level they are prepared 
to strive for is limited and it is the floor generally that is bot- 
tomless. This does not mean that the desired standard is always 
fixed at subsistence level. ... It may be considerably more 
than the minimum necessary to breed and survive. But what- 
ever the level, it tends to be static, with a ceiling rather than a 
floor, and it is socially determined. Generally, the lower the 
level, the more static the aspirations tend to be." 

The disease of static aspirations is not confined to India, but 
it is endemic among the 82 per cent of India's people who live 
in its 550,000 villages. 

It is often said that the townspeople and urban intelligentsia 
should provide the impetus lacking in the countryside. The 
difficulty is that there are 500 or 1,000 years between the ordi- 
nary Indian village and a town of any size. If the floor of 
aspiration is bottomless in the village, the towns suffer from 
another evil: there is no ceiling on cupidity. The banya, or 
merchant, and the urban nouveaux riches are often as blinded 
by greed as the villagers are by tradition. Social conscience 
finds poor soil in India. The new technical and professional 
intelligentsia, many of whom have studied abroad and married 
outside their caste, may breathe fresh air into the dank recesses 
of Indian society. They may escape the egotism and suspicion 
that so often nullify collective action by educated Indians. 
Communist China has stifled its intelligentsia with the pro- 


fessed aim o mobilizing the masses. Nehru has failed to draw 
strength in adequate measure from either class. Long years of 
alien rule in India have stultified the will and corroded the 
outlook to a degree that democracy finds hard to undo. 

If Nehru's heirs are to succeed in any but a purely chrono- 
logical sense, they must tap new sources of strength in Indian 
society. It will not suffice to inveigh against caste and supersti- 
tion, as Nehru has done; they will have to find a democratic 
way of destroying the old rigidities. To instill that sense of 
urgency that no traditional society can have, the new genera- 
tion of leaders must appeal to a new generation of followers 
to the young engineer working for 400 rupees ($80) a month 
in the Bihar coal fields, to the Bengali newspaperman just back 
from a Nieman at Harvard, and to the agricultural graduate 
who is not afraid to soil his hands. Through them India may 
one day attain that "heaven of freedom" envisioned by Tagore, 
"Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high." 

Morarji Desai 

IF i WERE TOLD at the unlikely hour of five o'clock tomorrow 
morning in New Delhi to find the man most likely to succeed 
Nehru as prime minister of India, I would go to Number One 
Willingdon Crescent. There I would enter the high sandstone 
gate, pass a sleepy guard, and ring the doorbell of a rambling 
one-story mansion covered with peeling yellow paint and 
streaked by the monsoon. If I were admitted which is unlikely 
at that hour I would go to a stifling bedroom, where I would 
find the object of my quest doing yoga exercises in bed. Mor- 
arji Ranchhodji Desai, India's puritanical prophet of solvency 
and salvation, would already be well launched on another day's 

The Finance Minister of the Indian government is a man of 
medium height and spare build. He looks younger than his 
sixty-six years. His head is close-shaven, his face is smooth, and 
his eyes are steady behind flesh-colored glasses. He moves with 
youthful agility. His sleeveless outer vest, diaper-like dhoti, 
and white Gandhi cap are always spotless and unwrinkled. His 
appearance and manner remind me of a fastidious professor of 



mathematics rather than of an Indian politician who regards 
himself as Nehru's logical heir. His voice is low and a bit 
weary, as if he were forever fated to teach first truths to a class 
of retarded pupils. 

His professorial exterior is no clue to the complex and com- 
manding personality of the man who balances the books of 
the world's most populous democracy and now ranks second 
only to Nehru in the cabinet hierarchy. Morarji Desai, moral- 
ist, policeman, and incorruptible administrator, is the first 
choice of Indian conservatives and many moderates to be the 
next prime minister. In matters of policy he is autocratic and 
overbearing, but he answers India's craving for strong leader- 
ship. His dietary taboos and personal asceticism may be noth- 
ing but faddism, but they conform to the Indian ideal of 
renunciation. His prescriptions for India may reflect no the- 
oretical profundity, but they are pragmatic and contain a suf- 
ficient admixture of morality and revivalism to appeal to the 
Indian taste for politics flavored with religion. 

No Indian leader has collected more sobriquets than Desai. 
He is called the Congress party monk, the man behind the iron 
mask, and the lotus with the steel stem. He is compared to 
Cromwell and Sir Stafford Cripps. I never knew Cromwell or 
Sir Stafford Cripps, but my impression is that these compari- 
sons are misleading. There is, I admit, a mortuary coldness 
about Desai's public image, especially his stern little homilies 
on hardships to come for India. But the man himself is not 
cold except when he wishes to be. His smile is engaging. The 
words that sound bigoted or heartless in cold print are the 
persuasive voice of reason when you hear them from his lips. 
He enjoys a joke (even about liquor) and can laugh. There is a 
gentleness and apparent humility about him that never come 
through the harsh filter of newspaper pictures and the texts of 
his speeches. Whereas Krishna Menon is abusive and Nehru 
often petulant in Parliament, Desai is restrained. In the face 
of bitter opposition taunts, his rebuttals seem to be more in 
sorrow than in anger. Like a good preacher, he never closes the 
door against the repentant. Nearing the end of the seventh 
decade of his life, he is no crank, whatever his eccentricities, 
and no blinkered bigot, however much he cherishes his brand 


of Hinduism. Of him a critical Indian weekly once wrote: "His 
judgment may be in error; his calculation may be faulty; he 
may be unknowingly influenced by a hundred concealed in- 
firmities of the human mind. But his conscience must be clear. 
And that is why Mr. Desai, who does not seduce our affections, 
extorts our respect. He has the virtue of unyielding constancy." 

The West calls Desai a conservative. The Communists call 
him a reactionary. And he calls himself a Gandhian and a 
socialist. In fact, he fits none of these standard political classi- 
fications. He has told me more than once that there is no place 
for conservatives in a country where 440 out of 443 million 
people earn less than the equivalent of $600 a year. He has no 
nostalgia for the old order in India and no fear of change, so 
the Communists are obviously wrong when they call him a re- 
actionary. As for being a Gandhian, the Mahatma's cardinal 
tenet was nonviolence, which Desai has always eschewed in 
favor of the big stick when it comes to protecting lives and 
property. And, finally, if socialism means anything in a coun- 
try like India, it means state ownership of the principal means 
of production. But Desai has seen the red ink on the balance 
sheets of far too many Indian government enterprises to have 
any illusions about the blessings of nationalization. I remem- 
ber him sitting behind his big desk in his North Block office in 
New Delhi telling me earnestly, "When every person culti- 
vates sufficient courage and discretion to see that he is not 
exploited, then we can get the perfect society." That prescrip- 
tion ought to qualify him for the title of India's most rugged 
individualist. He calls nationalization a "great burden" and 
favors a fair return on capital "so long as it is earned hon- 
estly and through enterprise." He says that the essence of a 
socialist pattern of society is an "atmosphere of social justice/' 

No board of directors in New York or London should con- 
clude from such sentiments that Desai is the answer to their 
prayers. He is that rare species of politician, one who commits 
himself to no one. He is no one's mouthpiece. He is not even 
committed to an ideology. I have always considered him at 
heart an administrator and a policeman. His criterion is effi- 
ciency, and his framework is legality. Nothing else really mat- 
ters except where Hindu morality impinges, as in the case of 


prohibition. But in larger issues he is increasingly inclined to 
apply purely pragmatic standards of judgment. The same 
might be said o S. K. Patil, the minister of food and agricul- 
ture. The difference is that whereas Indian business might sup- 
port both Patil and Desai, it realizes it can never have Desai 
in its pocket. It is true that the Finance Minister has been close 
for many years to G. D. Birla and other Indian industrialists. 
But he has never been their stooge. Similarly, his fiscal sobriety 
and sturdy dependability have made him popular in London 
and Washington without identifying him in Indian eyes as a 
man of the West. Although Nehru originally brought him to 
Delhi, Desai has now worked his own passage to the Center 
and is no longer beholden to the Prime Minister. 

If Desai does become prime minister of India, he will be 
ruthless with dishonest businessmen while giving considerable 
scope to legitimate private enterprise. He would also encour- 
age the investment of foreign private capital in India. He has 
none of Nehru's deep-seated suspicion of the "private sector" 
and his revulsion at the profit motive. India's state-owned in- 
dustry would be maintained and expanded, but not necessarily 
at the expense of private operators* If private capital was forth- 
coming, Desai's inclination would be to let it do the job. Since 
coming to Delhi he knows only too well the limitations of 
India's creaking and archaic government machine. Though he 
is not a conservative in the Western sense of that term, he is a 
conservative about methods. He absolutely rejects revolution- 
ary means of changing society, and he is averse to open devi- 
ations from legality. He may be autocratic in his approach, but 
he always wants to clothe his actions with ample legal raiment. 
Moreover, much of his political support comes from genuine 
conservative forces in India. For these reasons and as a kind 
of verbal short cut, Desai will often be referred to in this book 
as a conservative or Right Wing candidate. This description is 
correct if you always bear in mind that it does not mean the 
kind of conservatism practiced by the British Tories or the 
American Republicans. 

If he is pragmatic in public life, Desai borders on the fanatic 
in his quest for personal self-mastery. After his yoga exercises 
in bed between 5:00 and 5:30 A.M., he says his prayers and has 


a light breakfast of milk and curds (no eggs, sugar, or tea). By 
seven o'clock he is ready to receive the day's first callers as he 
spins khaddar on his special collapsible aluminum charkha, or 
spinning wheel, in symbolic continuance of Gandhi's campaign 
against imported British cloth. He takes his only real meal of 
the day around 10:00 A.M. It consists of bread, butter, milk, 
and some vegetables and fruit. Then he is driven to his spacious 
paneled office in New Delhi's North Block, a massive sand- 
stone pile surmounted by a huge cream-colored dome. It is 
from there that he juggles the finances of the Indian republic. 
He receives a stream of callers, whose appointments are usu- 
ally arranged by letter. He can be brutally curt if he disap- 
proves of a visitor or his petition. But at his best he can pacify 
the unreasonable and chasten the unscrupulous with such win- 
ning plausibility that the most disappointed caller goes away 
without bitterness. He is usually back in his "bungalow" on 
the grounds of India's presidential palace by 6:30 or 7:00 in 
the evening. At home he receives another influx of the in- 
numerable favor-seekers who clutter the life of every Indian 
politician. At 7:30 or 8:00 (often later) he takes some fruit and 
milk. He is usually in bed by 11:00 P.M. 

Weekends are for "touring," as Indians call official speaking 
and inspection trips. Desai told me proudly that he has never 
taken a holiday in his life, "except when I've been ill." He con- 
siders his fund-raising trips abroad as a welcome break from 
the files and filibusters of New Delhi. When he is abroad, he 
relaxes his normal practice of fasting thirty-six hours once a 
week. He says that even in Delhi he is now not so "rigid" about 
observing his weekly fast. When he is out of India, he also dis- 
regards his private rule against attending any function where 
alcohol is served. He eats up to three meals a day when he is 
abroad, and says, "I put on weight." 

Whatever poundage Desai acquires outside India is soon lost 
in Delhi's six-month summers. He refuses to turn on even a 
ceiling fan in his bedroom; he would have had the fan re- 
moved except that such alterations are not permitted in gov- 
ernment-furnished quarters. When he was chief minister in 
Bombay, he slept on a straw mat. He uses a pair of barber's 
clippers to close-crop his head every week, and shaves himself 


with Indian razor blades, which he was at pains to popularize 
when they first came on the market several years ago. He 
prescribes "nature-cure" treatment for himself whenever he 
believes it is indicated. He declines all medicines or medical 
treatment except in surgical cases in which he believes the 
body cannot heal itself. He boasted to me that the only time he 
has been hospitalized was in September 1958 when he was suc- 
cessfully operated on for a stone in the urinary tract. He uses 
homeopathic methods, including fasting, to treat his chronic 
colitis. In 1935 he fasted for thirteen days to rid himself of 
malaria contracted in jail. He says it has never recurred. 

Desai's dietary rules are incredibly complicated. He takes no 
tea, coffee, or even soft drinks. At receptions he drinks coconut 
water as a special concession to his hosts. Invitations to one 
college convocation where he spoke had a slip attached say- 
ing, "The function will be followed by austerity tea." He uses 
no sugar, relying instead on molasses or honey to sweeten any- 
thing he eats. When a Western newsman in Delhi invited him 
to luncheon, Desai sent advance instructions specifying that he 
should be served no rice unless it was hand-pounded. Minute 
directions were also furnished for other food to be served him. 

His asceticism permeates everything he does. When he played 
cricket in September 1954, he declined to use pads or gloves. 
He played in a silk jacket and a white cap and, not unexpect- 
edly, distinguished himself. 

Desai contends that the myriad prescriptions by which he 
governs his life are aimed at freeing him from "the slavery of 
habit." He boasts that he has no habits. In fact, he has more 
self-imposed idiosyncrasies of behavior than any other man in 
Indian public life. He also insists that he does not believe in 
tormenting himself. "These are aids to enjoyment," he told me 
in describing the intricate prohibitions by which he lives. 
"They should be made cheerfully and naturally. I don't ask 
anyone else to do them." 

I remember sitting for several hours one hot Sunday after- 
noon with Desai discussing his much-publicized idiosyncrasies. 
I am sure he is proud of them, but he is careful not to drag 
them into a conversation unless you ask him. Nor does he 
simply assume that he has found the true way, as so many re- 


ligious fanatics do. He at least makes an effort to explain his 
self-denial in rational terms. I never feel the hot breath of 
bigotry when I talk to him. That Sunday afternoon he told me 
with great earnestness that he hated fanaticism of any sort, be- 
cause it "distorts the truth." He was fanatic enough, however, 
not to offer me even a glass of water as we sat in the sweltering 
study of his home. I kept wondering how high the temperature 
would have to climb before he might at least think in liquid 
terms. I suppose it is some kind of tribute to the strength of his 
personality that I, a weak-willed Westerner, never thought of 
simply asking if I could have something to drink during that 
long talk. 

Desai may not demand that others take his hard road to per- 
fection, but he is not averse to making other roads less invit- 
ing. When members of Parliament protested in 1962 that his 
new budget had caused the price of bidis (cheap Indian ciga- 
rettes) to rise, the Finance Minister replied severely that it was 
nothing to worry about because the common man should not 
spend his money on smoking in any case. 

Such is the carefully contoured conscience of Morarji Desai, 
who began life on February 29, 1896, in the hamlet of Bha- 
deli, in the Gujarati-speaking region of western India where 
Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel, India's first home min- 
ister, also grew up. It is somehow characteristic of Desai that 
he should have a birthday only once every four years. The 
year he was born, Gandhi returned for the first time from 
South Africa to be initiated into Indian politics. Morarji was 
the eldest of five children. His family belongs to the Anavil 
community of Bulsar, in Gujarat. Anavil means "without 
blemish." Anavils are Brahmans by birth but, traditionally, 
farmers by occupation. They are famous in Gujarat for their 
outspokenness, industry, and physical hardihood. 

Morarji's father was a provincial schoolteacher, whom he de- 
scribed as "upright, independent-minded, a man with faith in 
God who remained true to himself and never bothered about 
getting money in the wrong way." This is clearly Desai's ideal. 
His father, who used to call him "More" (meaning peacock), 
died just three days before his son, then fifteen, was due to 
marry Gajraben, the eleven-year-old daughter of a local rev- 


enue official. The wedding took place as scheduled. Morarji 
suddenly became responsible for his wife, his mother, grand- 
mother, three brothers, and one sister. 

"Until I was fifteen," he said later, "I was a coward. I do not 
know if cowardice has any virtue about it, but looking back I 
do feel that it was because of my cowardice that I became con- 
scious of the value and importance of courage." 

I have always felt that Desai's asceticism is the expression of 
his lifelong struggle to master his childhood cowardice. He has 
made a fetish of self-denial in his zeal to overcome the self- 
indulgent weakness that he blames for making India prey to 
foreign conquerors through the ages. His intolerance of what 
he considers weakness is undoubtedly his own greatest weak- 

After passing his matriculation examination, Morarji went 
to Bombay, where he enrolled at Wilson College under a schol- 
arship from the Maharaja of Bhavnagar, the former princely 
state from which his father came. He became a free boarder at 
the Gokuldas Tejpal Boarding School, where the first session 
of the Indian National Congress had been held in 1885. He in- 
variably sent his ten-rupee (about $2.00) monthly spending al- 
lowance back home to support his mother and the rest of the 
family. "I never felt the pinch," he told me with pride. "I felt 
no jealousy for the other boys. Even now I don't spend any- 
thing on myself. I don't feel the need/' 

Desai studied science at Wilson College, He could have gone 
to England for further studies under a scholarship, which 
would have enabled him to take the Indian Civil Service (ICS) 
examinations or apply for admission to Sandhurst. He says now 
that his mother would not have objected to his going to Eng- 
land. But the obligation to support her and his other depend- 
ents, including his young wife, overcame the lure of English 
education. He joined the Bombay government Civil Service as 
a deputy collector in 1918, at the age of twenty-two, one year 
after his graduation. For the next twelve years he visited every 
corner of the old Bombay state, accumulating a wealth of ad- 
ministrative and judicial experience possessed by no other lead- 
ing member of the Congress party today. A deputy collector 
under the British was a combination local executive officer and 


district magistrate. A Briton usually held the collector's post. 
At this time Desai was a dapper young man in conservative 
English clothes and a white turban. His reputation for effi- 
ciency and incorruptibility was proverbial, although he often 
clashed with arrogant British superiors. One man who knew 
him well says that Desai was more powerful as a deputy col- 
lector in the districts from 1918 to 1930 than he was as chief 
minister of Bombay state after independence. 

To the extent that Desai can be said to have a personal 
philosophy of government, it was largely evolved during his 
service under the British. When he resigned in 1930 to join the 
Indian National Congress, he accepted a new goal but retained 
his administrator's approach. The stern-faced young civil serv- 
ant of the 1920*8 now presides over India's tangled finances 
with the same painstaking attention to detail and the same at- 
tempt at evenhanded justice that he used to devote to a village 
dispute over water rights. 

Desai had been a Congress volunteer at college in 1915 and 
had seen Gandhi in Bombay, but his enthusiasm for the na- 
tional cause did not take concrete shape until he experienced 
British superciliousness toward Indians in the provincial Civil 
Service. "The government showed a kind of patronizing and 
benevolent attitude toward the people/' he told me, "but there 
wasn't the feeling that it was working for the good of the 
people. I felt it was a wrong thing for an Indian to serve this 
government in good faith." The day Desai was due to leave the 
service, the British collector under whom he was serving asked 
him to turn over the files on all unfinished business. 

"I have no papers to hand over," the young Indian replied 
coldly. "Everything has been disposed of, even today's post." 

For the next seven years Desai alternated between spells of 
what Indians call jail-going and intervals as general secretary 
of the Gujarat Provincial Congress Committee. He was over- 
shadowed but not entirely overawed by the towering figure of 
Sardar Patel, the party leader in Gujarat. Desai courted arrest 
during Gandhi's various civil-disobedience movements. Before 
India won freedom he had been sentenced to British jails four 
times, for a total of seven years. His last term was for three 


Long before he first went to jail, Desai had begun practicing 
his personal form of austerity. In 1905, at the age of nine, he 
says he gave up tea-drinking in protest against Lord Curzon's 
plan to partition Bengal. Curzon was unmoved. When Lok- 
manya Tilak, the fiery Congress leader, was arrested several 
years later, the young Desai joined a student hartal, or stop- 
page of all activity. While he was still in government service, 
he gave up salt for three years in what he calls "an experiment 
with myself/' Since 1925 he has eaten none of the condiments, 
chilis, or hot dishes so dear to the Indian palate. Since 1928, 
he says, he has abstained from sexual intercourse. In prison he 
continued his self-conscious conquest of self. He insisted on tak- 
ing "C"-class food instead of the "B"-class fare offered him. 

Of his years in prison Desai observes sanctimoniously, "I en- 
joyed myself and I made myself better physically and mentally 
by looking within to find out my failings/' A former prison of- 
ficial says that Gandhi and Desai were the only political pris- 
oners who never asked for favors. While he was under deten- 
tion, Desai opposed the common practice of smuggling food 
and other items into prison. He gave what an Indian biog- 
rapher calls "perfect cooperation to the gaol authorities in 
maintaining discipline among the prisoners." In so doing, the 
same author says, Desai "invariably sided with the gaol au- 
thorities." This attitude does not appear to have endeared 
Desai to all his fellow inmates. The only recorded instance of 
nonco-operation by Desai in prison was his refusal to be vacci- 
nated against plague. Prison authorities threatened to confine 
him in solitary. Desai was adamant. Eventually they relented, 
and the unvaccinated Desai remained with his vaccinated fel- 
low prisoners. Although he avoided plague, he did contract 
malaria in jail. 

When the British conceded provincial autonomy to India 
and Congress swept the election in 1937, Desai returned to his 
old role of administrator. He became revenue minister in the 
Bombay government until it resigned in 1939 because the Brit- 
ish had declared India a belligerent without consulting Con- 
gress or the country. In his brief tenure Desai demonstrated his 
capacity for action by sponsoring legislation to improve the 
status of tenant farmers and to reorganize the police. 


His most important disagreement with Gandhi arose over 
the Quit India movement. Congress was seriously split. 
Gandhi agreed with the Left Wing that India should offer 
passive resistance against the invading Japanese. But he in- 
sisted that the British should first quit India to satisfy Indian 
national aspirations and remove any show of provocation 
against the Japanese. The sanction was mass civil disobedience 
and nonco-operation in the British war effort. Desai says now 
that he felt the movement would inevitably lead to violence 
"but the socialists in Congress deluded Gandhi into thinking 
that it could be nonviolent." Desai told Gandhi that prolonged 
strikes were bound to lead to disorder and bloodshed because 
most Indians were already living on the edge of starvation. 
After two hours of heated discussion Gandhi finally said, 
"Well, then let there be anarchy." 

"We can't consciously work for anarchy," Desai objected, 
"when we know that will be the condition." 

"Then what do you suggest?" the Mahatma asked. 

"It's not for me to suggest a course of action," Desai an- 
swered. "You are the leader. I will follow what you propose." 

"But some move is necessary, don't you think?" Gandhi per- 

"Yes, some move is necessary," was the reply, "but I can't 
suggest that move. I'm willing to follow your lead in whatever 
move you propose. You alone can give direction." 

Desai subsequently courted arrest and was jailed for three 
years during the war. 

In April 1946 Desai was back as home and revenue minister 
of a new Congress party government in Bombay. He became 
the acknowledged strong man of the administration. Six years 
later, with the British no longer on the scene, he became chief 
minister of Bombay state, an area of 110,000 square miles, with 
a population of nearly thirty-six million more than all the 
Scandinavian countries combined. Desai told the people of the 
state, "I seek neither popularity nor unpopularity. ... I am 
all for discipline." 

As the architect of total prohibition, he won more than his 
share of unpopularity. Despite an elaborate enforcement sys- 
tem, including police check posts around the city and nightly 


searches of private homes, bootlegging gave birth to a new 
criminal class. Desai also banned kissing and drinking scenes 
in the movies. Restaurants were required to close by midnight. 
He campaigned tirelessly against the use of cosmetics, against 
female figures in advertisements, against popular music, and 
against public dancing by unmarried couples. He ordered all 
students in the state to use old-style pen points and penholders 
so there would be no inequality between students equipped 
with fountain pens and their poorer classmates. He admon- 
ished students to discard blazers and neckties in favor of "In- 
dian national" dress. 

Desai's most conspicuous failure in his quest for public mor- 
ality came when he tried to clean up Bombay's notorious 
brothels. He was hamstrung by the fact that the law prohibits 
pimping, procuring, and owning of brothels but not prostitu- 
tion itself. When he tried to circumvent the law, the prostitutes 
formed a procession, marched on his office, and sent a deputa- 
tion in to see him. Unfortunately, there is no known record of 
this confrontation between India's premier puritan and its 
most highly reputed ladies of easy virtue. 

Except in the fields of prostitution and prohibition, Desai 
succeeded in giving Bombay exceptionally efficient administra- 
tion by Indian standards. He introduced far-reaching land re- 
forms, including legal safeguards for tenants against arbitrary 
eviction and rent ceilings on their plots. He overhauled the 
police and separated the judiciary from the provincial execu- 
tive. Desai the moralist admitted, "One cannot be happy 
merely spiritually and mentally if the living conditions are 
awful/' But his philosophy of government was and is grievance- 
oriented. "The test of efficiency," he says, "lies in the removal 
of grievances." 

One grievance eventually overwhelmed Desai in Bombay. It 
was the explosive agitation for dividing the huge Bombay state 
into separate Marathi- and Gujarati-speaking states. Even after 
Nehru accepted the principle of linguistic states in other parts 
of India, he opposed breaking up Bombay state. Desai stuck 
doggedly by his chief. The language issue was a facade for the 
rivalry between the economically backward Marathi-speaking 
people of the state and the Gujarati merchants who controlled 


much of the commerce and industry. Since Desai was a mem- 
ber of the Gujarati minority, his position was invidious from 
the outset. The Communists exploited the language issue to 
enhance their own prestige and to form a united front with 
other opposition parties. To quell repeated violent demonstra- 
tions, Desai ordered his police to open fire hundreds of times. 
He told me later that he estimates that almost a hundred peo- 
ple were killed in these clashes. At least 500 shops were looted 
by agitators. 

Desai's one attempt to use Gandhi's weapon of the fast dur- 
ing the language agitation was a fiasco. He announced in Au- 
gust 1956 that he would "fast unto death" in Ahmedabad to 
halt the violence then sweeping the city. But after only eight 
days, with stones raining on the heads of his supporters, Desai 
broke his fast because he "couldn't bear to see the anguish of 
the people around me." He now says he never hoped to dis- 
suade the Communists, but only "Congress-minded" people, 
from resorting to violence. He has never tried another public 

By November 1956 his position in Bombay had become un- 
tenable. The state Congress party was divided on the language 
issue and in danger of defeat. Desai took the position that he 
would not continue as party leader and chief minister unless 
he were chosen unanimously by Congress members of the state 
assembly. Since this was impossible, it provided a convenient 
pretext for his escape to New Delhi as minister of commerce 
and industry in the central cabinet. Yeshwantrao Chavan took 
over from him in Bombay. 

In March 1958 Desai was promoted to finance minister, 
where he has succeeded in husbanding India's meager receipts 
with consummate skill. He has withstood pressures and re- 
sisted temptations that would have been the downfall of any 
other Indian politician except Nehru and, possibly, Lai Ba- 
hadur Shastri. But unlike Nehru or Shastri, Desai never spares 
anyone's feelings. He scorns the euphoria of S. K. Patil and 
the bonhomie of Chavan. Desai is India's Calvin, dourly warn- 
ing of damnation tomorrow for the sins of today. I remember 
a speech he gave a few years ago that must have set some kind 
of record for chastisement of backsliders. He began by re- 


proaching India's textile-mill owners for failing to replace 
obsolete machinery because they were making fat profits. Then 
he warned cigarette workers against asking for wage increases 
beyond the industry's capacity to pay. Next, he admonished 
manganese-mine owners by telling them that the government 
would never increase their royalty payments "under pressure." 
Finally, he issued a blanket warning to businessmen against 
trying to compel the government to reduce taxes or duties. 

On another occasion, when the president of the Bengal Na- 
tional Chamber of Commerce told him that the five-year plan 
was "overambitious," Desai retorted: "If you think the plan 
has not been properly conceived and is overambitious, may I 
know what the plan should be, according to your conception, 
within the limits of this country, but which would also satisfy 
our aspirations? Our aspirations are that we must remove pov- 
erty from this country and secure satisfactory full employment 
and a satisfactory living standard for everyone. Do you have 
any conception of what this task means? Are we anywhere near 
it at present? If you want to go at a snail's pace in the matter 
of development, when can we reach that stage? You may not 
be worried about that stage being reached very late, but 90 
per cent of the people will have no patience if they have to 
wait 200 years or so to be able to live a life worth living. It's 
from their point of view that we have got to consider and make 
our plans in such a way that we constantly exert ourselves and 
raise our output more and more, so that the prosperity of the 
country increases and the living standard of the common man 
goes on rising." 

Desai says that India can wait for twenty or thirty years "at 
most." He professes to see a "fair chance" of self-generating 
economic development by the end of the fourth five-year plan, 
in 1970, "or two years later at the most." When that happens, 
he says, India's chronic foreign-exchange famine will disap- 
pear. As I said earlier, every available statistic seems to me to 
belie such predictions. I suspect Desai himself does not really 
believe in "take-off" by the early 1970*5. Nevertheless, he is 
persuasive when he discusses economics and finance. He ex- 
udes a calm lucidity. He rarely indulges in the sweeping ideo- 
logical generalizations so dear to Nehru. Desai's whole manner 


is an eloquent appeal for support. His knowledge of fiscal de- 
tail is encyclopedic. He is a man of the files, patiently perusing 
and annotating thousands of sheaves of dog-eared memoran- 
dums and correspondence encased in tattered folders and 
bound with string. Whenever I call on him at his office or 
home, I have difficulty spotting him behind his mountain of 
files. If his attention wanders during our conversation, he may 
pick up one of his folders and begin scanning it with pursed 
lips and a look of Olympian resignation. Usually, however, I 
find him a good listener and, what is more important, an 
articulate exponent of his own ideas. 

Desai's obsession with files and the prompt disposal of griev- 
ances has not prevented him from taking a broader view, al- 
though many would question the depth of his economic under- 
standing. His views have widened considerably since he went 
abroad for the first time in 1958, after Britain, the United 
States, and Canada agreed to waive their immunization require- 
ments. He took his charkha abroad and carried on his usual 
morning spinning unknown to his hosts. He also took with him 
an unfettered capacity for observation that enabled him to de- 
tect sources of Western strength that Fabian socialist blinders 
have often concealed from Nehru and Menon. He was immedi- 
ately struck by the absence of class distinctions between em- 
ployer and employee in American enterprises. "In your coun- 
try," he told me with genuine enthusiasm, "the manager and 
the worker sit down together without any embarrassment. 
Many times the worker's clothes are as good as his boss's and 
the car he drives to work is also as good." 

A State Department official who has accompanied many In- 
dian visitors in the United States remarks that "Indians gen- 
erally, in my experience, don't always relish the idea of going 
to other countries and looking and learning. They're proud 
and sensitive. Desai is too. But he's never overbearing. He 
gives a definite impression of modesty." 

A New York executive who saw Desai in action during his 
first trip to America says, "He's never embarrassed. He moves 
with a self-assurance that's almost a physical thing not neces- 
sarily a social, but a spiritual, ease. He has a calm face and a 
pleasant smile and he talks easily with all kinds of people." 


On his first trip abroad Desai was greeted with headlines in 
London such as "Nehru's heir comes West" and was repeatedly 
introduced by thoughtless hosts in America as "the next prime 
minister of India." He concealed his embarrassment at such 
gaucheries and showed none of the Brahmanical revulsion that 
Nehru evinces whenever he is subjected to the more bump- 
tious type of American Rotarian. He even managed to sit on 
Zsa Zsa Gabor's lap without looking too uncomfortable. 

When Desai visited Gandhi's former home in London, he 
asked to be left alone to pray for a few minutes in front of the 
window from which the Mahatma used to watch English chil- 
dren at play. 

Desai arrived in the United States still wearing his im- 
maculate white dhoti and sleeveless Nehru jacket, but he had 
outfitted himself with a heavy dark-blue overcoat, the first 
he had ever owned. "On an official tour/' he remarked a bit 
stuffily, "I cannot afford to be an oddity/' Nor was he. When 
an overzealous American host urged him to impress an audi- 
ence with the virtues of temperance, Desai politely declined. 
"I am not here/' he said, "to tell Americans how to behave/' 
then added with a characteristic twinkle, "But if any of you 
should give up drinking on his own, I should be only too 

With a shrewd awareness of what his audience would want 
to hear, Desai told a gathering of New York executives on 
September 12, 1958, "What I want you to understand is that 
in our concept of socialism the attack is on poverty and not 
on wealth." When Time quoted him as saying that Nehru 
was "intellectually but not spiritually humble/' there was an 
uproar in the Indian Parliament. Desai also came under fire 
for appearing to diverge from Nehru's stand that the offshore 
islands in the Taiwan Strait should go to Communist China. 
His relations with Nehru were then still close enough that 
the Prime Minister upheld him against Communist attacks. 
Today the result might be different. 

Although he said a good deal that pleased his hosts, Desai 
did not abandon his outspokenness when he went abroad. 
After Per Jacobsson, managing director of the International 
Monetary Fund, made a speech laden with the usual admoni- 


tions about "fiscal stability/' Desai made a quick and telling 
rejoinder: "As we see it, a concern with appropriate fiscal and 
monetary policies cannot end with the establishment of con- 
ditions o stability. The primary and most pressing objective 
in large parts of the world today is rapid economic develop- 
ment, and in this context the economic content of stability is 
as important as stability per se. To assume that the Fund is 
concerned with the preconditions of growth rather than 
growth itself would be to take too narrow a view of the re- 
sponsibilities and indeed potentialities of the Fund." 

Although Desai has distinguished himself at home and 
abroad as finance minister, he has found his political growth 
stunted under the shadow of the Nehru colossus. He is now 
widely known among Indian businessmen and in educated 
circles throughout the country, but he still lacks a mass all- 
India following. In Calcutta and Madras no throngs clamor 
to hear the austere man from Gujarat. 

In 1961 he suffered a damaging political setback when 
Nehru forestalled his election as deputy leader of the Congress 
party majority in Parliament. The prime minister is, of 
course, the party leader in Parliament. The deputy leader- 
ship had traditionally been regarded as the second position 
in the party. Desaf s bid for the deputy's post was opposed by 
Krishna Menon and his allies, who backed the candidacy of 
the Railways Minister, Jagjivan Ram, the only untouchable 
in the cabinet. When Nehru returned from the Common- 
wealth prime ministers' conference in London in late March 
1961, he realized that the bitterly contested struggle for the 
deputy leadership was being interpreted as a qualifying round 
for the succession to his own position. He postponed the elec- 
tion of a deputy, then reduced the post to meaninglessness 
by pushing through an amendment to the party Constitution 
providing for two deputy leaders. The outcome was a stinging 
reverse for Desai. Relations between Nehru and Desai be- 
came noticeably cooler. Desai was obviously unacceptable to 
his chief as the next prime minister. Indira Gandhi told me 
later, "No one but Morarji thought he had a chance of win- 
ning [election to the deputy leadership] until the very end, 
when some of his supporters thought they might rally enough 


support to defeat Jagjivan Ram." This estimate may be 
biased. Desai himself first said he would stand only if he were 
assured of unanimous election. Later he allowed his backers 
to canvass for him. 

Menon is reported to have urged Nehru even before the 
February 1962 elections to drop Desai in favor of T. T. 
Krishnamachari, who had resigned as finance minister in 
1958 in connection with a scandal involving the state-owned 
Life Insurance Corporation of India. TTK, as he is known in 
India, is much closer to Nehru in his economic thinking than 
Desai is. Desai threatened to resign if TTK were given 
primary responsibility for economic affairs. About this time 
Desai told me, "If the Prime Minister thinks I shouldn't be 
here, I'd have no grievance about it. I wouldn't hold it 
against him. I am willing to leave but I would not take any 
other position or office in the government. If I'm to be effec- 
tive in any work, I must have self-respect pure and simple. 
There can be no compromise on that." 

Desai has succeeded in keeping the Finance Ministry and 
his self-respect. In June 1962 Krishnamachari was named to 
the new post of minister without portfolio in the Union 
cabinet, where he will handle planning and economic affairs 
as a "socialist" counterweight to the conservative Desai. 
Nehru's habit of balancing contending elements in India by 
appointing their spokesmen to his cabinet hardly makes for 
administrative efficiency. However much he may disapprove 
of Desai, the Prime Minister knows that the Finance Min- 
ister's departure from the cabinet would be interpreted by 
Indian business and perhaps by Western aid-giving countries 
as a radical swing to the Left. Desai has long been the cabinet's 
foremost exponent of conservative fiscal and monetary policy. 
His knowledge in this field is probably more extensive than 
that of anyone else in India. At a moment o severe foreign- 
exchange shortage, Nehru cannot drop the man who has 
proved more adept than anyone else at extracting large 
amounts of economic aid from the Western powers* 

From his political low point at the time of the 1962 elec- 
tions, Desai has made a striking comeback. He has quietly 
mended his fences in his native state of Gujarat and else- 


where. He has made discreet overtures to such important 
state chief ministers as Kamaraj Nadar, in Madras, and even 
Bijoyananda Patnaik, in Orissa. By midsummer 1962 his 
position was strong again. Nehru took note of the change by 
authorizing Desai to preside over the cabinet in his absence. 
The Finance Minister made a successful trip to the European 
Common Market countries in July and then accompanied 
Nehru to the Commonwealth prime ministers' conference in 
London in September. From London he went to Washington 
to attend the World Bank and International Monetary Fund 
meetings. He was warmly received by President John F. Ken- 
nedy and other administration leaders. His speech before the 
National Press Club in Washington was a masterpiece of wit 
and wisdom tailored to fit American tastes. I have never seen 
Desai more buoyant and self-confident than during the grim 
early days of the Chinese offensive in October 1962. He real- 
ized he had again emerged as the front-running contender for 
the succession by reason of his successful negotiations in Wash- 
ington and his handling of the delicate economic situation. 
Menon had come under a storm of criticism when the in- 
adequacy of India's defenses was shown up by the initial 
Chinese successes. 

As with every other prominent Indian politician, however, 
opinions about Desai's future are diametrically opposed. K. M. 
Panikkar, the Indian historian and former fellow-traveling 
ambassador to Peking, Cairo, and Paris, whom one would 
expect to discount Desai, actually rates him as the man most 
likely to succeed Nehru. Panikkar's order of probability for 
the succession is Desai, Shastri, Chavan, Patil, and Kamaraj. 
Panikkar contends that Desai's apparent unpopularity and 
the noisy agitation against him are inspired by "half a dozen 
people/' "His position is much stronger than you think," he 
says, obviously not because he is enamored of Desai's economic 
or political ideas. 

On the other hand, a high-ranking American diplomat in 
India took a totally opposite view of Desai's prospects as late 
as April 1962. He told me then, "My guess would be that 
Desai is scheduled to be finance minister for the rest of his 
life. Desai is ideal for being finance minister and dealing with 


the Americans, just as Menon is ideal for being defense min- 
ister and dealing with the Russians at the U.N." Few observers 
who know India would put any more faith in the part of this 
prediction relating to Desai than in the estimate of Menon, 
who resigned as defense minister barely six months later. 

A State Department officer with considerable experience in 
India expresses a widely held view when he says, "If the big 
boys decide on a single strong leader to succeed Nehru, Desai 
is still the front-runner. The deputy leadership contest was 
essentially a stop-Desai movement. But you can expect an- 
other stop-Desai movement after Nehru goes." 

Another officer who served in the New Delhi embassy has 
a contrary viewpoint. "Desai," he insists, "is discredited and 
deserted by Congressmen. He's proved he doesn't have politi- 
cal finesse. He doesn't get around. He just sits in his office." 

One of Desai's predecessors in the Finance Ministry calls 
him "both tactless and sanctimonious and much less virtuous 
than he lets on." He says that Desai is much "duller" than 
the late Pandit Pant, the outstanding former home minister. 
Desai has acquired the reputation of being a good adminis- 
trator, this man says, because in both Bombay and Delhi he 
has had the sense to rely on Indian Civil Service stalwarts. 
This estimate of Desai's administrative success may be par- 
tially justified but it ignores the fact that other ministers have 
been unable to make effective use of comparable ICS talent. 
The opinion of one retired ICS officer, who served Desai in a 
high position in Bombay, is typical. He says: "The Right 
Wing forces in India would rally behind Desai if Nehru went. 
Desai is regarded as the conservative leader of the country. 
He's willing to do things without regard for popularity. This 
year [1962] he abolished the expenditure tax. Next year he's 
likely to get rid of the wealth tax, thus returning us to a 
normal tax situation." 

To the extent that the army officer corps is drawn from 
the same conservative families that produce the top-level civil 
servants, the armed services are likely to join the Indian Civil 
Service and the new Indian Administrative Service in sup- 
porting Desai's claim to the succession, provided, of course, 


the Army does not decide to upset the constitutional process 
and put forth a candidate of its own. The services both uni- 
formed and civilian have a vested interest in India's national 
unity. Their jobs, their promotions, their pensions, their 
family interests, all depend on the maintenance of the govern- 
ment of India as the effective central authority in the country. 
The services are undoubtedly supported in their attachment 
to a strong Center by Indian trade and business, including 
even small operators, whose position depends on national 
markets, national access to raw materials, and national leader- 
ship capable of checking divisive tendencies. Few army offi- 
cers have any use for Desai's prohibition mania, and busi- 
nessmen squirm when he talks of the need for subsidizing 
cottage industry and khaddar production. These angularities 
do not, however, vitally affect business and military backing 
for Desai. The reason is that Desai is rightly considered one 
of India's most incorruptible politicians. His record has 
never been stained with graft. 

Although no one has ever seriously accused Desai of being 
corrupt, his asceticism has been questioned more than once. 
Many insinuations come from the host of political foes he has 
acquired in more than forty years of public life. Several years 
ago a Marathi-language newspaper published a series of 
signed articles accusing Desai of hypocrisy in his show of 
morality. The paper reported that he had consorted with a 
Moslem woman. Although the articles were signed, Desai 
never brought suit for damages, on the ground that such scur- 
rilous charges were beneath his notice. But as one respected 
former Indian ambassador and ICS officer says, "Desai's action 
or inaction created lots of doubt and suspicion and hurt 
his following/' 

Desai's son, Kanti, a Bombay businessman, has been the 
object of much whispering. He is alleged to have enriched 
himself by trading on his father's name. This practice is 
hardly unknown in India. Desai is said to have threatened 
to commit suicide if his son did not desist from exploiting 
his relationship to the Finance Minister. Desai told me that 
when he became minister of commerce and industry he issued 


orders that no licenses, permits, or other special privileges 
were to be granted his son without the Minister's personal 

The suicide several years ago of Desai's younger daughter 
also cast a shadow over her father. The circumstances have 
never been explained. The story in Bombay is that the girl 
took her life after Desai refused to let her marry a young man 
with whom she had fallen in love. Whatever the real reason 
for his daughter's death, Desai does seem to have softened 
somewhat since then. On March 19, 1956, a year after her 
death, Desai told a Bombay radio audience: "For years I be- 
lieved that truth is bitter and if it hurts it could not be 
helped. But I have lately come to the realization that truth 
cannot be truth if it is bitter, and therefore, if in the convey- 
ing of truth, truth hurts, the fault lies not with truth but 
with the person conveying it. For instance, truth conveyed in 
anger becomes tainted; it no longer remains pure truth. I 
have always been conscious of my anger, and I have been 
trying hard to overcome it, and it is only now that I feel I 
have succeeded to some extent in overcoming it. From weak- 
ness, no good ever comes out. Weakness can only destroy us." 

These words reflect a certain disenchantment in the man 
who once prided himself on co-operating with his jailers even 
to the detriment of his fellow prisoners. "Moralji," as many 
Indians call him, is still Moralji, but his moralizing is now 
less astringent, less pontifical, and less obtrusive. As one In- 
dian newspaper remarked, ''The years have brought discretion 
and tolerance; not that they have altered the rigidity of his 
own views but that they have induced a greater willingness to 
concede that he might sometimes be wrong. He has also 
learned that it takes all kinds to make a world." 

In April 1962 Desai said in a talk with me, "Even now 
there may be some intolerance in me." Most people who know 
him would regard this as a classic understatement. He went 
on to say that he was striving to eradicate his intolerance, 
"but someone must have seen it in me." This slightly softened 
attitude is reflected in his policy on larger questions. As 
finance minister, he now regularly and unprotestingly allo- 
cates funds to propagate the "artificial methods" of birth con- 


trol that he believes undermine sexual self-control. His atti- 
tude toward medicine is now also less fundamentalist. 'Tor 
me to say all medical systems except nature cure should be 
dumped in the Ganges is wrong," he concedes. "I can't be- 
come Rip van Winkle or Don Quixote, holding up my spear 
and sword." Yet one feels that the sword has not been per- 
manently sheathed. 

Today Desai speaks of plowing "my lonely furrow" and 
dilates somewhat less on the weaknesses of others. Of course, 
he would lose much of his following, especially among con- 
servative Congressmen, if he were to abandon the redoubts 
of traditional morality for anything smacking of foreign 
modernism. He has no intention of making such an error. 
But he has tempered his strictures against the stupid, the 
prolix, and the merely tiresome people who infest his daily 
life. Indian public life has an abrasive effect on the most 
equable nature, and Desai has never won prizes in the art of 
suffering the insufferable. 

Regardless of changes in his outlook or political strength, 
two questions persist with regard to Desai's capacity to lead 
the world's largest democracy. The first is his understanding 
of economic problems. The second is his attitude toward 
India's fifty million Moslems. 

Like most Indians, especially old Congressmen, he tends to 
oversimplify complicated economic issues. For example, in 
1955 he explained his approach to labor relations in these 
broad terms: "The interests of all must precede the interests 
of a few. The interests of employers and employees also should 
not conflict and both should live in harmony although there 
should always be consideration for the weaker party." 

Desai is correctly considered a modernizer and a pragmatist. 
But mixed with his modernism and pragmatism are elements 
of Hindu orthodoxy and Gandhian revivalism that raise 
questions about his real standpoint. On July 17, 1959, he told 
an audience in Ahmedabad, "Voluntary poverty is the key to 
true happiness." He conceded that it might sound strange 
for the finance minister of a large country committed to rapid 
economic development to champion poverty as the road to 
happiness, but he said he was suggesting "voluntary poverty 


and self-abnegation, and not poverty imposed from above." 

Desaf s Gandhian devotion to khaddar is also hard to recon- 
cile with his commitment to large-scale industrialization. 
Seven years after independence, he could still tell a Bombay 
radio audience, "If our national economy is to be sound, we 
must develop intense patriotism for Indian goods, especially 
khaddi and other products of cottage industry." 

A note of fatalism creeps into some of Desai's pronounce- 
ments although he denies that he is a fatalist. On October 22, 
1958, he told a group of Indian and foreign businessmen in 
Bombay that Indians were not frightened of poverty, be- 
cause they had known poverty for so long and it did not really 
matter much if it continued a little longer. Of course, he went 
on to issue the usual call for raising living standards, but the 
idea of living in poverty (provided one has the requisite 
strength of will not to succumb to evil at the same time) does 
not really appear to repel him. His rejection of misery seems 
in the final analysis to stem more from a fear of its demoraliz- 
ing effects on weaker spirits than from any belief in the vir- 
tues of prosperity. Nehru hates poverty because it offends his 
rationalist conception of the universe. Desai, with his at- 
tenuated rationalism, often appears to regard poverty as a 
divinely ordained tribulation sent to test mankind. Nehru 
despises astrology and the thralldom it imposes on so many 
Indians. Desai is reputed to have great faith in what the stars 

As a devout Hindu, Desai is a believer in the Law of Karma 
(destiny or fate), which ordains that individuals are born in 
the world under certain circumstances and go through certain 
preordained experiences as a direct result of their actions in 
previous incarnations. The Law of Karma is unchangeable, 
although, of course, Desai would hold that it does not exempt 
anyone from striving to realize his full potentialities through 
his own efforts 

Desai's favorite reading is the Bhagavad-Gita, the great 
Hindu epic, whose eighteen cantos he memorized in jail, and 
the sayings of Ramkrishna Paramahamsa, accounted by 
Hindus as one of the saints of modern India. Desai says he 
likes to read "anything that has a bearing on a way of life," 


but he is not attracted by what he calls "a mere theoretical 
dissertation." Most Indian leaders of the present generation 
cut their intellectual teeth on the Fabian socialists, Harold 
Laski, and Karl Marx. Those who did not study in England, 
like the Maharashtra Chief Minister, Y. B. Chavan, were in- 
troduced to socialist and communist theory in jail study ses- 
sions. Desai, on the other hand, had little acquaintance with 
Marxism or socialism until he began reading works on eco- 
nomic theory in 1958, when he was named to head the Finance 
Ministry. He was already past sixty. He discounted Marx's 
theories on the ground that they arose from personal frustra- 
tion. There is nothing to show that Desai is inherently any 
more attracted to conservative economic theory, let alone 
American-style capitalism. His immunity to doctrinaire eco- 
nomics remains unimpaired. His approach to administration 
in the economic field remains free of the doctrinal trappings 
that have slowed India's progress since independence. 

If he is pragmatic in larger matters of economics, Desai is 
irretrievably dogmatic in most of his social attitudes. His at- 
titude toward women is equivocal. He champions complete 
equality of the sexes but at the same time frowns on women 
entering professions outside their traditional sphere of social 
work and child rearing. He also opposes coeducation and the 
use by women of cosmetics or Western dress. To my knowl- 
edge, Desai's wife never appears in public with him. I have 
visited their home a number of times but have never been 
introduced to Mrs. Desai or even seen her. Once when we 
were packing up our equipment after a television interview 
with Desai, a sari-clad woman appeared momentarily on the 
rear porch and disappeared immediately. She may have been 
Desai's wife, although I do not know 

After Mrs. John F. Kennedy's visit to India in March 1962, 
Desai told me bluntly, "We didn't like her spending so much 
time with the Maharaja of Jaipur, and especially Princess Lee 
Radziwill's spending that extra night in Jaipur drinking and 
dancing until morning. This makes a very bad impression. If 
I had been the Prime Minister, I would have told her 'no/ She 
should have been advised." 

Far more significant than Desai's attitude toward women is 


his stand on the vital question of Hindu-Moslem relations. 
This problem colors everything in Indian life. Desai's public 
utterances on this score are unexceptionable. He espouses 
communal harmony and preaches national integration. But 
his Hindu traditionalism and fervent advocacy of Hindi as 
the national language have attracted forces behind him that 
make him suspect in the eyes of many Indian Moslems. Desai 
himself may be less free of religious bias than he professes to 
be. In July 1961, when I asked him about a Hindu convention 
that was then being organized in Delhi as a sequel to a con- 
troversial Moslem convention, he said, "The organizers of 
the Hindu convention are a few extremists. They don't repre- 
sent the mass of Hindus, who are more detached and less easily 
aroused than the Moslems." 

Many of the more conservative Hindu businessmen and 
landowners who regard Desai as their best bet politically are 
unabashed Hindu communalists. This group includes many 
Congressmen. Michael Edwardes, an English historian who 
knows India intimately, says that he is deeply perturbed by 
the "sinister forces" now ranging themselves behind Desai. 
Whatever course he actually pursues in office, Desai's Hindu 
orthodoxy naturally attracts reactionary elements both in and 
outside Congress who realize that the Hindu Mahasabha and 
the Jan Sangh are not likely to exercise effective political 
power for many years to come, if ever. The Jan Sangh itself 
obviously favors Desai over other Congress aspirants for the 
premiership. What the question boils down to is to what extent 
Desai has disavowed the support of communalists. In his pres- 
ent ticklish position vis--vis other contenders for the succes- 
sion, he is not likely to reject support from any quarter unless 
it becomes a positive liability. 

In Indian politics the exercise of power is largely a question 
of alternatives. And the greater one's power, the more ines- 
capable is the need to choose. If Desai inherits the premier- 
ship, he will have to make a clear choice between the forces of 
modernism and reaction. I have little doubt that he would 
disown reaction, but the choice would not be easy. As prime 
minister he would probably continue his social faddism, but 
his main political emphasis would inevitably be on a program 


of modernization (which means Westernization) that would 
ultimately destroy many of the traditional values he seeks to 
uphold. Therefore, from the point of view of the West, 
Desai's stewardship would probably not impede India's slow 
advance into the twentieth century. Indeed, because he is 
more flexible on the larger issues than Nehru, he might well 
succeed in accelerating the tempo of progress, provided al- 
ways that India did not disintegrate into regional and lin- 
guistic units. 

Desai has said, "The present world is witnessing a conflict 
between the two civilizations the one in which India be- 
lieves and the other in which modern Western countries be- 
lieve. The latter aims at physical happiness while the former 
aims at humanity, which is the quality of the soul." This 
bromide conveniently ignores the existence of a form of gov- 
ernment that is neither Western nor Indian and cherishes 
neither happiness nor humanity. 

On the other hand, there is no doubt that Desai is con- 
scious of Communism. He abhors its methods and is much 
clearer and more outspoken than Nehru about the links be- 
tween the Indian Communists and the Kremlin. He needles 
the Communists in Parliament mercilessly about their sub- 
servience to Moscow. He has also demonstrated an acute 
perception of the realities of Soviet society. He delights in 
reminding the Indian Communists how Russia relies on 
turnover tax and other levies that bear most heavily on the 
poor. When the Communists in the Lok Sabha blamed rising 
prices in India on profiteering, which they contended does 
not exist in a truly "socialist" society like Russia, Desai re- 
plied: "They talk of profiteering. Let me tell them something: 
The Soviet Union purchased shoes from us at twenty-five 
rupees [about $5.00] a pair and sold them at 100 rupees a pair. 
Yes, there's no need of a direct tax or even income tax. They 
simply add the tax to the cost of goods and get all they want." 

In a speech to Parliament on May 10, 1962, Desai abandoned 
his usual restraint and lashed out for the first time at "fellow- 
wanderers" in the Congress party. He said: "In the Com- 
munist party, apart from members, there are fellow travelers 
and fellow wanderers. Fellow travelers are well known. They 


are not members of the Communist party, but otherwise they 
are Communists who have no courage to call themselves Com- 
munists. Fellow wanderers . . . are not able to understand 
the subtleties of the working of the evil ways of the Com- 
munists and they get caught. They are the people who are 
utilized by Communist friends most and they never realize 
that they are being utilized. We have got such people in many 
parties, including my own." 

This sally was the nearest Desai has come to a public de- 
nunciation of Krishna Menon and his coterie of "fellow 
wanderers" in Congress. In July 1961, in a talk with me, Desai 
remarked, "Krishna Menon has not been openly active in the 
deputy leadership question. But people say he took a hand. 
He feels antagonistic to me. I don't like to say it, but he is 
openly against me, so why shouldn't I say it?" As he regained 
his political strength in 1962, Desai became more contemptu- 
ous of Menon's prospects. He was fond of calling Menon a 
rootless anarchist who could just as well be on the extreme 
right as the extreme left. In private conversation he con- 
temptuously dismisses Menon as a political nonentity with no 
following of his own and no ability to attract one. He pic- 
tures Menon as purely the creature of Nehru, who will evapo- 
rate as soon as his protector disappears. A week after the 
Chinese struck in October 1962, Desai told me smilingly, 
"Menon is already on the sidelines. He can't throw his weight 
around any more." 

If India had anything approaching cabinet government, 
the conflict between Menon and Desai and their respective 
ministerial supporters would long ago have become unman- 
ageable. But important decisions are rarely made by the full 
cabinet. At best they are made in cabinet committees. And 
usually they are made by Nehru in consultation with one or 
two ministers chiefly concerned with a particular problem. 
Desai is consulted on strictly financial problems. In foreign 
affairs only Menon's advice is usually sought. 

When he visited Washington in October 1961, Desai told 
President Kennedy that he had advised Nehru against attend- 
ing the neutral "summit" conference in Belgrade. On this 
issue he was apparently consulted, or at least felt free to offer 


his advice. But the upshot is adequate testimony to the weight 
Nehru attaches to Desai's opinions on foreign policy. 

There was no concealment of the divergence between Desai, 
on the one hand, and Nehru and Menon, on the other, over 
Goa. In the wake of Nehru's declaration before a "seminar" 
on Portuguese colonialism in New Delhi in August 1961 that 
India could not "exclude the use of force" to incorporate Goa, 
Desai took a diametrically opposed stand. He told the seminar, 
which included many African nationalists, that it was not 
India's intention to invade Goa and that even sending a 
police contingent would be "an act of war." He insisted that 
India had justified the validity of nonviolent methods in win- 
ning her freedom. Referring to Nehru's ambiguous remarks, 
he said, "If that leads some people to infer that India is going 
to make an invasion of Goa, I think they are very much mis- 
taken. That is not what he meant." Nehru angrily repeated 
his own statement a few days later when the seminar recon- 
vened in Bombay. The Indian Communist organ New Age 
demanded that Desai be sacked from the cabinet for his 
temerity in differing with Nehru. 

Four months after Goa was taken over, Desai told me that 
his view was that India should have given the Portuguese one 
year's notice before entering Goa. "Then," he said, "no one 
could have said we didn't give them time to leave. We 
couldn't wait forever. The people were getting impatient. 
But I would have done it after the elections rather than be- 
fore, so no one could have connected Goa with the elections." 

If Desai does become prime minister, there will be no dras- 
tic change in Indian foreign policy. Nonalignment will con- 
tinue to be professed, but its practice may be considerably less 
fraudulent. One irritant to Indo-American relations will dis- 
appear with the removal of Krishna Menon from the cabinet. 
But Desai's Hindu traditionalism is not likely to make him 
any more sympathetic to Pakistan than Nehru or Menon 
were. In his public statements he has never openly diverged 
from the Nehru line on China, but from the beginning of the 
crisis in October 1962 Desai began acting with increasing in- 
dependence. While Nehru vacillated and talked about main- 
taining "pure" nonalignment, Desai was quietly negotiating 


terms of payment for American arms shipments to India. He 
has always been less inclined than Nehru to parley with the 
Chinese and more unwavering in his determination to resist 
them by force. He never shared Nehru's conviction that India 
should befriend Russia at all costs on the assumption that the 
Soviet government would curb its Chinese ally's hostility to- 
ward New Delhi. After October Desai became more insistent 
that the Indian government should stop its carping and often 
gratuitous criticism of the Western powers and concentrate 
on the main task of winning Western support in the struggle 
against the Chinese. 

This background might well lead Moscow to interpret 
Desai's accession to power as the final victory of Indian reac- 
tion. Such an interpretation would be incorrect, but it could 
nonetheless prompt the Russians to reduce or withdraw their 
economic aid to India. India would accordingly become more 
dependent on Western support Despite his distrust of all 
Communist regimes, I think that Desai would try hard to 
maintain at least some of the present ties with Russia. He 
would not want India to appear as another client state of the 

Foreign policy is secondary, however, to India's explosive 
internal problems. In this field Desai's iron-fisted administra- 
tion would come into play. He could infuse new vitality into a 
tired and sluggish administration. Though he is not young, 
his physical condition is good, and he is accustomed to a 
cyclonic pace. The question remains whether he has the 
breadth of vision to guide India through its myriad perils. 
For example, would his scruples against contraceptives induce 
him to weaken the attack on the population problem? Or 
would the scruples themselves give way under the imperious 
necessities of survival? More important than his own scruples 
and convictions would be the attitude of south Indians, 
Bengalis, and Indian Moslems to his premiership. There is 
little to show that he commands the allegiance of these groups. 
With West Bengal already disgruntled, it would not take too 
many of Desai's strictures to drive the state into nonco- 
operation, perhaps outright secession. Similarly, his advocacy 


of Hindi might turn south Indian regionalism into a serious 
secessionist movement. 

If government in India were like government in Sweden or 
Switzerland largely a matter of administrative efficiency 
Desai would have pre-eminent claim to the succession as well 
as an excellent chance of success in office. But in India, per- 
haps more than in any other country, a leader is expected to 
possess qualities of compassion that he either lacks or conceals. 
He fits the Indian image of leadership in his personal austerity, 
his refusal to indulge in the frank pursuit of power, and his 
gift for flavoring practical politics with moral precepts, but 
the indefinable darshana that the Indian masses imbibe from 
Nehru and the gentleness and humility that characterize Lai 
Bahadur Shastri are lacking in Desai's stern and uncommuni- 
cative public demeanor. However effective he may be in office, 
he lacks the gift of intimacy so valuable in politics. He tends 
to be slightly aloof, even withdrawn. In public appearances 
his oratory is flat and his manner uninspiring. His genuine 
concern for human welfare is expressed in terms of adminis- 
trative zeal, not in the consoling words so dear to the Indian 

Desai has supreme self-confidence. This assurance rein- 
forces the dictatorial streak in his character as well as the self- 
centered mentality that dulls his curiosity and restricts his 
vision. He is one of the few politicians I know who never 
troubled to see much of his own country before he was sixty. 
His enemies call him pugnacious, arrogant, and vindictive. 
He works by the book. For several weeks after I had unavoid- 
ably missed a scheduled appointment with Desai, his secre- 
tary kept ignoring my requests for a new appointment. I 
finally wrote a personal letter to Desai explaining why I had 
not come to see him as scheduled. An interview was finally 
arranged, but the atmosphere was glacial for the first twenty 

An American correspondent who spent many years in India 
says, "Desai sums up what's right and what's wrong with 
India. He's austere, ascetic, proud, dictatorial, domineering, 
and egotistical." 


Morarji Desai is really the administrator turned politician. 
He succeeds in extorting respect from all but the inveterately 
biased. Whether he could ever seduce the affection that Indian 
leadership ultimately depends on is one o the many questions 
about India that remain unanswered. 

V. K. Krishna Menon 

"i CHARGE HIM with wasting the money of a poor and starving 
nation. I charge him with having created cliques in the Army. 
I charge him with having lowered the morale of our armed 
forces. I charge him with the neglect of the defense of the 
country against the aggression of Communist China. I charge 
him with having lent his support to totalitarian and dicta- 
torial regimes against the will of the people to freedom." 

The peroration was over. Acharya J. B. Kripalani, a gaunt 
wraithlike Indian Cicero in flowing white robes, sank back 
exhausted on the Opposition front bench in the high-domed 
chamber of New Delhi's Lok Sabha. The object of his defi- 
ance rested his chin on his desk on the opposite side of the 
house; his eyes darted venomously from side to side. Vengalil 
Krishnan Krishna Menon was at bay. 

It was not the first time I had watched him under fire. I 
knew he derived a perverse kind of enjoyment from being 
hated. Conflict has always been the thread of his life, as rigidly 
prescribed as the sacred thread a Brahman wears on his chest 
to denote his high caste. In the beginning there was the 



matriarchal Malabar society of India's extreme south, which 
disowned Menon before he disowned it. Then there were the 
long years in London, the fight to stay alive in cold, dirty 
little boardinghouse rooms and the even harder fight to help 
persuade an imperial race to part with its brightest imperial 
jewel. Even in love there was conflict and the aching anguish 
that made Menon vow he would fast until he died. He lived to 
find himself beset by new contention, his dreams of sitting in 
the House of Commons shattered, his record as free India's 
first envoy to Britain sullied, his influence in the United 
Nations reduced. Now the thread of conflict threatened to 
snap, to plunge Krishna Menon into oblivion. His past, his 
present, and his future were under attack. 

Earlier that afternoon I had watched Menon defending 
himself, like an Epstein Lucifer come to life. And he would 
speak again in reply to the Opposition. But he knew, as we 
in the press gallery did, that his scornful sallies would win no 
friends and change no votes in the Lok Sabha. All but a 
handful of the legislators seated around the big semicircular 
hall feared and hated India's acerbic Defense Minister. His 
political survival depended on one man, whose seat, in front 
of Menon, happened to be empty at the moment. Jawaharlal 
Nehru was occupied with a foreign visitor at the moment, but 
he would return to speak in Menon's defense and ensure that 
the huge Congress party majority voted down all Opposition 
efforts to discredit the Defense Minister. 

Nehru has always been Menon's redeemer. He delivered 
him from anonymous squalor in England and has upheld him 
against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Over and over 
Nehru has said much as he did in 1957: "There are some in 
India and abroad whose job in life appears to be to try to 
run down Mr. Menon because he is far cleverer than they are, 
because his record of service for Indian freedom is far longer 
than theirs and because he has worn himself out in the service 
of India/' 

The impassioned indictment delivered in the Indian Parlia- 
ment by Kripalani on April 11, 1961, was the opening salvo 
in a struggle that was eventually to raise Menon to new 
heights of power and influence in India and abroad. I fol- 


lowed the course of the battle in Delhi, Bombay, and other 
parts of India. I watched Menon win one of the most sweeping 
electoral triumphs in Indian history and emerge as a con- 
tender for supreme leadership. I watched him consolidate his 
position as India's defense minister and seek to build a per- 
sonal following in the Indian armed forces. I could feel his 
grip tightening on New Delhi's External Affairs Ministry to 
the point where he often seemed to be running Indian foreign 

To me he has always been the most fascinating man in 
India. He has long been Nehru's closest adviser on foreign af- 
fairs and one of the Prime Minister's few trusted confidants. He 
has sat on more cabinet committees, made more speeches, and 
covered more ground inside and outside India than any other 
man in the government. He also draws larger crowds in more 
places than anyone but Nehru. He is by turns brilliant, iras- 
cible, charming, cantankerous, malign, and benevolent. His 
smile seems to conceal a whole armory of daggers. I shudder 
when he fondles babies although his affection for children is 
well known. I have conversed happily for an hour with him 
one day, only to find him abusive and almost hysterically anti- 
American the next day. He is a teetotaling, vegetarian 
bachelor who spurns food and sleep. His health is as unpre- 
dictable as monsoon weather. His fainting spells are famous. 
I have seen him practically carried to his seat on a speakers' 
platform, where he slumps corpselike until it is his turn to 
speak. Then he comes alive with a start. His harangues rarely 
last less than half an hour; often they go on for as long as 
three hours. He speaks without notes and always in English, 
the only language he really knows. He admits that he could 
no longer make a speech in his mother tongue, Malayalam. 

Menon is the main topic of conversation for diplomats, 
journalists, and politically minded Indians in New Delhi. He 
is India's gray eminence, the brooding figure whose shadow 
falls across the entire country. Everything about him is con- 
troversial except his brilliance, although even that is some- 
times called in question. The widow of Menon's English idol, 
the late economist and Labour party leader Harold J. Laski, 
told me that her husband thought Menon was "something 


of a windbag." She also recalled that Menon "didn't know 
much about India and never expressed an economic philoso- 
phy as such/' K. M. Panikkar, who shares Menon's far Left 
outlook, dismisses him as a "good technician who could pos- 
sibly be used by a new leader." He says that Menon is one of 
the most overrated Indians alive today. I am more inclined to 
agree with Nehru, who told a former cabinet minister, "Menon 
has a colossal intellect," and then added rather plaintively, 
"I wish I were more clever." 

Whatever others may think, there is no doubt of Menon's 
opinion of himself. "What I have to say is not meant for today 
or for next year," he once boasted, "but for a generation or 
more hence, when people are ready to accept what today they 
criticize." Answering charges of crypto-Communism after his 
1962 election victory, he said of himself, "Krishna Menon 
could have shaken the whole country in a single day had he 
been a crypto-Communist." He is convinced that his oratory 
holds audiences spellbound. When the gallery booed him at 
the United Nations in 1956, he first denounced delegates who 
pander to popular sentiment, then warned that he too could 
"arouse passions." The first time I saw him after the North 
Bombay election, he told me, "You couldn't get better people 
than at those election meetings I held. They came out for 
me." I have never seen him more exhilarated. When a Time 
correspondent asked if he could interview him for a cover 
story, Menon confided, "I know what the Americans want to 
know. They want to know why Krishna Menon is so popu- 
lar." Every time someone approaches him in a New York de- 
partment store, he professes to see new proof of his popularity 
in the United States, 

There is a harsher side to Menon's conceit. Such epithets as 
"fool" and "idiot" fall easily from his curled lips. He brow- 
beats and even kicks subordinates. Never one to practice racial 
discrimination, he treats Africans, Asians, Europeans, and 
Americans with equal contempt. Another's will to agree with 
him never stops Menon from getting in the first insult. I have 
never seen anyone so apoplectic with rage against him as 
were the Yugoslav Communists who endured his whiplash 
tongue in the drafting committee at the neutral "summit" 


conference in Belgrade in 1961. At the U.N. he has come to 
be known as "the arrogant apostle of tolerance" and "the 
great I am." Discussing another U.N. delegate, Menon snapped 
a sugar cube in his fingers as he sneered, "The man has no 
courage. I broke him like that." When General Pran Nath 
Thapar took over as chief of the army staff in 1961, Menon 
told him that the service chiefs could not expect to under- 
stand everything that he as defense minister was doing, but 
they need not worry, because it was "for the best." 

Menon's egoism is equaled only by his persecution complex. 
As an American correspondent observed, he assumes intel- 
lectual dishonesty in almost everyone else but explodes when 
his own integrity is questioned even by indirection. Criticism 
is criminal. He really thinks everyone is both for and against 
him. "I have no enemies," he will boast, and lament in the 
next breath, "It's no use, they're all against me." The most 
innocuous questions in Parliament acquire a sinister sig- 
nificance in Merion's eyes. At home and abroad he conducts a 
kind of running warfare with the press, which he accuses of 
deliberately misrepresenting him in an effort to malign India 
and destroy his popular appeal. My own relations with him 
have been comparatively good. Everything depends on his 
mercurial mood. His news conferences at the airport in New 
York after the long flight from India are classic demonstra- 
tions of ill-humor. He shakes his cane at cameramen, demands 
that reporters apologize, and abuses everyone in sight. 

A yawn or a sidewise look by a member of any audience he 
is addressing may draw an instant reproach from Menon. He 
is incapable of enjoying a joke on himself. As Frank Moraes, 
an Indian author and newspaper editor, has remarked, he 
suffers neither fools nor wise men gladly. He rebels at the 
thought of being indebted to anyone. The offer of an Ameri- 
can Embassy car (which, for example, was made when he ar- 
rived unexpectedly at the Manila airport several years ago) 
provokes the withering retort that he will not be humiliated 
by American charity. He even hints that American surgeons 
deliberately failed to remove part of a blood clot in the brain 
that incapacitated him briefly in the fall of 1961. 

Menon heatedly denies that he is anti-American, but there 


is no doubt that much of his persecution mania is focused on 
the United States. His cabinet colleagues all agree on this. 
The London Observer has noted his "almost malevolent hos- 
tility" to America. Menon has told friends in Delhi that he 
will be anti-American as long as the United States is allied 
to Pakistan, which he regarded as India's number-one enemy 
until the Chinese attack in October 1962. A more convincing 
explanation seems to be that he has inherited Marxist and 
Fabian socialist suspicions of America as the citadel of capital- 
ism and reaction. However, many Americans are surprised 
when I say that Nehru is almost equally anti-American, the 
only difference being that he dissembles more artfully than 

Such are the externals of this "wicked fairy complete with 
wand/' as one Western newsman called him. It may be, as 
Indira Gandhi says, that even Menon could not explain him- 
self, but an attempt must be made because he is already im- 
portant and may one day be supreme in India. 

Krishna Menon (who uses two names, like Lloyd George, to 
distinguish himself from other Indian Menons) was born on 
May 3, 1897, * n Tellicherry, now in the state of Kerala, in 
the extreme southwest corner of India, the area where Vasco 
da Gama made the first European landing in India. Some ac- 
counts say that Menon's family were "rebellious," but my in- 
formation indicates that they were not politically inclined. 
His father was a middle-class lawyer with enough land to 
provide for the family comfortably. His mother died when 
Menon was still in his teens. His brother is also dead, but he 
has three living sisters as well as a favorite niece, with whom 
he likes to stay in Madras. 

Menon's verbal belligerence may arise from the fact that 
the large Menon subtribe historically supplied scribes and 
bookkeepers for the even larger Nair caste, which furnished 
the warrior rulers of south India for many generations and 
still dominates Kerala. But the most important members of 
the ultraorthodox Malabar society in which Menon grew up 
were women. It was a strictly matriarchal system, based on 
matriarchal laws of inheritance, until the second quarter of 


this century. Such a background makes Menon's confirmed 
bachelorhood more understandable. 

Unlike most other contemporary Indian leaders, Menon did 
not join student boycotts for nationalist objectives in his 
youth, although he does profess to remember writing "India 
for the Indians" on his school slate in 1905 during the agita- 
tion against Lord Curzon's plan to partition the province of 
Bengal. At fifteen he defied his matriarchal family to enter 
Mrs. Annie Besant's Theosophical Institute near Madras, 
where he again found himself under female tutelage. Mrs. 
Besant was an opinionated, eccentric Englishwoman who 
propagated home rule for India and metaphysical salvation 
for mankind. She recognized unusual qualities of intellect in 
the shy, studious, introverted boy who arrived in 1912 at the 
institute. Menon, however, found little in theosophy that at- 
tracted him. His mind was already groping toward the radical 
rationalism he now espouses. 

After being graduated with an A.B. degree in arts and letters 
from the Madras Presidency College, Menon ignored his 
father's pleas that he enter the law college there. He lectured 
on history for a time and served for four years as an unpaid 
commissioner in the Indian Boy Scouts. The Scout code seems 
to have interested him less than the fact that the movement 
was being opened to non-Europeans. He also worked on Mrs. 
Besant's newspaper, but without developing a lasting affec- 
tion for journalists. 

An Indian biographical sketch says that Menon went to 
England in 1924 as a "young propagandist" for the Home 
Rule movement. In fact, he was interested in continuing his 
education, not in making propaganda for any cause. Mrs* 
Besant bought his passage and he traveled as an unpaid secre- 
tary to one of her assistants. He went to England for six 
months. He stayed twenty-eight years. 

They were the formative years. Menon was scholar, poli- 
tician, and propagandist rolled in one. He excelled as a 
scholar and propagandist but failed as a politician, because 
he insisted on going his own way. His three roles in London 
were related. He accumulated degrees because socialist theory 


intrigued him and because London University was the best 
place to recruit British intellectuals and Indian students for 
the India League, which he used as a propaganda platform 
for preaching the gospel of Indian independence. He joined 
the British Labour party in 1930 and served on the St. Pancras 
Borough Council in London to prove that he, an Asian, could 
win elective office in England. Membership in the party also 
enabled him to influence Labour's stand on India more ef- 

In the course of his long self-imposed exile, Menon became 
deeply attached to London. Today he finds it politic to dis- 
count this phase of his life. "I survived England somehow or 
other," he sneers. The fact is, he prefers it to any place else on 
earth. "It's a country where you can easily be at home," he 
has conceded in a rare moment of self-revelation. "London 
is such a friendly place. Nobody is ever lost in London or un- 
happy there, except the loud, vulgar type of American." 

At the London School of Economics Menon was electrified 
by the socialism of Professor Harold J. Laski and other Left 
Wing English intellectuals. He eagerly applied their Marxian 
analysis of imperialism to India and found it fit. He was a 
good student. Mrs. Laski told me that her husband liked 
Menon, who used to spend hours at the Laski home expound- 
ing his ideas about socialism and Indian independence. He 
received a Bachelor of Science degree with first honors and a 
Master of Science degree from the London School of Eco- 
nomics, a Master of Arts with honors from University College, 
London, and a Doctor of Laws from Glasgow University. His 
thesis was entitled "An Experimental Study of the Mental 
Process Involved in Reasoning." He has more degrees and far 
more education than any other Indian cabinet minister. 

When Dean William H. Beveridge barred Menon from tak- 
ing further courses at the London School of Economics be- 
cause he was not a bona fide student, Laski objected. He won 
his point, and Menon continued buttonholing people in the 
common room. 

Menon was called to the Bar from the Middle Temple, but 
chose to remain a briefless barrister most of his life. When he 
handled tenants' cases, he worked without fee. His real pas- 


sion was Indian independence. In 1929 he took over the 
moribund Commonwealth of India League, renamed it the 
India League, and turned it into one of the most effective 
lobbies in English history. From the League's cold, grubby 
little offices in the Strand, Menon turned out a flood of 
pamphlets, organized thousands of meetings, and lectured 
everyone in sight. The League was never, as is often said, the 
London branch of the Indian National Congress party. Menon 
preferred to operate as a lone wolf. He still does. He did not 
even join Congress until after independence. As he says now, 
"I had no link with the Congress party. I didn't want to be 
tied to anyone at home." The India League aimed at influenc- 
ing Englishmen, especially the Bloomsbury intellectuals and 
members of the Labour party. An Englishman was always 
chairman of the League. Bertrand Russell headed it for a time, 
and Laski and Stafford Cripps served as officers. But in fact 
the League was its secretary-general, Krishna Menon. He 
served without pay and often contributed whatever he earned 
as a lawyer or free-lance writer to pay the League's bills. He 
almost never left the office. One of the Indian students who 
volunteered to help Menon at the League was Indira Gandhi, 
then an undergraduate at Somerville College, Cambridge. 
Despite his habitual rudeness, he persuaded more than a 
hundred members of the Labour party to join the League. He 
concentrated on Labour, although it was out of power, be- 
cause he believed the Conservatives would never free India. 

Menon had little to sustain himself except work. He sub- 
sisted on tea, buns, and rancor. His life in London, as Philip 
Deane has aptly remarked, was marked by "penury, perpetual 
colds, large cheap scarves and a kettle that bubbled endlessly 
on a gas ring to replenish the teapot from which he seemed 
to get his only nourishment." He moved from one cheap 
boardinghouse to another in the grimy Camden Town district 
of London. As one English member of the League recalls, "No 
one knew precisely which little room in Camden Town he was 
living in at any particular moment." A member of the St. 
Pancras Borough Council told me, "Krishna never went to 
anybody's home. He wasn't social at all." His health was al- 
ready poor. He suffered from tuberculosis of the kidneys, 


stomach trouble, and fits of coughing. He managed to keep 
going only with heavy doses of drugs. One day in 1934 he dis- 
appeared. Reginald Sorensen, a Labour member of Parlia- 
ment and of the India League, learned after some time that 
Menon had been taken to a workhouse ward for indigent 
patients. "When I went there/' Sorensen says, "the ward at- 
tendant told me, 'Yes, we have him. It's that bloke down there 
under the big pile of blankets. He'll be dead in the morning/ " 
He did not die, but he spent three months in the crowded 

Menon had never been religious. London and Laski made 
him an agnostic. But when his father died, Menon made one 
of his rare trips to India to conduct what he called a * 'proper 
funeral" for the parent whose wishes he had flouted. 

To supplement his meager income, Menon edited paper- 
back books. He says that British publishers scoffed when he 
first suggested paperback editions on economics, history, and 
science. The first printing of twelve titles sold out overnight. 
This new Pelican series was more of a literary than a financial 
success for its editor. Menon accuses the publisher, Sir Alan 
Lane, of denying him his agreed share of the proceeds. He re- 
marks bitterly, "They later knighted him for it. He never has 
read the books himself/' 

Menon was not knighted, but his knowledge of the book 
business enabled him to arrange for publication of Nehru's 
works, thereby earning the lasting gratitude of India's future 
prime minister. 

Books were not Menon's only love. His extended romance 
with an English girl ended unhappily in the thirties. She was 
not a member of the India League and appears to have had 
no special interest in politics. She is said to have decided, 
after much soul-searching, against attempting marriage with 
the unpredictable Menon. He reacted melodramatically. He 
announced that he had no further interest in life and took to 
his bed. He ate nothing, Harold Laski and his wife held his 
hand as he lay on a cot in his shabby rented room. Mrs. Laski 
was unimpressed. "I think he was dramatizing himself," she 


It is widely believed that Menon thought color prejudice 
was to blame for the girl's decision and that this feeling ac- 
counts for much of his present hostility to Westerners. Vincent 
Sheehan sees a look of "ancient and remembered wrongs" in 
Menon's smoldering eyes and concludes that he must have 
been dreadfully insulted or maltreated at some time. My own 
feeling is that it would be wrong to ascribe too much to his 
unrequited love, although, of course, if he had married and 
had children, he would probably be a different person today. 

One unforeseen result of Menon's blighted romance was 
that he and Nehru were brought together for the first time. 
After giving up his fast, Menon announced that he would 
stake everything on a giant rally in London for Indian free- 
dom. He wrote to Nehru, who was in Switzerland at the time, 
and asked him to address the meeting. "Who is this Menon?" 
Nehru asked when he got the letter. Minoo R. Masani, then 
a friend of Menon and now one of his bitterest foes, happened 
to be with Nehru and described the young Keralan in glowing 
terms. Nehru reluctantly agreed to go. He and Menon found 
immediate rapport. 

In 1938 Nehru and Menon met in Barcelona and toured 
the trenches of the Spanish Republican Army for five days. 
They underwent nightly bombing attacks. The experience 
moved Nehru deeply. "There, in the midst of want and 
destruction and ever-impending disaster," he wrote later, "I 
felt more at peace with myself than anywhere else in Europe. 
There was light there, the light of courage and determination 
and of doing something worth while." 

Afterward, when he returned to London with Menon, he 
says that he "met people of all degrees and all shades of 
opinion." Purshottam Trikumdas, a leading Indian socialist 
who also visited London in 1938, told me, "Menon threw no 
one but Communists at me during my one-month stay. He 
did the same thing with Nehru." Menon and Nehru spent 
long hours discussing politics in a London vegetarian res- 
taurant. Nehru was delighted to find someone who did not 
repeat the cautious platitudes of the conservative Congress 
party majority. He envied Menon's incisive mind and revolu- 


tionary daring. Menon, for his part, recognized in Nehru the 
future leader of independent India and lavished attention on 

Menon already had more ward-level political experience 
than Nehru would ever acquire. St. Pancras, Menon's borough, 
is traditionally radical. He was one of the few lawyers on the 
Labour side in the Borough Council. "He often raised legal 
points," one Council member recalls, "and you knew you could 
always support him, because he was always right." He was 
named chairman o the committee on libraries and amenities, 
normally the least important and most despised borough 
office. But he brought culture to St. Pancras with the same 
energy that Tammany Hall used to expend on a wavering 
borough before an election. He founded and developed the 
highly successful St. Pancras Arts Council, which became a 
model for the rest of Britain. He made arrangements with the 
Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and leading orchestras and 
opera companies to put on performances in St. Pancras. He 
even started a ballet circle. He is remembered in the borough 
as being hypersensitive about his color, but the only time that 
it is known to have been used against him politically was dur- 
ing one election campaign when some Tory extremists put up 
posters saying, "Don't vote for Menon or you'll get a black 
man." Menon was quick to repay any slight, real or fancied. 
He once threatened to stop speaking at a Labour meeting 
until a party member apologized for yawning. 

Menon twice missed being nominated as a Labour candidate 
for the House of Commons. He lost the first time by one vote 
after shocking the sober working folk on the party selection 
committee with a display of political iconoclasm. On the sec- 
ond occasion he was forced to withdraw his candidacy be- 
cause he attended a Communist meeting, which was against 
Labour party rules. The London Daily Worker, to which 
Menon occasionally contributed, came to his defense with 
several page-one articles. Until Russia was attacked by Ger- 
many in June 1941, Menon followed the Communist line in 
denouncing the war as an imperialist struggle. He could see 
no difference between British and German imperialism as 


far as India was concerned. "You might as well ask a fish if 
it prefers to be fried in butter or margarine," he scoffed. 

Russia's involvement in the war caused a startling about- 
face by all Communist parties and by Menon. Overnight the 
war became a righteous struggle against fascist tyranny in 
which all freedom-loving peoples must join. In articles pub- 
lished in the British Communist party's Labor Monthly in 
August 1941 and January and June 1942, Menon argued that 
the character of the war had been transformed for colonial 
peoples by the attack on Russia. He wrote: "To them the vic- 
tory of the Soviet Union is not merely the hope of freedom, 
but the guarantee of its achievement. They realize that the 
Soviet people have unfailingly recognized the common inter- 
ests of the peoples of the world. . . . The Soviet Union has 
consistently championed the struggles for national inde- 
pendence and the autonomy of nationalities. . . . [It] has 
given great inspiration to the colonial peoples. ... It has 
also inspired and enabled national movements of liberation 
to recognize their role and to seek to play their part in a 
freer world and in the world struggle for freedom." 

German aggression against the USSR, Menon said, "calls 
for the fullest mobilization of all the forces of freedom every- 
where." For him, participation in the "world anti-fascist 
front" was now an "integral" part of Indian policy. The de- 
mand for Indian freedom, he added almost as an afterthought, 
was "equally" part of that policy. 

In fact, Indian policy as expressed by Gandhi and the ma- 
jority of the Indian National Congress leadership was the 
exact opposite of what Menon advocated. In its famous Quit 
India resolution of August 8, 1942, the Congress demanded 
unconditional freedom as the condition for India's participa- 
tion in the war effort. Menon refused to be bound by the reso- 
lution. He argued that it would hinder the prosecution of 
the war. He demanded the release of Communist prisoners 
in Indian jails who, "despite the obscurantism of the British 
government, would rally the people in resistance and prevent 
a repetition of the experience in Burma." He ignored the 
Congress and insisted that India should be led by its "most 


vital elements/' which he defined as the Communists, So- 
cialists, and other working-class leaders. 

Was Menon a member of the Communist party at this time? 
Like everything about him, the question produces more heat 
than light. The New Statesman says that the Labour party 
leadership "believed or at least alleged Menon was a Com- 
munist." Trikumdas says that Menon was a Communist card- 
carrier from 1937. Masani, a Socialist turned conservative, 
who has known Menon since 1926, says that Menon has been 
a "consistent fellow traveler" since 1936 or 1937. The people 
I have talked to in London who were closest to Menon in the 
thirties and forties insist that he was not a member of the 
party, if for no other reason than his anarchic individualism 
and abhorrence of discipline. He could as well be a perfect 
Communist as he could be a member of the Ku Klux Klan. In 
any event, he is infinitely more valuable to the Communists 
out of the party than in it. 

Menon resigned from the Labour party in 1941, but was re- 
admitted a year later. It is now said that he left because the 
party refused to press for Indian independence until after 
the war. It seems more probable that he left before he was 
kicked out. He was allowed to return to the party with other 
extreme Left Wingers when Labour's relations with the Com- 
munists improved during the height of the "grand alliance" 
between Russia and the Western powers. 

By 1946 Labour was in power in Britain and independence 
was in sight for India. Menon still hesitated over whether to 
enter Indian politics or stay in British politics. His course was 
decided by a message he received in London from Nehru, then 
head of the provisional Indian government and premier- 
designate of the new Indian state. Long years of separation 
had not caused Nehru to forget his companion in the Spanish 
trenches. He asked Menon to make a quick tour of European 
capitals as his personal representative. Menon accepted the 
mission. When India achieved full independence the follow- 
ing year, Nehru named Menon the country's first high com- 
missioner (ambassador) to the Court of St. James's. Menon 
was so little known at that time that his name did not even 
appear in the Indian Who's Who. Except for Nehru, the few 


Indian leaders who had met Menon in London were not im- 
pressed. Sardar Patel, the man who unified India after inde- 
pendence, and Maulana Azad, one of Nehru's closest advisers, 
opposed Menon's appointment as high commissioner. Azad 
says in his autobiography: "Krishna Menon professed great 
admiration for Jawaharlal and I knew Jawaharlal often lis- 
tened to his advice. I did not feel very happy about this be- 
cause I felt Krishna Menon often gave him the wrong advice. 
Sardar Patel and I did not always see eye to eye but we were 
agreed in our judgment about him." 

Menon visited Delhi briefly, then returned in triumph to 
London. He shed his shabby flannel bags and grubby over- 
coat in favor of tight, rather unfashionable but faultlessly 
tailored Savile Row suits. He never appears in anything else 
outside India. In India he affects Keralan national dress. For 
the high commission, Menon selected expensive crockery, 
cutlery, carpets, and curtains with obvious relish. Although he 
preferred to live in a single room behind his office in India 
House, he purchased a comfortable residence in Kensington 
Palace Gardens for official entertaining. He also bought a 
fleet of limousines, despite his own preference for traveling 
by bus. 

The financial scandals connected with Menon's term as high 
commissioner in London are as notorious in India as the Billie 
Sol Estes case is now in America. He began by losing 17,000 
($47,600) of government funds on the purchase of additional 
office space for the high commission. He was publicly cen- 
sured for allowing the government to be grossly overcharged 
for 4,275 cases of whisky ordered by the Indian Army. But 
the most serious allegations against him arose from the now 
famous "jeep case." In July 1948 he signed a contract for the 
supply of 2,000 jeeps for the Indian Army with an unknown 
and nondescript English firm named Anti-Mistant Ltd. He 
advanced 143,162 ($400,853.60) in Indian government funds 
to the company, which went into liquidation after delivering 
only 155 jeeps. The vehicles were found to be useless and 
unserviceable. No spare parts were included. 

The Indian Parliament's Estimates Committee demanded 
an urgent inquiry. Two years later no steps had been taken 


to open the investigation. In March 1951 Menon signed a new 
contract with an equally unknown firm named S.C.K. (Agen- 
cies) Ltd. for the supply of 1,007 jeeps at almost twice the unit 
price quoted in the previous contract. The new firm prom- 
ised to absorb the losses on the first contract. Only forty-nine 
jeeps were delivered. Then S.C.K. stopped further shipments 
on the ground that the Indian government had reneged on an 
oral promise to give the spare-parts contract to the company. 
The Indian Parliament's Public Accounts Committee cen- 
sured the authorities concerned and declared, "It is not pos- 
sible to hold that the lapses were merely procedural or due 
to defects in the rules." The auditing committee that finally 
visited India House to investigate the jeep scandal was headed 
by R. P. Sarathy, who has since become a Menon protg and 
a key official of the Defense Ministry. General K. S. Thimayya, 
the former army chief of staff, who opposed Menon, told me 
that Sarathy "tore from his report the pages with incriminat- 
ing evidence against Menon/' India brought suit against 
S.C.K. in London for the recovery of 254,498 ($712,594.40). 
Menon would have been the principal witness called by the 
firm. In April 1961, with the case due to come up on May 2 
in the Queens Bench Division of the High Court, Law Minis- 
ter Ashoke K. Sen was dispatched to London to arrange an out- 
of-court settlement. India waived its entire claim. 

It has never been determined whether Menon was corrupt 
or merely careless in the jeep case and on other questionable 
contracts he negotiated in London, Trikumdas says, "Menon 
is completely dishonest in his deals. The money he got from 
these deals went to the Communist party." Reginald Sorenson, 
who generally dislikes Menon, says, "He is a man of tre- 
mendous self-sacrifice and supreme integrity. But his judg- 
ment can be very faulty." An American-trained Indian busi- 
nessman with close connections in Delhi agrees. He says, 
"Menon is honest in all financial transactions. He has no 
personal fortune. But he's completely unscrupulous in choos- 
ing his friends." My own feeling is that Menon is irresponsible 
financially, as well as in every other way, but that he is not 

The jeep scandal overshadowed Menon's successful efforts 


to work out a formula to enable the new Republic of India 
to remain in the British Commonwealth of Nations. By 1952 
he was under attack from all sides. Even Nehru is reputed to 
have decided to drop him. Trikumdas visited London at the 
time and says: "Menon thought he was finished in Indian 
politics. He would come to my hotel in London at eight 
o'clock every morning and telephone me in my room asking 
me to help him. He went into great detail to exonerate him- 
self. This went on for ten days/' 

It was Nehru who, as usual, came to Menon's rescue. About 
this time the Prime Minister visited Paris to attend a con- 
ference of Indian ambassadors in Europe. Menon presented a 
pitiable spectacle. He seemed about to die. He walked with 
difficulty, leaning heavily on his cane and the arm of an aide. 
Nehru was suitably impressed. He told an Indian diplomat 
that he thought it would kill Menon if he were dropped from 
government service just then. So Nehru appointed his old 
friend deputy chief of the Indian delegation to the United 
Nations. The change appeared to have had a miraculous effect 
on Menon, who reportedly began walking normally soon 
after Nehru left Paris. 

At the U.N. Menon was supposed to serve under Mrs. Vijaya 
Lakshmi Pandit, the Prime Minister's sister, and later the first 
woman president of the U.N. General Assembly. Madame 
Pandit had already served as India's ambassador in Moscow 
and Washington, and there was no doubt where her sympa- 
thies lay. Nehru had once rebuked her for being "the only 
one among us who defends the American empire." From the 
beginning she and Menon came into violent collision. Menon 
even refused to show her the cables he sent to Delhi. She 
complained bitterly against him, but Nehru dismissed her 
objections as "too personal." Menon won the day. Thereafter 
he took orders from no one but Nehru. 

India's voice in the U.N. suddenly took on a rasping, 
caustic quality unknown in the days of previous Indian 
spokesmen. As A. M. Rosenthal, of the New York Times, says, 
Menon made a reputation for himself and lost it for his 
country. Menon had no difficulty putting the blame on South 
Korea for the refusal of Communist prisoners of war to return 


home. And when Communist China accused America o wag- 
ing germ warfare in Korea, Menon said that it was not for 
him to deny the charges. He produced a Korean peace plan 
which Henry Cabot Lodge, the only American official for 
whom Menon has publicly demonstrated his regard, called 
"a splendid and sincere effort for peace." Russia rejected 
Menon's plan, but he blamed its failure on American bomb- 
ing beyond the Yalu River. 

Menon reached the summit of his international prestige at 
the 1954 Geneva conference that brought the war in Indo- 
china to an end. Although India was not a full-fledged par- 
ticipant, Menon was the most indefatigable toiler in the 
diplomatic pastures. He produced formula after formula to 
induce the Western powers to accept the partition of Indo- 
china. For him, the only issue was the liquidation of French 
imperialism. He ignored the extension of Communist influ- 
ence in southeast Asia, Seven years later he told me, "The 
United States tried to sabotage the conference, Dulles kept 
coming in and out like Talleyrand." He blames all of south- 
east Asia's subsequent woes on American interference in Laos 
and on South Vietnam's refusal to co-operate with the Indian- 
led International Control Commission, 

In October 1954 Menon anticipated Soviet proposals on 
Germany when he told the U.N. General Assembly that a so- 
lution of the German problem lay in "direct talks . . . for 
the unification of Germany." He declared, "German peace is 
necessary for world peace and German peace means the uni- 
fication of Germany in whatever way it is brought about." He 
could see no difference in the sovereign status of East and 
West Germany. Such views led Andrei Vyshinsky, the former 
Soviet delegate in the U.N., to applaud Menon as "an honest 
man," while making clear that he thought differently about 
other Indian delegates. 

Hungary provided the most striking example of Menon's 
depths of tolerance for the Communist bloc. He dismissed 
Soviet repression of the 1956 uprising as an internal affair of 
Hungary and compared it to a linguistic riot in Ahmedabad. 
With new-found reverence for legal niceties, Menon told the 
U.N. General Assembly on November 8, 1956: "Even with all 


the emotional environment that surrounds the present situa- 
tion, we may not forget the sovereign rights of a sovereign 
state in the Assembly. We may not refer to a member state 
as though it were struggling for its independence. ... It is 
our view that in dealing with a member state, the General As- 
sembly cannot deal with the problem in the same way as in 
the case of a colonial country where the people have no repre- 
sentation. We anticipate with hope and with confidence that 
the Soviet Union, having announced its intention to withdraw 
its troops from Hungary, will implement that decision soon." 

Menon's hope and confidence turned out to be as well based 
as his respect for Hungary's sovereign rights. 

The following day his scruples found new expression. "Any 
approach we make/' he cautioned, "as though this [Hungary] 
is a colonial country which is not represented at the U.N. is 
not in accordance with either law or the facts of the position." 
India, he said, was informed that Soviet troops would be with- 
drawn from Budapest "as soon as order is restored.'* The in- 
formation was authentic. It came from Marshal Nikolai Bul- 
ganin. Later that day Menon voted with the Soviet bloc and 
Yugoslavia against a five-power resolution denouncing Soviet 
repression in Hungary, again calling on Russia to withdraw 
its forces, and asking for free elections in Hungary under U.N. 
supervision. The vote was 48 to 11, with 16 abstentions. India 
was the only non-Communist country to oppose the resolution. 

Menon's action unleashed a flood of criticism in India and 
the West. His political enemies rashly assumed he was 
through. Nehru backtracked with a weak explanation that, 
"Mr. Menon does not always speak for India." Stories were 
circulated, presumably for the benefit of the Western press, 
that the Prime Minister had sent a stern rebuke to his U.N. 
representative. It is true that Menon had not received specific 
instructions from New Delhi on how to vote on the five-power 
resolution. But he had studied Nehru's speech of the day 
before to the All-India Congress Committee in Calcutta in 
which the Prime Minister paralleled the Soviet line on Hun- 
gary. Nehru called the explosion in Hungary a "civil war" 
and, except for one indirect criticism, ignored the Russian 
attack. In these circumstances he appeared to condone the 


Intervention of Soviet forces at the request of the "legitimate 
government/* Menon simply applied Nehru's reasoning to the 
five-power resolution on Hungary. He complained that parts 
of the resolution were unacceptable because they "prejudged" 
the results of the on-the-spot inquiry that Secretary-General 
Dag Hammarskjold had been asked to make in Hungary. He 
said that India preferred to await Hammarskjold's findings, 
although he knew as well as everyone else that the Russians 
had no intention of allowing the Secretary-General into Hun- 
gary. He could see no point in passing a resolution unless it 
could be carried out in practice, a subtlety he has never ap- 
plied to Indian-sponsored resolutions on such subjects as 
racial discrimination in South Africa or an uncontrolled 
nuclear-test ban. 

Both Nehru and Menon repeatedly lamented the lack of 
"reliable information" from Hungary, although they were re- 
ceiving regular and detailed reports from their Charg6 d' Af- 
faires in Budapest, M. A. Rehman, and from K, P. S. Menon, 
then Indian ambassador in Moscow, who went to Hungary in 
November to investigate the situation. Both these diplomats 
were reporting fully and objectively on the course of events. 
Their dispatches were ignored. 

As late as November 21, 1956, when the Hungarian revolt 
was already history, Menon told the U.N. General Assembly: 
"We have kept ourselves under restraint, without pronounc- 
ing judgment on events which we have not been able to observe 
ourselves, and in spite of whatever newspaper criticism there 
may be, whatever epithets may be used, my government and 
people will not shift to a position where we are called upon 
to condemn without evidence. Even though we may believe 
something, even though all the facts point toward that, even 
if there is what a magistrate calls a prima facie case, we have 
as a sovereign government in relation to another government 
the responsibility of permitting a judgment or inference to be 
made on the basis of facts. . . /' 

Such punctilious regard for facts has never deterred India 
from issuing blanket condemnations of regimes in Angola, 
Algeria, Western Samoa, South Africa, or any of the many 
other places where there is no official Indian representative 

Finance Minister Morarji Desai at his desk, 1960 

Press Information Bureau, Government of India 

W. B. Iliff, Vice-President of the World Bank, with Morarji Desai 
at a reception, October 1960 

Press Information Bureau, Government of India 

At right, former Defense Minister V. K. Krishna Menon with 
Minister of Food and Agriculture S. K, Patil 

Central Newsphoto Service, New Delhi 


Minister of Home Affairs Lai Bahadur Shastri in his office 
Press Information Bureau, Government of India 

At left,. Krishna Menon addressing jawans at Ferozepore in 
January 1960 

Armed Forces Information Office, New Delhi 

Lai Bahadur Shastri 

Central Newsphoto Service, New Delhi 


Y. B. Chavan, Defense Minister 

Press Information Bureau, Government of India 

Y. B. Chavan in his office in Bombay when he was Chief Minister 
of Maharashtra 


on the spot. Nor is it correct to say that India simply adopted 
the position of other Afro-Asian neutrals on Hungary. Burma, 
a much smaller and weaker country, which also receives Soviet 
economic aid, repeatedly denounced Soviet aggression in 
Hungary in categorical terms. Menon, on the other hand, 
sought to equate Soviet armed intervention with what he 
hinted was interference by Western intelligence and propa- 
ganda agencies. He spoke feelingly of "the populations of 
Hungary which are trying to unite and, I hope, stand against 
the elements of dismemberment, from whichever quarter they 
may come, either from within or from without." During the 
entire Assembly debate on Hungary, he never used the terms 
"Soviet aggression" or "Soviet intervention." 

Again Menon had taken his cue from Nehru. The Prime 
Minister had told the Rajya Sabha on November 19 that 
"fascist elements" and "outsiders" had joined the Hungarian 
uprising, although he conceded, "That is not the major fact." 
According to Nehru, "There was no immediate aggression 
there [in Hungary] in the sense of something militarily hap- 
pening as there was in the case of Egypt. It was really a con- 
tinuing intervention of the Soviet armies in these countries 
based on the Warsaw Pact." 

On December 4, 1956, a full month after Russian tanks 
smothered the Hungarian revolt, Menon could finally discern 
the true outlines of the situation. "We have no doubt," he 
said, "that the beginnings of the movement in Hungary were 
the national uprising against a tyranny, whatever happened 
to it afterwards. We have equally no doubt from the expe- 
rience of our own country and others that all kinds of irre- 
sponsible elements get into a tumult of that sort." The solu- 
tion was simple. The world should "allow Hungary to settle 
down a little by itself, without foreign intervention of any 

The record indicates that there was never any real diver- 
gence between Nehru and Menon on Hungary. They were 
always in step, although, as usual, Nehru trod a bit less heavily 
on Western sensibilities. Menon was made the scapegoat for 
India's unpopular vote against the five-power resolution be- 
cause Nehru had misjudged Indian reaction to the slaughter 


of the Hungarian rebels. Frank Moraes has pointed out that 
Hungary was the first major international issue on which 
Indian public opinion challenged Nehru's wisdom. The ground 
had been laid for the outcry three years later over China's 
repression in Tibet and occupation of Indian territory. 

Before passing on to the question of India's relations with 
Peking, it is worth inquiring why Nehru and Menon refused 
to condemn Soviet imperialism in Hungary. One reason, I 
believe, is that they regard imperialism as the domination of 
white capitalist powers over nonwhite colonial peoples. 
Hungary did not fit the definition, Nehru and Menon said, 
and may possibly have believed, that Russia's reoccupation of 
Hungary on November 4 was a defensive reaction prompted 
by the Western attack on Suez. Menon is reported to have 
exclaimed at the time, "Hungary! The Russians should have 
bombed London after the Anglo-French attack on Egypt." 
Privately he told African and Asian delegates that the West 
was making much of Hungary to divert attention from Suez. 
He accused John Foster Dulles of feigning illness so that he 
would not have to lead the condemnation of Britain, France, 
and Israel in the General Assembly. The Indian leaders' 
suspicions of the West were equaled only by their reluctance 
to offend Moscow. Nehru had just succeeded in establishing 
friendly relations with the post-Stalin Russian regime. For 
Menon, such ideological and tactical considerations were re- 
inforced by the working of his "rebound mind." He habitually 
takes positions as a reaction to opposing positions. As an old 
Laski socialist, he is chagrined to be found on the side of 
major capitalist powers. Politically, I have always felt that he 
derives more satisfaction from embarrassing the United States 
than from overtly supporting the Communist bloc. For Menon, 
facts can be made to suit the circumstances. I remember him 
telling an American television interviewer, "There is no ob- 
jective truth. Truth is dynamic." 

So also is Chinese expansion. Menon's equivocations on 
Tibet and the border problem with China had already cost 
him dearly in Indian eyes before the Chinese launched their 
massive attacks along the Himalayan border before dawn on 


October 20, 1962. The call to arms on that black day in Indian 
history may well have sounded his political death knell. As 
the full magnitude of Indian military unpreparedness be- 
came apparent, Nehru was deluged with demands for Menon's 
removal as defense minister. Congress party stalwarts who had 
not dared challenge Nehru for years quietly told him that 
unless he made a sacrificial offering of Menon, the country's 
wrath would be directed against the Prime Minister himself. 
India would then have a discredited leader at the head of a 
discredited government in the country's worst crisis since in- 
dependence. Nehru's sure instinct of political self-preservation 
was aroused. He accurately sensed the nation's angry mood. 
Eighteen days after the Chinese offensive began, Menon was 
dropped from the cabinet. 

In restrospect there is no doubt that Menon shares respon- 
sibility with Nehru for the disastrous policy of Panch Sheel, 
or the "five principles of coexistence," originally enshrined 
in the now defunct Sino-Indian treaty of 1954 on Tibet. The 
five principles, relating mainly to noninterference in each 
other's affairs, lulled the Indian leaders into complacency while 
the Chinese Communists fastened their grip on Tibet and en- 
croached on Indian territory. Menon helped Nehru introduce 
Premier Chou En-lai to African and Asian government chiefs 
at the Bandung conference in April 1955. At Chou's invitation, 
Menon visited Peking on May 1 1 to continue discussions of the 
Formosa question begun at Bandung. He came back to an- 
nounce that at India's request the Communists would release 
four United States airmen imprisoned in China. In further 
efforts to improve Chinese-American relations, Menon visited 
London, Ottawa, and Washington, where he conferred with 
President Eisenhower. Menon is said to have left Washington 
resentful of the credit being given Hammarskjold for the 
airmen's release. 

When the Tibetan revolt broke out in March 1959, Menon 
told an interviewer that he had no reason to doubt Peking's 
version of events. Later he told Charles Mohr, then Time cor- 
respondent in Delhi, "We have done a lot more for Tibet than 
you have. You used Tibet as a pawn in the game of cold war. 


We provide asylum for Tibetan refugees." In the U.N., Menon 
has upheld the position that since Peking is not a member of 
the organization, it cannot be held to account for the sup- 
pression of human rights in Tibet. He also wonders how U.N. 
resolutions on Tibet can "help the cause of peace/' Menon, 
like Nehru, regards Tibet as a domestic Chinese problem 
and says, "We have no desire to interfere in the internal 
affairs of China or Tibet. The issue has become clouded in 
cold war." 

Menon's replies to criticism of defense measures on India's 
northern border are masterpieces of obfuscation. On October 
21, 1959, nine members of India's Tibet Border Force were 
killed and ten taken prisoner by Chinese Communist forces 
fifty miles inside Indian territory in the Chang Chenmo 
Valley of Ladakh. A few weeks later Menon told a Bombay 
crowd that India had not been invaded. On November 26, 
X 959 ne told Parliament that it was impossible to speak of 
Chinese aggression against India because the U.N. had not 
yet defined aggression. He said that India's policy had been 
to have "no military deployment anywhere on our interna- 
tional frontiers," ignoring the fact that more than half the 
Indian Army was then concentrated near the Kashmir cease- 
fire line and elsewhere on the Indo-Pakistani border. As for 
the frontier with China, Menon proclaimed: "That frontier 
has been left not to police protection, as some people make 
out, but has been very much like the frontier between Canada 
and the United States, in the hope that neighborly relations 
will prevail and no cause for military action would arise." 

This statement was made more than five years after Peking 
had registered its first official claim on Indian territory; more 
than two years after Chinese troops had completed a military 
highway through Indian territory on the Aksai Chin plateau; 
nine months after Chou En-lai had formally laid claim to 
14,000 square miles in Ladakh and 36,000 square miles in 
India's Northeast Frontier Agency (NEFA); two months after 
Chinese troops had fired on an Indian frontier post in the 
east, and one month after the bloody Chang Chenmo clash 
had electrified India. By Peking's own admission Chinese 
troops had started patrolling the Ladakh province of Kashmir 


in July 1951. At that time, when Communist China was still 
weak and distracted by the Korean war, it might have accepted 
a compromise with India on the border. But Nehru failed 
even to mention the subject with Peking. He later admitted in 
Parliament, "I saw no reason to discuss the frontier with the 
Chinese government because, foolishly if you like, I thought 
there was nothing to discuss." 

From 1954 to 1955, while Nehru was extolling 2,000 years 
of Sino-Indian friendship, Chinese frontier units conducted 
what Peking later called "military investigations*' and sur- 
veyed more than ten routes for the proposed Aksai Chin high- 
way to connect Chinese Sinkiang and Tibet. Several of the 
alternate routes were even deeper in Indian territory than the 
one finally chosen. Of all this activity on their own territory 
the Indian authorities remained inexplicably ignorant. India 
did not even know the Aksai Chin road existed until Peking 
obligingly announced in September 1957 that it would open 
to traffic the following month. Nehru and Menon, who became 
Minister of Defense the same year over bitter objections from 
Congress conservatives, did nothing until the following sum- 
mer. Then two small reconnaissance parties were sent to the 
area. One party returned after a long time. The other did not. 
Its fifteen members had been seized by the Chinese. But not 
until October 18, 1958, did Nehru bring himself to send a note 
to Peking protesting the construction of the road and inquir- 
ing helplessly about the missing Indian reconnaissance party. 
In a pathetic gesture of appeasement that must have provoked 
smiles in Peking, the note said, "As the Chinese government 
are aware, the Government of India are anxious to settle these 
petty frontier disputes so that the friendly relations between 
the two countries may not suffer." 

The Chinese replied tartly on November i that the Indian 
party had been "arrested" and later released after intruding on 
"Chinese territory." Peking also insisted that the Aksai Chin 
highway passed through Chinese territory. Nehru later ad- 
mitted that he was "worried" when he learned that the road 
ran through what India regarded as its own domain, but he 
neglected to inform Parliament or the public until another 
year had passed. He offered the feeble excuse that, "No par- 


ticular occasion arose to bring the matter to the House, be- 
cause we thought we might make progress by correspondence 
and when the time was ripe for it we would inform Parlia- 
ment." He conceded, "It was possibly an error or a mistake 
on my part not to have brought the facts before the House." 
But Nehru still sought as late as the fall of 1959 to minimize 
the whole border question. He dismissed the i7,ooo-foot 
Aksai Chin plateau as a wasteland "where not even a blade 
of grass grows." He was later to acknowledge that the col- 
lision of India and China in the heart of central Asia is one 
of the most fateful developments of the second half of the 
twentieth century. 

To me, the secrecy and appeasement that marked Nehru's 
handling of the border issue throughout the 1950*5 will always 
carry the trademark of Krishna Menon, although K. M. Panik- 
kar undoubtedly had much to do with it. The policy itself was 
undoubtedly conceived by Nehru in hopes of keeping the 
Chinese dragon at bay. But the execution and the rationale 
reflect Menon's influence. Even after the Chinese were attack- 
ing all along the border in October 1962, Menon continued 
to admonish Nehru against divulging routine military in- 
formation or taking any step, such as the use of Indian com- 
bat aircraft or retaliatory raids into Tibet, that might dis- 
please Peking. Earlier, when he was asked in Parliament 
why the Indian Air Force failed to bomb the Aksai Chin 
road, Menon replied, "I can answer it. But it is not wise to 
answer. Therefore, that is the position in regard to the frontier, 
and there is no question of our running away from any 
resistance that is required." In the same speech on November 
26, 1959, he declared grandly, "The frontiers of other coun- 
tries, by and large, are violated; our frontiers are violated and, 
therefore, we must take action against it." Menon repeatedly 
assured Parliament that no further Chinese incursions into 
Indian territory were possible. But the incursions con- 
tinued until the full-scale Chinese attack of October 1962, 
when all Menon's assurances were shown to be worthless. 
A second Chinese military highway was built through Aksai 
Chin, and Chinese check posts have been pushed deeper 
into Indian territory. Asked about the situation after meeting 


President Kennedy in November 1961, Menon replied sooth- 
ingly, "There is no active hostility." The following spring, 
when still more Chinese posts were spotted, he stoutly refused 
to take any step "which will expose our troops to unnecessary 

He was as sanguine as ever about the border when I talked 
with him in his large corner office in New Delhi's South Block 
office building in April 1962. When I asked him about sug- 
gestions to arbitrate the Sino-Indian dispute, he countered, 
"Who's to arbitrate?" Then, after stifling a yawn, he con- 
tinued in a schoolmasterish voice, "Arbitration is a procedure 
that only operates when the main principles are common 
ground." He expressed deep concern about the behavior of 
the then Royal Laotian government, but dismissed the 
danger of armed conflict on India's northern frontier with the 
remark, "The Chinese know they can't wage war against us 
any more than we can wage war against them. The Chinese 
fear losing prestige in a border settlement." They evidently 
did not fear losing India's good will by barefaced aggression 
only six months later. 

In the summer of 1962 Menon was responsible for drafting 
Indian notes in an increasingly acrimonious exchange with 
Peking. The Indian note of July 26 provoked an outcry in 
Parliament and the country because it merely asked the 
Chinese to "restrain" their forces from going beyond Indian 
territory that they had claimed in 1956. The note made no 
reference to the Chinese returning to the old boundary and 
offered to resume talks "as soon as the current tensions have 
eased and the appropriate climate is created." Although Nehru 
later sought to make a distinction between "preliminary talks" 
and actual negotiations on the border issue, it was clear that 
Menon favored keeping up the dialogue with the Chinese 
under any circumstances. Even after full-scale Chinese attack, 
Menon told an audience that India was fighting "to negotiate." 

The U.N. debate on a nuclear-test ban in the fall of 1961 
brought Menon into conflict with American spokesmen and 
many articulate Indians. In private he justified the powerful 
Soviet tests in the atmosphere on the ground that Russia had 
to catch up with American nuclear capability. But when the 


United States announced that it would resume underground 
testing, Menon protested that such explosions were actually 
more dangerous than atmospheric testing, because they would 
pollute underground rivers and contaminate the earth. When 
I questioned him on this, he proceeded to paint a fearsome pic- 
ture of vast subterranean caverns costing millions of dollars 
and poisoning the whole globe. For a politician whose stock 
in trade is anti-Americanism, Menon, I sometimes feel, shows 
more concern for the burdens of the American taxpayer than 
the Republican National Committee. 

Before he returned to Delhi, Menon left orders with the 
Indian delegation at the U.N. Assembly to vote against an 
eight-power resolution appealing to the Soviet Union not to 
explode its fifty-megaton bomb. The delegation leader had 
doubts and queried Delhi. Nehru promptly ordered him to 
support the resolution. What one New Delhi editor called 
Menon's "pervert distortions" of Indian policy on the eve of 
Nehru's visit to the United States in November 1961 provoked 
bitter condemnation from all major Indian newspapers. At 
Nehru's suggestion, Menon called on President Kennedy at the 
White House later that month, but, as one American official 
said, "Nothing happened. There was no meeting of minds." 

Menon's stand on disarmament has been less flagrantly 
partisan but equally irksome to Western diplomats. He has 
followed the Russian line in consistently disparaging the 
controls demanded by the United States and urging an ad- 
vance commitment to the "principle of complete disarma- 
ment" by the major powers. Each side, Menon insists, is guilty 
of "gamesmanship" on disarmament, but he throws the burden 
of responsibility for the deadlock on the capitalist West. 
"There is a general fear," he told Parliament, "particularly 
in the circles economically and militarily affected by these 
things, of what is called the 'outbreak of peace'; that is to say, 
that people may be out of work, business may go down and so 
forth." He likes to identify the Russian line on disarmament 
with the stand taken by the nonaligned countries. 

Menon may twist Nehru's foreign policy, but he rarely tries 
to nullify it on a particular issue. He tried and failed during 
the dispute over Russia's "troika" plan for a three-man U.N. 


directorate to succeed Dag Hammarskjold. Nehru rejected the 
troika soon after it was first proposed, and insisted that the 
U.N. Secretariat have one executive head. While he was in 
New York, Menon quietly promoted his own plan for alternat- 
ing secretaries-general. When he returned to Delhi, the Indian 
delegation at the U.N. co-operated with the United States in 
supporting U Thant's nomination as acting secretary-general. 

Diplomats who endured prolonged spells of Menon during 
the Geneva conference on Laos in 1961 and 1962 tell me that 
he was disagreeeable to all sides, although his sharpest thrusts 
were reserved for the United States, Britain, and Canada. He 
refused to acknowledge that India had agreed to the with- 
drawal of the International Control Commission from Laos in 
1958. His prickly personality irritated even the Russians and 
Chinese Communists. His deputy, Arthur Lall, scrupulously 
avoided offending the Communist delegates, even if it meant 
reneging on a previous Indian position. 

I have never seen Menon more incoherently abusive than 
when I talked to him about Laos and other subjects at his 
New Delhi home early on the morning of November 2, 1961. 
I found him sipping black tea he drinks up to sixty cups a 
dayas he slumped on a couch in his book-lined sitting room. 
He had undergone a minor brain operation in New York a 
few weeks before, and his Indian physician kept coming in 
and out of the room to caution him against becoming over- 
excited. The conversation began calmly enough with some 
discussion of the nuclear-test-ban issue. Disarmament proved 
more thorny. By the time I raised the subject of Laos (then 
torn by a fresh outbreak of warfare), Menon was indignant. 
"American arms started flowing into Laos," he said sourly, 
"long before the Russian airlift last December. The Russians 
only sent transport planes, while you sent fighters." When I 
persisted with questions about Communist interference in 
Laos, Menon blurted, "I feel sorry for countries subjected to 
American and Russian interference." Then, quivering with 
rage, he exploded, "Ugly Americans giving dollars and arms 
in a cantankerous way!" The interview was interrupted at this 
point by the physician, who took his patient into the next 
room, saying he had been under "great strain." 


Only later did I realize how great the strain was. Menon 
was already hatching plans to seize the i,394-square-mile 
Portuguese enclave of Goa, on the west coast of India. I have 
authentic information that Menon and Lieutenant General 
B. M. Kaul, the chief of the general staff, planned to send a 
party of Indian border police into Goa, some of whom would 
allow themselves to be captured by the Portuguese. The rest 
were to fall back and give the alarm. Under the pretext of 
rescuing the captured border guards, a small Indian force 
would move in and engage the Portuguese. The main body 
of Indian troops would then quickly overrun Goa, which is 
about the size of Rhode Island. In late November 1961 Nehru 
got wind of the scheme and summoned Menon and the senior 
military chiefs. He rebuked them for plotting direct action 
against Goa without his permission. Menon persisted. With 
the help of hand-picked lieutenants like G. K. Handoo, a top 
security officer, he stepped up subversion against the Portuguese 
in Goa. The Indian border police under Handoo's direction 
recruited, trained, and equipped saboteurs, who were slipped 
across the border into Goa. Fabricated stories about Portu- 
guese "border provocations" were fed to the Indian press. 

On December 7, 1961, Menon lent the weight of his official 
position to the concoctions. He told the Lok Sabha: "Reports 
have been pouring in for the last two weeks of intensified 
firing activity, oppression and terrorism in Goa and of heavy 
reinforcements of Portuguese armed forces. . . . There was a 
report of 2,500 troops having been deployed along the Goa 
border . . . also a report of a fleet of two Portuguese frigates 
standing guard . . . 3,000 more troops from African and 
other places have also arrived. ... It was also reported that 
dawn-to-dusk curfew had been imposed and that anyone com- 
ing after the curfew hours would be shot at sight. . . . Another 
report said that in Daman [another Portuguese coastal enclave 
in India] over 1,000 Portuguese soldiers had landed. . . . 
The Portuguese armed forces are thus poised near the border 
at various points to overawe and intimidate both the residents 
of Goa and those living in the border villages on the Indian 
side. Hit-and-run raids across the border already seem to 


have started. A raid in a village near Savantvadi was reported 
two days ago." 

There was indeed a military build-up under way, but it was 
on the Indian, not the Portuguese, side. Rail traffic through- 
out northern and western India had been disrupted to move 
the elite 50 th Paratroop Brigade and the 17th Infantry Divi- 
sion to jumping-off positions near the Goa border. Elements 
of the First Armored Division were also deployed. In full 
view of the Goan coast, India had assembled a task force com- 
posed of the newly acquired aircraft carrier Vikrant, two 
cruisers, a destroyer flotilla, at least two antisubmarine fri- 
gates, two antiaircraft frigates, and supporting craft. Canberra 
jet bombers and Gnat and Vampire fighters had been con- 
centrated at Belgaum to support the ground and naval units. 

Contrary to what Menon had said, no Portuguese reinforce- 
ments ever reached the 3,5oo-man garrison in Goa and the 
two smaller enclaves in India. Against India's heavy Centurion 
tanks, the Portuguese could muster only a handful of 1942- 
vintage armored reconnaissance cars. They had no air force 
whatever. Their only warship was the seventeen-year-old sloop 
Affonso d' Albuquerque, which went into action against the 
entire Indian armada. I know these facts firsthand because I 
spent ten days covering every part of Goa before the Indians 
invaded, and I was there during the take-over. My own ob- 
servation leads me to credit the estimate by foreign military 
attaches that India enjoyed at least a ten-to-one numerical 
superiority over the hopelessly ill-equipped and outmanned 
Portuguese defenders. 

The invasion of Goa actually began more than twenty-four 
hours before India announced early on December 18, 1961, 
that its troops had been ordered to move in. On Sunday morn- 
ing, December 17, several other Western correspondents and I 
ran into bearded Indian troops dug in at least a quarter of a 
mile inside Goan territory. They had taken over the Sin- 
quervale frontier post, abandoned three days before by the 
Portuguese, who feared that its exposed position would give 
the Indians an opportunity to provoke a shooting incident. 
The Indians needed no pretext. 


The other correspondents and I alighted from our taxi to 
walk several hundred yards to what we expected would be a 
Portuguese frontier post. There was an ominous silence until 
we heard a voice shouting to us in Hindi to stop. A turbaned 
Sikh trained his machine gun on us. We explained that we 
were British and American newsmen and asked to see the of- 
ficer in charge. We were then taken into custody and held at 
the post for an hour, until an Indian Army captain in para- 
troop uniform arrived on the scene. He questioned us about 
the condition of the roads in Goa, then told us to return to 
Pangim, Goa's capital, in the taxi we had brought. As we 
left, he said matter-of-factly: "It's all right your coming here 
in daylight. But tonight or, rather, at night we couldn't 
guarantee your safety." That night the push was on. 

Soon after the invasion began, Menon called a news con- 
ference in New Delhi. He was in a jaunty mood. India, he ex- 
plained, had been "forced" to send troops into Goa to protect 
the civil population against the breakdown of law and order 
and the collapse of the "colonial regime." I know from my own 
observation that there was no breakdown of law and order and 
no collapse of the regime in Pangim or any of the many other 
places I saw in Goa. I had twice visited the central prison 
in Pangim, and found it occupied by only eleven bored in- 
mates, seven of them political prisoners. There had not been 
a single case of arson, looting, or terrorism in Pangim in the 
ten days before the Indians invaded. There was no curfew 
there or anywhere else in Goa. Where isolated acts of ter- 
rorism or sabotage had taken place, it was established that 
most of them were committed by infiltrators trained and 
equipped by Handoo's Indian border police. 

Menon had talked about the people of Goa being "shot 
down, repressed, and massacred." He had said that the Goans 
must achieve their own liberation. But the striking thing 
about Goa on the eve of the Indian take-over was its tranquil- 
lity. There was no popular resistance movement worthy of the 
name. Portugal was not particularly popular, but neither 
was India except among a section of Goan Hindus (mostly 
lawyers, teachers, and other middle-class professionals), who 
hoped their status would improve under Indian rule. They are 


already showing signs of disappointment. Many of Goa's 
228,000 Christians (out of a total population of 640,000) 
might have preferred to maintain some link with Portugal 
as insurance against being swamped by the fast-growing Hindu 
majority. My own feeling is that a majority of politically con- 
scious Goans would have elected for autonomy or actual 
independence if they had been given the choice. 

Ten days before Indian troops had moved onto Goan soil, 
Menon told the lower house of Parliament, "The position of 
the government is that there is no question of our going and 
liberating Goa. The question is that we shall not leave our 
places undefended. . . ." He termed Indian troop movements 
"precautionary," and said flatly, "There is no question of sud- 
denly hitting or attacking; Government ... is not thinking 
of any operations." 

A few years before, Menon had publicly affirmed, "I say 
categorically that India will not take one step that involves 
the use of force to alter a situation, even if the legal right is 
on her side." Nehru had been even more specific. Speaking 
of Goa in Parliament on September 17, 1955, he said, "We 
rule out nonpeaceful methods completely." Even a police ac- 
tion, he said, would lay Indians open to the charge of being 
"deceitful hypocrites." He insisted that reliance on peaceful 
methods to bring Goa into India "is not only a sound policy, 
but the only possible policy." 

Such is India's record on Goa. It has earned Menon the 
epithet of the "Goa constrictor." I have never been able to 
understand why the resort to force to seize Goa surprised so 
many people in America and Britain. Nehru champions many 
Gandhian ideals, but pure nonviolence is not one of them. He 
has used violence before in Kashmir and against the princely 
state of Hyderabad in 1948. He is still using it against the 
Naga rebels fighting for their independence in extreme eastern 
India. During the first fifteen years of independence, Indian 
police have fired on Indian crowds at least as frequently as the 
British used force during the last fifteen years of their rule. 
For his part, Menon has never even paid lip service to 
Gandhism. He calls it "good merchandise" but boasts that he 
does not need it. 


For me, the most significant thing about the Goa operation 
is the light it sheds on Menon's power at that time to manipu- 
late Nehru and the rest of the Indian government for his own 
ends. To what extent Nehru believed Menon's fraudulent ver- 
sion of events leading up to the take-over is difficult to say at 
this stage. The Prime Minister was under heavy pressure from 
the Army and public opinion on the eve of the 1962 elections 
to demonstrate that he could deal firmly with foreign intruders. 
No action being possible (in Nehru's judgment) against the 
Chinese, he may have felt compelled to move on Goa. I have 
never accepted the notion that Goa was primarily designed to 
enhance Menon's electoral prospects in North Bombay. Menon 
was convinced he could win without Goa because he had 
Nehru and the Congress machine working for him. 

The North Bombay campaign in the fall and winter of 
1961-1962 was the most bitterly contested and lavishly financed 
election in Indian history. It aroused strong passions in India 
and abroad. Its outcome, although never really in doubt, was 
thought likely to affect the future of India and Asia for many 
years to come. 

North Bombay is what is known in India as a "prestige 
constituency." Its 762,775 eligible voters, living in an area of 
254 square miles, include many Bombay cinema artists, 
writers, and professional people. But the majority is com- 
posed of illiterate slum dwellers, poor artisans, petty traders, 
and manual laborers. Tiny stall shops and thatch huts sprawl 
over the tidal marsh land of North Bombay. The constituency 
has been solidly Congress for many years. In 1957 Menon was 
elected from there without difficulty, although the local tide 
was running against the Congress party at the time. 

When Menon sought renomination from North Bombay in 
1961, he met surprising opposition. The district Congress 
party committee voted by a narrow margin to choose an old- 
school party stalwart over Menon. Nehru was furious and 
demanded that Menon run from North Bombay. Local party 
leaders finally bowed to the Prime Minister, but twenty-six 
members of the Congress party youth organization resigned 
and declared in a statement, "We are convinced Menon is 
procormmmist and the future of the country is not safe in his 


hands as India's defense minister and spokesman o our 
foreign policy. . . . We feel it is our bounden duty to see 
that he is defeated." Nehru later told 200,000 people in 
Bombay that the defectors could "go to hell." At the end of 
his speech, he turned to Menon, sitting behind him, to ask, 
"Is that all you wanted me to say?" 

Menon was opposed by the perennial maverick of Indian 
politics, seventy-four-year-old Jiwatram Bhagwandas Kripalani, 
who carries the honorific title of Acharya (teacher) and once 
served as president of the Congress party. He resigned from 
Congress in 1951 in a dispute with Nehru, formed his own 
party, and finally became an independent. In North Bombay 
he was backed by an unlikely coalition of the Praja Socialist 
party, the traditionalist Hindu Jan Sangh, and the Right Wing 
conservative Swatantra party. As a long-time associate of 
Gandhi and friend of Nehru, Kripalani was loath to attack 
Congress or Nehru. He concentrated his fire on Menon, whom 
he called "the spearhead of the creeping march of Communism 
in the country and in the Congress." He insisted that it was 
dangerous to entrust the defense of the country against Com- 
munist China to such a man. 

This issue, however well chosen, evoked little response 
among the largely illiterate masses of North Bombay. Kripa- 
lani's own supporters were often at odds. His campaign was 
badly organized. 

Menon, on the other hand, rode to victory on the well-oiled 
machines of Congress and the Communists, with a powerful 
assist from Nehru. Congress and Communist party workers 
carried on door-to-door campaigning for him in every ward 
of the constituency. The movie colony, attracted by Menon's 
radicalism and flattered by his attentions, was mobilized. A. M. 
Tariq, a Moslem member of Parliament and former tonga- 
driver from Kashmir, was imported to rally North Bombay's 
80,000 Moslems. Mrs. Violet Alva, a south Indian Christian, 
who was then deputy home minister, appealed to the 50,000 
Christians (mostly Goans). Even Bombay's powerful bootleg- 
gers were told to muster their supporters. But by far the 
most effective support for Menon came from Nehru. Driving 
himself at an inhuman pace, Nehru toured India from Kashmir 


to Kerala defending Menon at every turn. He campaigned in 
North Bombay a month before the elections and offered to 
return in the last days, but the Congress party bosses assured 
him that Menon's victory was already safe. Nehru's theme 
was: "A vote against Menon is a vote against me." He even 
threatened to resign if the Defense Minister were defeated. 
While Menon remained silent in the face of charges that he 
was a crypto-Communist, Nehru heatedly denied them, insist- 
ing, "Mr. Menon is a socialist like me. But he is a real socialist 
and not an armchair socialist/' Overexertion during the cam- 
paign contributed to the illness that incapacitated Nehru for 
several weeks in April. 

In Bombay, the Communists concentrated on ensuring 
Menon's re-election to the exclusion of all else. They took over 
the Citizens Committee for Menon. They broke up Kripalani 
meetings and burned anti-Menon newspapers. They were so 
engrossed in Menon's cause that they made little effort to save 
their veteran organizer and Lok Sabha leader, Shripad Amrit 
Dange, from defeat in another Bombay constituency. "One 
Menon is worth a hundred Danges" was the word that went 
out to party activists. The Communists eagerly exploited 
charges by Menon and Nehru that "outside interests" clearly 
meaning the United States were conspiring to defeat the 
Defense Minister. When I asked Nehru at a news conference 
after the election which "interests" he was alluding to, he 
said he would rather not identify them. 

Menon's campaign manager and constant companion in 
Bombay was Dr. A. V. Baliga, fellow-traveling Indian surgeon 
and former president of the Indo-Soviet Cultural Society. He 
treated Menon's physical complaints as well as his political in- 

The Defense Minister had been "nursing" his constituency 
with patronage and such favors as new suburban railway sta- 
tions for several years. He visited every corner of North 
Bombay, including six tiny offshore fishing islands included in 
the constituency. He spoke in churches, on street corners, in 
public parks, and anywhere else a crowd could be found. Since 
he is unable to speak any vernacular Indian language, much 
of Menon's English rhetoric was lost on his auditors, but 


they were flattered by his presence. He never referred by name 
to Kripalani and never specifically denied the charge that 
he was partial to the Communist bloc. Instead, he harped on 
the theme that he was a loyal lieutenant of Nehru and faithful 
exponent of the socialist policy espoused in resolutions of the 
Congress party. He attacked vested interests and spoke vaguely 
about the need for disarmament and coexistence. It is an 
irony of politics that his themes and the way he approached 
them would have been far more understandable to American 
voters than would the Gandhian metaphysics of Kripalani. 

Kashmir was the only foreign-policy issue Menon stressed. 
It had paid off in 1957, when Menon was hailed as the "hero 
of Kashmir" for his twenty-hour defense of India's position in 
the U.N. Security Council. When he collapsed at the end o 
one eight-hour stretch of oratory, he revived long enough to 
ask, "Where is the A.P. [Associated Press] man?" The Indian 
government's Films Division thoughtfully released propaganda 
films on Menon and Kashmir before both the 1957 and the 
1962 elections. 

The outcome of the North Bombay contest was apparent to 
any unbiased observer long before the votes were cast. But 
Menon and Kripalani campaigned intensively until the end. 
I will never forget watching Menon, on the last night of the 
campaign, being hoisted to his feet by two burly helpers. 
Clutching the microphone, the tottering figure in long Keralan 
robes addressed the crowds in a hoarse whisper. Kripalani was 
equally exhausted. His last speech was a fervent warning 
against Menon. As police sirens wailed to signify the official 
close of campaigning, Kripalani uttered his last exhortation 
to the voters, "Beware of Communisml" 

When the votes were counted, Menon was the victor, with 
298,427 votes to Kripalani's 157,069. It was the second biggest 
landslide in the 1962 elections. The next day Menon made a 
well-publicized courtesy call on his defeated rival. Under the 
headline "Menon Routs Reaction," the pro-Communist Bom- 
bay weekly Blitz cried, "The electorate of North Bombay 
has saved the Nehru ideology from a fascist coup. The will of 
God and history has been asserted." Kripalani went into tem- 
porary retirement. Menon told me that his election was a 


"fresh mandate for socialism." Delhi buzzed with rumors that 
Nehru would now make a drastic shift to the Left. The Bom- 
bay Stock Exchange sank giddily, and Right Wing members of 
the cabinet trembled for their political lives. 

The exultant and the fearful were equally deluded. The real 
victor of North Bombay was not Menon, but Nehru and the 
Congress machine. The stop-Menon movement had failed, but 
the Defense Minister still lacked the support of any important 
faction of the Congress party. The massive Menon vote did 
not reflect mass popularity. In caste-conscious, symbol-ridden, 
tradition-governed India, the verdict of one constituency is a 
poor clue to a politician's national following. Since the elec- 
tion, Menon has plunged into an endless round of speechmak- 
ing before garden clubs, student groups, dramatic societies, and 
anyone else who will listen. He attends flower shows, inaugu- 
rates sports events, gives away prizes, opens schools, and sits 
on any platform in sight. This frenzied activity reflects Menon's 
realization that he still lacks a political base outside Nehru. 
His native state is no source of strength. The reason, of course, 
is that Menon is as much a stranger in Kerala as anywhere else 
in India. 

You feel the intellectual chasm between Menon and any 
Indian audience the moment he starts speaking. I especially 
remember a little talk he gave at the opening of a dramatic 
festival for clerks and other lower-ranking civilian employees 
of the Defense Ministry in New Delhi. Menon stared at his 
audience a moment and then began speaking as if he were 
carrying on a monologue. "There is a curious social mathe- 
matics in this country/' he mused. "When we speak of people 
in India, one and one don't make two. They cancel each other 
out because fellowship is lacking." His audience gazed at 
him in bewilderment. "You can't abolish slums simply with 
brick and mortar," he continued. "You have to create an anti- 
slum mentality. You have to develop a mind that is against 
dirt." He spoke the last word as if he could taste it in his 
mouth. I could sense the old undercurrent of bitterness in his 
voice as he went on. "Unless the mind is against dirt, people 
get used to it. Even microbes get immune to medicines. That's 
what makes medicines less effective. This immunity to evil is 


what education must prevent." Then he stopped speaking as 
abruptly as he had begun. His definition of the role of educa- 
tion struck me as the quintessence of his brilliant negativism. 
I doubt if he could formulate a thought that did not include 
at least one negative. 

When Menon is not speaking to baffled mass audiences, he 
is lecturing his small coterie of admirers in Parliament. They 
include the ambitious Leftist Oil Minister, K. D. Malaviya; 
A. M. Tariq, a political hack; and a handful of others. T. T. 
Krishnamachari, the former finance minister who resigned 
under fire, was brought back into the cabinet as a minister 
without portfolio, reportedly at Menon's behest. Krishna- 
machari's socialism is supposed to coincide with Menon's, but 
the two men are more likely to be rivals than partners after 
Nehru goes. In the fall of 1962 they were reported to have 
quarreled bitterly over economic policy. Two other cabinet 
ministers, Law Minister Ashoke Sen and Minister of Scientific 
Research and Cultural Affairs Humayun Kabir are often said 
to be close to Menon, but have not been notably active in his 
behalf. Jagjivan Ram, who was then railways minister and 
who now holds the transport and communications portfolio, 
got Menon's backing for the deputy leadership of the Con- 
gress parliamentary party in 1961 and might some day return 
the favor if Menon's political fortunes improve. 

The real power in the Congress party after Nehru will not 
be with members of Parliament and ministers in the central 
cabinet. It will be in the hands of chief ministers in the states 
and party bosses in the countryside. Menon's support among 
this group is practically nil at the present. Maharashtra's 
powerful Chief Minister, Y. B. Chavan, supported Menon's 
campaign in North Bombay on orders from Nehru, not out of 
fondness for the Defense Minister. Kamaraj Nadar, chief 
minister of Madras and Congress party powerhouse in south 
India, has little use for Menon. Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed, 
the strong-arm prime minister of Kashmir state, has some- 
times been regarded as a Menon supporter, but may have fallen 
out with him recently. Menon has poured defense funds into 
the Punjab, possibly in hopes of winning the state's hard- 
handed Chief Minister, Sardar Pratap Singh Kairon, a former 


Ford assembly-line worker and graduate of the University of 
Michigan. But Kairon, like Menon, depends on Nehru. Once 
Nehru goes, Kairon's bitter foes among the Punjab's Sikhs 
are likely to strike him down. 

The only chief minister who might be willing and able to 
give Menon effective support in a bid for power is Bijoyananda 
Patnaik, the ruthless and unprincipled young multimillionaire 
who runs the state of Orissa, in eastern India. Patnaik is a 
kind of Indian Huey Long. He is addicted to authoritarian 
methods and will stop at nothing in his pursuit of power. He 
won repute in Congress by retrieving the party's fortunes in 
the 1961 mid- term elections in Orissa. The state, long one of 
the poorest and most backward in India, has become in effect 
another department of Patnaik's giant Kalinga Enterprises. 
Patnaik's business deals became so notorious a few years ago 
that the then Union Finance Minister notified all government 
departments, "The Finance Minister will not support any 
project with which Mr. Patnaik is associated." Patnaik, 
Malaviya, and Menon have each rented a floor in the New 
Delhi office building recently erected by the Communist-line 
weekly Link, and Patnaik is a major stockholder in the pub- 
lication, which unfailingly backs Menon. 

India's Communists would undoubtedly support Menon for 
the premiership unless they saw a chance of winning power 
themselves. In that event they would have no difficulty for- 
getting the cantankerous Keralan. The Indian Communist 
party is divided and nowhere in power today. If it adheres to 
constitutional methods, the party could help Menon little in 
the next five or six years. In the unlikely event that the Com- 
munists reverted to the agitational tactics they practiced in 
the early independence period, they would have to subvert or 
overpower the Indian Army. They are incapable of doing 
either today. 

Whatever other support Menon may have, his political 
strength is still the shadow of Jawaharlal Nehru. Many Right 
Wing Congressmen long believed that Nehru's refusal to des- 
ignate a successor even by implication was a stall aimed at 
giving Menon time to build a political base. Nehru's decision 
to take over the Defense Ministry himself after the military de- 
bacle of October 1962 was made only under intense pressure 


from an aroused party and public. Although Menon had been 
dropped from the cabinet, it was not clear in the closing 
months of the year whether he retained Nehru's confidence in 
such measure that he might eventually hope to make a political 
comeback. It is clear, however, that Menon's position, once 
Nehru goes, will probably be more vulnerable than ever. Frank 
Moraes predicts that once Nehru is gone, "the Congress pack 
will descend on Krishna Menon like hungry wolves and tear 
him apart politically." 

One tactic Menon may adopt to escape such a painful 
denouement is to support Indira Gandhi for the premiership. 
Her ideas are to the left of the Congress majority, but all fac- 
tions in the party might be persuaded to accept her because she 
is an alUndia figure whose name and successful tenure as 
Congress president have brought her considerable prestige. 
Mrs. Gandhi is probably closer to Menon than to anyone else 
in the cabinet except her father and Home Minister Lai Ba- 
hadur Shastri. She disagreed with Menon on Tibet and on 
Congress participation in an anti-Communist coalition in 
Kerala, but on most questions their views coincide. Menon 
has recently gone out of his way to flatter Mrs. Gandhi, but he 
probably deludes himself if he thinks he can rule through 
her. Indira Gandhi is no one's mouthpiece. 

If all constitutional roads to power are blocked, Menon can 
hardly have failed to think of the alternative. He is authori- 
tarian by nature. The use of force has no terrors for him. The 
question is whether he could muster the force to fulfill what 
he undoubtedly regards as his historic destiny. Menon's re- 
moval from the Defense Ministry in October 1962 followed 
the bitter reaction among army officers to disclosures of In- 
dian weakness in the Himalayas. Whatever following he had 
in the officer corps appeared to have vanished in the nation- 
wide wave of resentment at his handling of frontier defenses. 

During his five-year tenure as defense minister, Menon suc- 
ceeded in forcing out a number of senior officers, including 
General Thimayya, who resisted his dictation. He was less suc- 
cessful in breaking up the Army's long-established units based 
on caste or province. He twice raised officers' pay scales and 
improved billets and other amenities. He was also more suc- 
cessful in extracting appropriations from Parliament than 


any previous defense minister. Under his supervision, the vol- 
ume of India's military production has more than doubled, 
and now includes jet fighters, recoilless rifles, antitank guns, 
trucks, jeeps, and other items previously imported. But few 
of these weapons had reached front-line troops by the time 
the Chinese attacked in October 1962. The real cost of Indian- 
produced military equipment is impossible to determine, be- 
cause Menon refuses to permit even Indian government audi- 
tors to inspect the books of the ordnance factories and other 
defense establishments. The quality is still below Western 

In July 1961 Menon organized an elaborate demonstration 
of the Indian-made HF-24 fighter, which he hailed as the first 
supersonic jet war plane produced in Asia. The HF-24 was a 
fraud. It is incapable of reaching supersonic speeds in level 
flight. After a British manufacturer declined to underwrite 
development costs for a new engine for the HF-24, Menon 
persuaded Nehru to take up a Soviet offer to sell India super- 
sonic MiG-2i fighters for rupees. The United States and 
Britain made vain eleventh-hour efforts to block the MiG 
deal by offering Western fighters on attractive terms. Many 
Western observers concluded that India was moving toward 
the Soviet bloc. In fact, the MiG purchase had little to do 
with politics except that the Indian leaders interpreted it 
as a tacit guarantee of Russian support against Chinese 
Communist expansionism. India's hopes were disappointed 
when the Soviet Union made clear its ultimate sympathies 
were with China after full-scale fighting began on the Indian- 
Chinese border in October 1962. American discomfiture at 
the talk of MiGs was all the more surprising in view of the 
fact that everyone in Delhi had known since July 1961, when 
the first American supersonic fighters were promised to Paki- 
stan, that India would shop for equivalent planes. As in so 
many other situations, American Ambassador John Kenneth 
Galbraith appears to have failed to alert Washington to In- 
dian intentions until it was too late. 

Under the guise of stimulating domestic production of 
critical military equipment, Menon has partially broken the 
West's monopoly on the supply of arms to India. He rejected 
a lightweight American plastic rifle in favor of an Indian 


model although qualified Indian officers strongly endorsed the 
American weapon. He ignored an American offer to demon- 
strate the C-i^o turboprop transport for him. Instead, he con- 
tracted for the purchase of eight Soviet AN- 12 transports, 
which have proved unsuitable for airlift operations at Ladakh's 
high altitudes. Russian MI-4 helicopters, ordered by M enon in 
preference to American and French models, have also failed 
to fulfill expectations. India has now arranged to produce 
helicopters under license from a French firm. 

Menon was out as defense minister the day after it was 
announced that India had asked for emergency shipments 
of American military equipment in the face of the Chinese 
onslaught in October 1962. 

Despite such blunders, Menon gave India's armed forces 
a new feeling of importance. He helped remove the "anti- 
patriotic" stigma that clung to the services for their gen- 
erally pro-British stand during the independence movement. 
He ruthlessly brushed aside government regulations and 
administrative procedures to get things done. "We have all 
kinds of civilian help doing army jobs/' General Thimayya 
told a foreign military attach^ in Delhi, "and other govern- 
ment agencies have to pay for it. I don't know how in hell 
Menon gets away with it, because he tells the government 
nothing." Menon carried the cult of secrecy to the point of 
requiring senior officers to swear in writing to disclose nothing. 

The cult of his own omniscience made the Defense Min- 
ister anathema to many Indian officers. In the fall of 1961 
a Bombay weekly published an anonymous letter from a 
group of army officers who said, "We are fast coming to the 
belief that the defense minister is the evil genius of inde- 
pendent India. He seems to wield some black magic over the 
mind of the prime minister." A British Labour M.P. who 
knows India well says that he has never met an Indian officer 
who really liked Menon. Michael Edwardes, an English 
historian who has served in India, reports that even younger 
officers are anti-Menon. There is evidence that a group of 
high-ranking Indian officers actually approached a Western 
attach^ in New Delhi for help in arranging to have Menon 
assassinated. Money was offered but the attach^ in question 
declined the honor. 


My own feeling is that much will depend on the stand taken 
by Lieutenant General B. M. Kaul, the brilliant spark plug of 
India's military services. He rose to his present eminence with 
Menon's help and against bitter opposition from General 
Thimayya and the old guard at army headquarters. Kaul is 
now consolidating his grip on the Army. He has succeeded 
in scotching the notion that he is Menon's man. I doubt that 
there is any ideological or emotional affinity between the two 

So much for the prospects and problems of Krishna Menon. 
Such a balance sheet of strengths and weaknesses can be drawn 
up for other Indian politicians, and though it might come out 
wrong, you would still feel you were dealing with natural 
political phenomena. Menon is different. Like Stalin, he uses 
language not to convey, but to conceal, his meaning. He 
harbors a kind of political death wish that goads him into 
alienating those whom he most needs to befriend. I have seen 
him exude charm for two hours and then fly into an un- 
controllable rage over some imagined slight. Some Indian and 
American friends recall spending a delightful evening with him 
at a New York night club (where he drinks nothing but tea) 
until, for no apparent reason, he suddenly picked up a pin 
and plunged it with fiendish glee into the arm of the lady 
sitting beside him. Such aberrations deepen the mystery that 
surrounds this slightly satanic figure. Exploring the dark 
universe of his mind is like celestial navigation when all stars 
are extinguished. He is the undeciphered apocrypha of India, 
the sum of all negation; like Goethe's Mephistopheles, "a part 
of that part that always denies." A former American ambas- 
sador to India believes that Menon expresses the evil in Nehru 
just as the portrait of Dorian Gray did for its subject. The 
idea might sound fanciful, but there is much that is somberly 
complementary in the characters of the two pre-eminent figures 
of contemporary India. Nehru is the reluctant despot, and 
Menon the unwilling democrat. Nehru, the disappointed 
idealist groping for a rational road to salvation, seems to have 
enlisted the malignant powers of Menon's intellect, much as 
Faust made his evil compact with Mephistopheles to escape 
despair. Nehru, like Napoleon, "went forth to seek virtue, 
but since she was not to be found, he got power/' The loneli- 


ness of supreme power has been intensified by Nehru's supreme 
frustration at his inability to project his power through a 
world-conquering ideology of his own making. His dreams 
of entering a pantheon of seers as a nonviolent Lenin or Mao 
have crumbled in the unchanging Indian dust. What remains 
is Menon's intellect and Nehru's instinct. On November 7, 
1962, Nehru yielded to intense pressure from Congress party 
leaders, including, ironically, T. T. Krishnarnachari, and ac- 
cepted Menon's resignation from the cabinet. But there are no 
signs that he has dispensed with Menon's advice on a wide 
variety of subjects. The Prime Minister's long-time confidant 
and trusted lieutenant continues to wield immense backstage 
influence. Nor has Menon's following in the country evapo- 
rated since he resigned his portfolio. On the contrary, there 
were signs of an upsurge of sympathy and support for him late 
in 1962 by those who felt that Menon had been made the 
scapegoat for military setbacks for which Nehru shared respon- 
sibility. Menon seemed more relaxed and confident after his 
removal from the cabinet than during his years of ministerial 
office. He clearly has no intention of relinquishing the pursuit 
of power or his special place in Nehru's confidence. The two 
men approach a mentally foreign country with the rusting doc- 
trinal apparatus they heard described in the lecture halls of a 
bygone Europe. They are the rootless reformers of Asia, filled 
with hatred of the past, revulsion at the present, and dread of 
the future. History will be generous to Nehru, for it will ac- 
count as achievement what he regarded as prologue. Menon 
has no prologue and no achievement. Now sixty-five and in- 
creasingly dependent on drugs to sustain his energy, Menon 
may not even live to see Nehru in his grave. Or the two men 
may vanish together into the mists of history. But my own feel- 
ing is that Menon will outlive his protector. When Nehru is 
gone, when the mighty banyan tree is removed and Menon is 
exposed to the pitiless elements, he will make a brave pretense 
of competing in the open political market by fair means or 
foul. But when the game is up, as it must soon be, I venture to 
predict (as Philip Deane has) that he will go home to that drab 
boardinghouse in Camden Town. There you will find him 
wrapped in cheap scarves, brewing endless cups of tea, and 
writing mordant articles on the folly of mankind. 

Lai Bahadur Shastri 

BAHADUR SHASTRI occupies a position in Indian life today 
that gives him broader powers in more fields than any man 
except Nehru. As minister of home affairs of the government 
of India, he controls half a million police, a nationwide intel- 
ligence network, and one of the largest armies of civil servants 
in the world. He is ultimately responsible for protecting the 
lives and welfare of 443 million people in various stages of 
evolution from the Stone Age to the twentieth century. India 
without a Union home minister would be a geographical ex- 

Lai Bahadur (Shastri is an honorific surname referring to 
the course he pursued at college) is India's premier com- 
promiser, conciliator, and co-ordinator. More than Nehru or 
any other member of the cabinet, he labors to harmonize the 
often contradictory workings of the central government and 
fifteen state administrations (with a sixteenth in formation). 
He umpires their disputes and referees seemingly irreconcilable 
claims. He directly administers eight Union territories (cen- 
trally administered areas akin to territories of the United 



States) with a combined population of almost seven million 
souls. As father-confessor to the onetime rulers of India's 555 
former princely states, Lai Bahadur has more retired royalty on 
his pension-roll than any other man in history. At the other 
end of the social spectrum, he is specially charged with the 
uplift of India's sixty-five million untouchables and almost 
thirty million members of backward tribes, the largest socially 
benighted community on earth. 

When Nehru and Morarji Desai were both out of India in 
September 1962, Shastri functioned as acting prime minister 
although he was never formally given that title. At other 
times he is in fact, if not in name, deputy prime minister. 
Without appearing to seek self-aggrandizement, he wields im- 
mense authority in all domestic matters. He enjoys Nehru's 
complete confidence and is the one person (other than Indira 
Gandhi) with whom the Prime Minister discusses internal 
politics frankly and in detail He is the most popular man in 
the Congress party and the main channel of communication 
between Nehru and the party organizations. He had more to 
do with selecting Congress candidates for the 1962 elections 
than anyone except Nehru and Indira Gandhi. S. K. Patil and 
a very considerable body of Indian opinion openly regard 
Shastri today as India's next prime minister and first among 
equals in a post-Nehru collective leadership. 

The repository of this vast power and popularity is a small 
(just over five feet), shy, self-effacing man who speaks in an 
almost inaudible whisper. The first time I met him I kept 
staring hard to make sure he was not an office messenger. 
Anyone who had not seen pictures of the Home Minister 
would certainly mistake Shastri for a minor clerk in the office. 
He is the most unpretentious government official I have ever 
met in India. Looking at him across the glass-topped expanse 
of his office desk in Parliament House, I remember thinking 
how out of place he looked. All I could see was a miniature 
face set on a scrawny neck and surmounted by the inevitable 
white Gandhi cap. He began by apologizing profusely for being 
latesomething Indian ministers do not usually bother doing. 
He is the only Indian official I have ever heard say "please" 
to a telephone operator or "thank you" to a messenger. His 


diffidence can be excruciating. Just before we began a televi- 
sion interview one day, I mentioned to him that I would open 
by asking him what the home minister does in India. "I don't 
really know. I can't say/' he blurted in a paroxysm of embar- 
rassment made worse by the snickers of his assembled aides. 
But by the time the interview began, he had collected his 
thoughts and answered the question lucidly. 

Shastri is the only Indian minister I know who prefers not 
to sit on the speakers' platform at public meetings. When he 
travels outside Delhi, he usually avoids the VIP government 
guesthouses in favor of more modest lodgings. In Allahabad, 
his adopted home in the state of Uttar Pradesh, he always 
went back to his family's small rented bungalow in a work- 
ing-class district of the city, instead of staying at the well- 
appointed government quarters available to him. In the spring 
of 1962, when his family had to vacate the bungalow and 
return it to the owner, the Home Minister publicly appealed 
to the citizens of Allahabad to help him find new accommoda- 
tions. He said he did not think it proper to use his "official 
influence" in the matter. Shastri's plea led to his being dubbed 
"the homeless Home Minister." 

Shastri is the unusual Indian minister who will share his 
lunch with his office staff and leave his home to converse on a 
street corner with a disappointed petitioner. When he re- 
turned to his home constituency to vote in the 1962 election, 
he found that his aged mother had been barred from the polls 
because her name did not appear on the voters' register, owing 
to an oversight by local election officials. Any other cabinet 
minister would have excoriated the erring bureaucrats and 
ordered their instant removal. He took the matter philo- 
sophically and refrained even from calling it to the attention 
of the election officials. As far as I know, his mother's name 
still does not appear on the voters' roll. 

Shastri is a truly humble man who, in the Churchillian 
phrase, may have much to be humble about. But his rare 
humility and genuine compassion set him apart. He has never 
succumbed to the disease of feeling superior, which afflicts so 
many educated Indians, especially those mistakenly called 
government servants. Without flaunting his convictions, he is 


probably more profoundly Gandhian in his attitude toward 
the world than are any of his cabinet colleagues, including 
Nehru. His reputation is untainted by faction or fraud. He is 
the target of few political attacks, not because he lacks enemies, 
but because, like Duncan in Macbeth, he 

Hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been 
So clear in his great office, that his virtues 
Will plead like angels trumpet-tongu'd. . . . 

Again like Duncan, Lai Bahadur is not a great man; he is 
not even outstanding, except by comparison with the depres- 
singly low run of Indian politicians. He describes himself as 
a "mediocre" and "not an important person." A well-informed 
New Delhi editor calls him "a loyal, colorless party wheel- 
horse who does what Nehru tells him." An Indian Civil Serv- 
ice officer who held high posts under Shastri and India's first 
home minister, Sardar Patel, says that comparing them "is 
like comparing a mule with a thoroughbred." Another senior 
civil servant who worked with Shastri for many years says that 
he was never able to tell where he stood on the larger issues 
facing India. Such uncertainty is justified. S. K. Patil, for ex- 
ample, insists that the Home Minister really sympathizes with 
the Congress Right Wing, "but he doesn't dare do anything 
against Nehru's wishes." He predicts that Shastri will rally to 
the conservatives in Congress once Nehru is gone. I am sure 
that Shastri is a social conservative, but he identifies himself 
too closely with the underdog ever to feel really at home with 
Indian big business. He calls himself a Gandhian socialist (a 
practically meaningless term) and says simply, "I like socialism 
because it will reduce the wide gulf that exists between the 
rich and poor." G. D. Birla, an Indian industrialist, is prob- 
ably right when he says, "Shastri is not Leftist, but not 
Rightist either. He's a good, clean man who has no great ideas 
about economics." Nor, it might seem at first glance, has he 
about anything else. No one with whom I have talked about 
him could recall one idea that he had originated except his 
solution of the Cachar language dispute in Assam. In both 
governmental and Congress party councils, the little man has 
been a faithful echo of his master, Jawaharlal Nehru. A former 


American political officer in Delhi says flatly, "Shastri can't 
make decisions for himself. He always refers to Nehru." 

What will he do when Nehru goes? Will he be bereft of 
ideas and lost in indecision? I believe not. Lai Bahadur Shastri 
regards himself today purely and simply as a lieutenant of the 
Prime Minister. He applies to this role the same strict construc- 
tion that he places on his constitutional powers as home min- 
ister. He may lack imagination, but no one can accuse him of 
disloyalty. He is an example of constancy in a country where 
allegiance is too often negotiable. I do not expect the constancy 
to disappear with Nehru. Shastri has a will of his own and, 
what is more unusual, a conscience. Neither is transient. Under 
the right circumstances they could assert themselves with pos- 
sibly telling effect. Moreover, he is not deluded by visions of 
grandeur. He knows his own limitations, which is more than 
most Indian politicians can say for themselves. Like so many 
other compromise candidates throughout history, he might 
well surprise those who chose him for his apparent pliancy. 
The mouse might well roar. 

It is unlikely, however, that he would ever try to imitate the 
Nehru roar. His voice is better suited for calling a cabinet, not 
a nation, to order. He appears to be a likely choice to lead the 
collective government that is likely to follow Nehru's long one- 
man rule. No one in the upper reaches of the Indian govern- 
ment today can produce a consensus more deftly than the 
Home Minister. No one is more universally trusted by Con- 
gressmen, from chief ministers down to ward secretaries. 

Shastri's early career, like the man himself, conforms rather 
colorlessly to the approved pattern for Congressmen of the 
preindependence generation. The most important fact of his 
life even today is that he was born in the old United Provinces, 
now Uttar Pradesh, where Indian politics is brewed and 
Congress leaders are bred. U.P., as it is called in India, is the 
largest state in the Union and the home of one Indian out 
of six. Its population, of more than seventy million, is larger 
than that of Britain and the Benelux countries combined. 
The state is the center of the enormous Hindi-speaking heart- 
land of India that stretches from the Great Indian Desert, in 
the west, to the Bay of Bengal, in the east, dominating the 


country politically and economically. U.P. was the birthplace 
of Motilal and Jawaharlal Nehru, of Pandit Pant, and of a host 
of other Congress leaders. The era of its hegemony may be 
passing, but U.P., usually seconded by neighboring Bihar, still 
considers itself mistress of Indian politics and the Congress 

Lai Bahadur was born in the Hindu holy city of Banaras, 
by the Ganges, on October 2, 1904, about eighty miles and ten 
incarnations removed from the big mansion in Allahabad 
where Jawaharlal Nehru, then thirteen, was discovering the 
world with the help of his private tutor. Nehru's family were 
aristocratic Brahmans of ample means. Lai Bahadur, whose 
family name is Srivastava, is a member of the Kayastha caste, 
who served as clerks, scribes, and petty government officials 
under the Moguls when Indian Brahmans still boycotted the 
Moslem conquerors. His father was a schoolteacher who be- 
came a minor government official. He died when Lai Bahadur 
was only a year and a half old. It is a curious fact that most 
of the main persons in this book lost one or both of their 
parents at an early age. "I led a very poor life," Lai Bahadur 
told me without rancor. He is still one of the poorest men in 
Congress, a fact that may help account for his sympathy for 
the underdog. His maternal grandfather helped him get his 
early education at the local Harischandra school and supported 
the boy's mother and two sisters, the younger of whom is now 
a member of the Bihar Legislature. The turning point in the 
young man's life came in 1920, when he was only sixteen. It 
was then that he heard Gandhi appeal to students in Banaras 
to boycott government schools. "I immediately decided to give 
up my studies and join the nonco-operation movement," he 
says. The following year, after being arrested but not jailed, 
he enrolled at the Gandhi-sponsored Kashi Vidyapeeth, or 
National College, in Banaras. Gandhi opened the school and 
visited it several times while Shastri was there. But the man 
who had the deepest impact on his thinking was the scholarly 
Dr. Bhagwan Das, principal of the college and authority on 
humanistic philosophy. Shastri studied philosophy under him 
and absorbed his compassionate outlook. The young man 
lived in the same building with Acharya Kripalani, then a 


faculty member. The faculty also included Sri Prakasa, later 
governor of Maharashtra, and Dr. Sampurnanand, the Hindu 
traditionalist who served as chief minister of U.P. and is now 
governor of Raj as than. The Kashi Vidyapeeth devised the so- 
called Shastri course and its own degree, roughly equivalent to 
the Bachelor of Arts. Some graduates were called "Shastri" 
(one versed in a particular branch of learning). "I keep telling 
my friends/' Lai Bahadur said to me in a voice that reminded 
me of Eddie Cantor's, "not to call me Shastri. But they persist, 
and hundreds of thousands of voters in my constituency know 
me as Shastriji [the diminutive form]." It is like calling the 
graduate of an American arts college "Mr. A. B." 

Equipped with a college education, a degree, and a new 
name, the young man from Banaras went forth to do battle 
with the British. He joined Congress and donned khaddar 
with thousands of other Indians his age. When he was twenty- 
three, he married Lalita Devi, then eighteen years old. They 
have four sons and two daughters, which he ruefully admits 
is "not a good example of family planning." His wife rarely 
appears in public and never attends official functions. I have 
never seen her when I have visited the Shastri home. 

At midnight on December 31, 1929, Shastri stood among 
thousands of excited Congress enthusiasts as they roared 
approval for a resolution demanding unconditional inde- 
pendence proposed by a handsome, intense young man with 
a Cambridge accent. Lai Bahadur was twenty-five on that 
fateful night, which is still one of his most vivid memories. 
He little dreamed at the time that he would one day be con- 
sidered by some the logical successor to the mover of the 
independence resolution. 

Before a year had passed, Shastri was in jail for the first 
time. He was sentenced to two and a half years for participat- 
ing in Gandhi's famous march to the sea to make salt in 
symbolic defiance of the law. He was jailed again in 1932, i934> 
1941, and during the Quit India movement in 1942. Altogether, 
he spent six terms in prison totaling seven years. At Allahabad 
he was in the same prison with Nehru, but they were confined 
in separate barracks. "We couldn't meet," Shastri recalls, "but 
Nehru was very kind about sending books to us." 


For three years beginning in 1935, Shastri was general sec- 
retary of the U.P. Congress Committee, already dominated by 
the redoubtable figure of Pandit Govind Ballabh Pant. When 
Congress entered the provincial elections in 1937, Lai Bahadur 
won a seat in the U.P. Legislative Assembly. He was re-elected 
to the legislature and named secretary to the U.P. Parliament 
Board (a Congress organ) after World War II. At the same 
time, he and C. B. Gupta, now chief minister of U.P., were 
appointed parliamentary secretaries to Pant, then chief min- 
ister of the province. It is largely to Pant that Shastri owes 
his entry into the upper echelons of Congress. 

Pant was one of the supreme figures of the independence 
movement. He was a massive, hulking man with bushy eye- 
brows and drooping walrus mustaches. His hands shook un- 
controllably from palsy caused by injuries received when 
police lathi-charged a procession he and Nehru were leading 
in 1928 to protest the presence of Sir John Simon's commission 
to investigate India's political grievances. Pant was a lawyer 
of formidable skill, a masterful parliamentarian, and India's 
last mogul. He transacted most business while reclining on 
a couch at home. Visitors would kiss his feet as a mark of 
deference. Such customs might offend the younger genera- 
tion, but no one questioned Pant's Olympian vision and 
sagacity. After Sardar Patel and other old-line Congress stal- 
warts had disappeared, Pant exercised a more effective restrain- 
ing influence on Nehru in internal policy than anyone else in 
the cabinet. Pant was a conservative and a traditionalist. He 
could impose agreement on squabbling Congress factions, 
especially in U.P., by the sheer weight of his prestige. His posi- 
tion was assured to the point that he did not hesitate to speak 
his mind to Nehru or anyone else on any issue. When Premier 
Chou En-lai visited Delhi in April 1960 to discuss the Sino- 
Indian border dispute, the aged Home Minister was more 
outspoken and caustic in his comments to the visitor than any 
other Indian leader, including Nehru. But with most people 
Pant was considerate and gravely courteous. He was one of the 
most adept Indian politicians of his generation. He never 
went abroad and rarely ventured outside Delhi and U.P., yet 
his mind easily transcended provincial and national frontiers. 


He built a first-class machine as Union home minister from 
January 1955 until his death on March 7, 1961, at the age of 
seventy-three. Some observers assert that Pant was building 
a following in other government departments, but he prob- 
ably knew he would not live to succeed Nehru. 

Lai Bahadur served his political apprenticeship under Pant. 
Pant picked him because he was likable, hard-working, de- 
voted, and trustworthy. He was also noncontroversial. Pant re- 
lied on him to assess the political impact of measures the state 
government proposed to take. In 1947 Pant named him to take 
charge of public security throughout U.P., a traditionally 
turbulent area twice the size of England and Wales combined. 
Shastri became minister for home and transport in the state 

In 1951 Nehru, who had just been elected to the Congress 
presidency, called Shastri to New Delhi to organize the Con- 
gress campaign in the 1951-1953 general elections. He became 
the party's secretary-general. As one veteran party member 
remarked, "The whole show was in Lai Bahadur's hands." He 
worked around the clock, rarely leaving his desk at the All- 
India Congress Committee headquarters on New Delhi's tree- 
shaded Jantar Mantar Road. His labors contributed sig- 
nificantly to the landslide victory that made Congress un- 
disputed master of the country. His reward was election to 
the Rajya Sabha and appointment as Union minister for 
transport and railways in May 1952. He resigned from the 
cabinet in 1956 because he felt responsible for the disastrous 
Ariyalur rail accident in which 144 persons were killed and 1 15 
injured. The following year all was forgotten. He was elected 
to the Lok Sabha from Allahabad and served as minister of 
transport and communications until March 1958. In that 
month he took over the important commerce and industry 
portfolio in a cabinet reshuffle following the resignation of 
Finance Minister T. T. Krishnamachari in the wake of a 
scandal involving the state-owned Life Insurance Corporation. 
Opinions are divided on Shastri's performance as commerce 
and industry minister. His record was not outstanding, but 
most businessmen seem to think he was hard-working and 
reasonably efficient. There has never been any question 


about his honesty. In February 1961, when Pant began to fail, 
Shastri was named acting home minister. On March 7 the old 
lion breathed his last, and his onetime disciple inherited 
the awesome powers and prerogatives of the Union home 

Watching Shastri enter the high-domed chamber of the Lok 
Sabha for the first time after Pant's death, I was struck by the 
contrast. Shastri seemed almost furtive as he slipped unnoticed 
onto the Government front bench. Pant's entrances always 
sent a stir through the huge hall. The emperor Akbar could 
not have commanded more deference. The contrast was even 
more marked when Shastri rose to speak in a small monotone. 
His words were lost in the hubbub of heedless legislators. 
Pant, on the other hand, always held Parliament spellbound. 
Out of consideration for his infirmities, Pant was allowed to 
keep his seat while he spoke, with hands trembling and with a 
quavering voice of doom. To me it seemed as if Oliver Wendell 
Holmes had been replaced by the clerk of the court. But the 
clerk made sense. I soon realized that he was neither over- 
whelmed nor overawed by the immense responsibilities that 
had been thrust upon him. 

The Home Ministry is an octopus whose tentacles hold 
India together. One tentacle helps the state government quell 
language riots in Assam while another probes a corrupt sta- 
tionmaster in Kerala. If a maharaja packs his bags for Europe, 
if a deputation of tribesmen petitions for rice, or if a high- 
court judge misbehaves, the Home Ministry's tentacles react 
almost immediately. The Ministry deports subversive Chinese 
aliens, combats tree blight, recruits clerks, and advises the 
president of India on whom he should appoint to the superior 
courts and whom he should spare from the gallows. The home 
minister has at his disposal fourteen armed battalions of the 
Central Reserve Police (CRP), the most effective force in 
India outside the military services. He is also assisted by the 
Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the powerful Special Police 
Establishment (SPE), which have, respectively, broad powers 
to investigate organized crime and corruption. The Ministry's 
Political Department reports on every facet of Indian political 
life, with special attention to Communist activities. 


India has a federal system. But contrary to American practice, 
the Indian Constitution provides that all power not specifically 
vested in the states belongs to the Union government. It is 
the Home Ministry that exercises many such "residuary" func- 
tions on behalf of the Center. Even if there were no such 
provision in the Constitution, government in India would 
become increasingly centralized because the states depend on 
money from the Center to carry out their development plans. 
The Union government's budget is expanding much more 
rapidly than the finances of the states. Shastri believes that 
the Center will continue concentrating power in its hands at 
the expense of the states for another twenty-five years. Then, 
he says, the states will have developed economically and politi- 
cally to the point where they can effectively reassert a larger 
measure of autonomy. 

The all-India services, including the far-flung Indian Admin- 
istrative Service (IAS), successor to the old Indian Civil Serv- 
ice, the Indian Police Service (IPS), and the newly revived all- 
India engineering, medical, and forestry services, are recruited, 
trained, and supervised by the Home Ministry. A member of 
the all-India services assigned to serve in one of the states gets 
his pay from the state government and is generally regarded 
as a state official. But the Home Ministry decides where he is 
to be posted, how much pay he should receive, and when he 
should be retired. The collector, highest-ranking official in 
each district, is from the IAS. Under him in each district 
there is an IAS officer in charge of local police. Members of the 
all-India services, especially the 200 ICS officers still on active 
duty, are better paid and have higher esprit de corps than the 
provincial bureaucracy. They owe primary allegiance to the 
central government. They are the backbone of the administra- 
tion and one of the most important unifying elements in India 

No man in the country wields more effective power in more 
fields than V. Viswanathan, the capable and little-known home 
secretary. This veteran ICS officer is the top-ranking civil 
servant in the Home Ministry, in charge of security, intel- 
ligence, and relations with the former princely rulers. His 
authority is so broad as to seem limitless. Viswanathan is the 


de facto home minister except on the rare occasions when 
Shastri intervenes personally to overrule his lieutenant. Vis- 
wanathan is assisted by two other home secretaries, L. P. 
Singh and Hari Sharma, also ICS stalwarts, charged respec- 
tively with administrative services and government of the 
Union territories. This triumvirate runs the Home Ministry 
and with it a great deal of India. Home ministers come and 
go, but the triumvirate endures. 

I shall never forget the elation I felt the first time I was 
ushered into Viswanathan's office in one corner of the enor- 
mous South Block office building in New Delhi. There is noth- 
ing unusual about the room itself. In fact, it is smaller than 
what an official of comparable rank would occupy in other 
ministries. But in Viswanathan's office I had the feeling that 
I was at the nerve center of the Indian state. A moment after 
I entered, he was on the telephone to Bombay giving orders 
for a particular police inspector to be assigned to "special 
duty" at the Center. A few minutes later he curtly told an 
External Affairs Ministry official not to concern himself with 
the European travel plans of an Indian maharaja. The next 
moment he had put through a call to the maharaja and was 
suavely probing to find out what the royal traveler had in 
mind. Before a quarter of an hour had passed, Viswanathan 
had issued orders on several clemency cases and disposed of a 
mass of other business that would take most senior Indian 
civil servants months to handle. The Home Secretary is the 
uncrowned king of India. 

Shastri's own daily routine reflects his reliance on Vis- 
wanathan and Company. He rarely visits his Ministry until 
5:00 or 5:30 P.M., by which time official papers requiring his 
signature and particularly important files are ready for him. 
Everything else is handled by the triumvirate. Shastri may 
work at his desk in the South Block labyrinth until 10:00 or 
10:30 in the evening, but he usually prefers to return home 
or to his office in the circular Parliament House. Callers 
invariably await him at both places. He receives them until 
11:00 P.M. or even later. 

Shastri devotes mornings to party affairs. He is up by 5:30 or 
5:45 A.M. He likes to spin, and says he can make "fine yarn" 


but rarely finds time nowadays. He used to do yoga exercises, 
but gave them up after a serious heart attack in October 
1959. "I was careful the first year after my heart attack/' he 
says, "but now I follow a normal routine," "Normal" in his 
case means surrendering to his compulsive tendency to over- 
work. Many political observers discount his chances for the 
succession for no other reason than his frail health. L. P. 
Singh says, "If you judge his health by the way he functions, 
you'd think he was one of the immortals. His working hours 
and the way he allows visitors to eat up his time are compatible 
only with a determination to end his life quickly/' 

Long before Shastri awakes, his house, at i Motilal Nehru 
Place, resembles a metropolitan railway station at rush hour. 
Waiting there, you feel as if you were at the crossroads of 
India. Turbaned Sikhs, dhoti-wearing Congressmen, and half- 
naked sadhus are among the flood of audience-seekers who fill 
his sitting rooms and spill out into the garden. When Shastri 
is ready, he receives each caller individually, rather than having 
them come in delegations as Pant used to do. He rises to 
greet each visitor; he would not dream of lying on his couch, 
let alone allowing petitioners to kiss his feet. Despite the 
milling throng outside and the other pressures on him, I have 
always found him calm, courteous, and seemingly unhurried. 
As one of his aides remarks: "Shastri is always anxious to be 
fair and very human. He always puts himself in the position of 
the suppliant in cases involving the administration. This 
makes difficulties for me. He treats every individual as an 
individual rather than part of the mass." 

The practice of treating every person as an individual, 
regardless of what Indians call "recommendation/* has made 
Shastri the most popular Congressman and a well-liked figure 
among the townspeople and villagers of northern India. Over 
and over I have heard the expressions "a man of the people" 
and "a pure man" used about him. A member of the Rajya 
Sabha from Bihar told me, "He represents the common people. 
He's popular everywhere because you feel quite at home with 
him when you talk to him." 

Shastri is characteristically modest about his popularity. "I 
think the essential thing," he says earnestly, "is devotion to 


work with some detachment. This is essential if feuds and 
conflicts are to be avoided." Then, lest he sound too pontifical, 
he adds with a wry smile, "This is easy to say but difficult to 

His most notable personal triumph to date was working 
out the so-called "Shastri formula" to resolve the menacing 
language dispute in the Cachar district of Assam. The formula 
has already been applied in one district of West Bengal and 
may be applied in other parts of India to reconcile the conflict- 
ing claims of majority and minority language groups. 

A word of background may be useful. Language in India is 
much more than a medium of communication. It is an insigne, 
a badge, that proves an Indian belongs to something more 
than the dust and the air, that he is part of a community and 
that his community survives. More than anything else, lan- 
guage defines an Indian's native region; it is often the most 
emotionally charged expression of his culture and religion. A 
devout Sikh will never desecrate anything bearing even one 
word in the sacred Gurmukhi script. The Urdu-speaking 
Moslem regards the Arabic characters of his language as a 
divinely bequeathed link with the holy Koran. The Devanagari 
script has profound religious significance for many Hindus. 
Language assumes even more importance in India when it 
corresponds to caste or economic interests. These interests can 
be advanced under the politically acceptable cloak of linguistic 
rights to the disfavor of rival groups. 

Language was the spark that ignited long-smoldering econ- 
omic jealousies in the Brahmaputra Valley of Assam in late 
June and early July of 1960. The backward Assamese-speaking 
majority had long resented the fact that the Bengali-speaking 
minority held the best jobs in the bureaucracy and dominated 
trade and commerce. It would be difficult to find two languages 
more similar than Assamese and Bengali, but the Bengalis' 
reluctance to accept Assamese as the state's sole official lan- 
guage was used as a pretext for a wholesale assault on their 
communities. At least 40,000 people were driven from their 
homes, of whom almost 32,000 took refuge in neighboring 
West Bengal. At least three villages were burned to the ground 
and 600 other Bengali homes were set on fire. The Army was 


ordered in after the police opened fire on a crowd in Gauhati 
on July 4, killing one student and and injuring six others. But 
before the troops could reach remote areas, anti-Bengali frenzy 
had become a hurricane of violence. The Assam government, 
twenty-five of whose officers were charged with gross derelic- 
tion of duty in connection with the outbreaks, now says that 
twenty persons were killed and "about 100" injured in the 
bloody July days. But Indian correspondents (foreigners were 
barred) who visited the affected areas at the time insist that the 
toll of killed and injured was much higher. As is so often the 
case in India, the actual numbers will never be known. The 
extent of the devastation can be judged from relief expendi- 
tures by the state government equivalent to $2,250,000 in the 
first nine months after the carnage. I will never forget the 
picture published in the Indian press of an ashen-faced Nehru 
walking among the hordes of homeless during a tour of the 
stricken villages. It was the kind of catastrophe that seems 
endemic to the IndoPakistani subcontinent. 

Pant was still Union home minister at that time. He was 
already too old and feeble to visit the scene. It needed all his 
still-formidable forensic talents and his unassailable prestige 
to meet attacks on the government in Parliament. Eight 
months later, Pant's voice was stilled, but the communal 
volcano still rumbled ominously in Assam. On May 19, 1961, 
it erupted again. This time it was the Bengalis, agitating for 
the recognition of Bengali as an additional state language of 
Assam, who clashed bloodily with the police. At least eleven 
persons were killed and seventy-seven injured (fifty-five with 
bullet wounds) when the police opened fire on a crowd of 
2,000 Bengalis in Cachar district. Hundreds were arrested. 
The nervous state authorities flooded Cachar district (where 
the Bengalis are in a majority) with troops, police, and detec- 
tives. On May 20 the Bengalis of Cachar and other parts of 
Assam observed a hartal during which not a single bus, car, or 
train was allowed to move. All shops and offices in the Bengali 
areas shut down. This was followed by similar stoppages of 
activity on May 24 in Calcutta and other West Bengal towns. 
The ghastly events of the previous summer seemed about to be 
repeated. Pant had failed not long before his death in an 


effort to work out a compromise on Assam's explosive language 
problems. Nehru had vainly offered his advice. Now Shastri 
staked everything on finding a solution. He flew to Cachar 
and surveyed the situation. At first it looked hopeless. Pas- 
sions on both sides were at fever pitch. Blood had been shed 
only a few days before, and memories of the wholesale carnage 
of 1960 were still fresh. Shastri decided the only way was to 
listen to each side until it had exhausted its invective against 
the other. Then there might be a chance of compromise. 

As one high Home Ministry official says: "Shastri went on 
probing and pursuing this thing until people started think- 
ing in terms of human tolerance and their obligations to the 
country. It required tremendous patience. He had to convince 
all groups of his own deep sincerity and firmness. He would go 
as far as he could with each group. Then when he thought 
they were being unreasonable he would tell them so." 

Shastri himself says simply, "I listened to different view- 
points. I have the capacity of understanding different view- 
points. I keep an open mind. I talked to different sets of 

The best that Nehru expected was a year's truce in Cachar. 
Shastri returned with a permanent solution acceptable to all 
parties. It was based on the use of English, Assamese, and 
Bengali. Correspondence between Cachar district and Assam 
government headquarters is conducted in English. Both As- 
samese and Bengali are used in Cachar government offices and 
schools, but Bengali has the preference because it is the lan- 
guage of the local majority. The result of his labors has been 
communal harmony in Assam. There is now even a Cachar 
representative in the state cabinet. Congress improved its 
majority in the Assam Legislature in the 1962 elections as a 
direct consequence of Shastri's work of reconciliation. 

The announced "fast unto death" by Master Tara Singh to 
obtain a Sikh-controlled Punjabi-speaking state in the Punjab 
proved to be a more intractable problem for the Home Min- 
ister in the late summer and fall of 1961. In this instance, the 
demand for a Punjabi-speaking state was used to disguise 
dreams of a Sikh state. The motive was religious but the 
justification was linguistic. Shastri's efforts to mediate were 


abortive, principally because Nehru refused to mollify the 
extremist Sikhs by according full official status to the Punjabi 
tongue in the Gurmukhi script. Master Tara Singh, the 
leader of the Sikh opposition party, Akali Dal, in the Punjab, 
eventually broke his fast when it was clear that the govern- 
ment would not grant his demand for a Punjabi-speaking 

Shastri might have succeeded in compromising with the 
Akali Dal if he had not had to conduct most of his negotia- 
tions in New Delhi in the shadow of the Prime Minister. 
But even in the capital, the Home Minister has shown that 
he can take independent action. In the spring of 1962 he 
moved quietly to initiate what he regards as long-overdue re- 
forms in the administration. 

On April 29, 1962, talking to Delhi newspapermen, Shastri 
depicted the evils of Indian bureaucracy in graphic terms: "I 
have been connected with the administration for some time 
past and I know that the administration has yet to gear up to 
the needs of the situation. . . . There is delay in the disposal 
of papers or disposal of cases, sometimes our procedures cause 
delay; then there is corruption at different levels. . . . Recom- 
mendation plays an important part when matters big or small 
are decided at different levels. Well, everyone talks of these 
things but it must be admitted that these problems still stare 
squarely in our face/' 

His words were homespun and his manner as diffident as 
ever as he stood there before the assembled Delhi press. With 
painful sincerity he went on to say that the senior civil servants 
"can quote things admirably well but the point is whether 
they can bring about a change in the existing situation." He 
answered his own question in the negative. "It seems to me that 
they are not able to think in advance and they only think 
when the situation is almost out of control. . . . Although 
I am a mediocre, yet I find that a mediocre like me is able 
to produce something new and original, not in a very high 
sense, but whatever new things are suggested in the Ministry, 
well, they generally come from me, and the officers who are 
far, far abler than myself go on with their routine way of 
thinking and perhaps routine way of working." 


To overcome the problem of bureaucratic inertia, which 
underlies so many of India's other problems, Shastri has 
launched a radical experiment (by Indian standards) to curtail 
time-consuming procedures and speed up the whole administra- 
tive process. Most innovators in Indian officialdom like to 
suggest improvements in departments other than their own. 
Shastri has started his experiment in the Home Ministry. He 
told me that he wants "important matters" taken up at higher 
levels from the beginning. The normal procedure is for a 
district superintendent of police to send a file, no matter how 
urgent, to the state inspector-general of police, who passes it 
to the Home Ministry, where it must go through a deputy 
secretary, a joint secretary, and the home secretary before it 
finally reaches the minister's desk. By that time the communal 
tension reported by the district superintendent has probably 
erupted twice over in bloody rioting. 

Another source of appalling delays is the central govern- 
ment's habit of referring important questions to the fifteen 
state governments for their comments and recommendations. 
This unwieldy procedure literally consumes years. Shastri is 
trying to short-circuit the process. Tor example, in connection 
with a long-awaited report on the status of Scheduled Castes 
(untouchables) and Scheduled Tribes, he called a conference 
in Delhi in July 1962. There the subject was thrashed out 
in two days by key Center officials and state chief ministers 
and their principal assistants. In the previous two months not 
one state had replied to Delhi's questionnaire about the report. 

On the question of corruption, Shastri is less hopeful. "We 
can certainly reduce corruption," he says, "but we can't elimi- 
nate it completely. Certainly we can and should eliminate ex- 
tortion and harassment." The crux of the problem is salaries. 
They are abysmally low. But there are two million civil serv- 
ants on the payroll of the government of India. There is no 
possibility of significantly increasing their emoluments without 
wrecking the five-year plans and further widening the disparity 
between the pay of central and state government workers. And 
reducing the number of public servants is anathema to a vote- 
conscious government. 

Shastri's concern with corruption steins from more than a 


desire for administrative efficiency. He knows at firsthand how 
dishonest officials torment Indian villagers. And he is not blind 
to the dangers posed by the continuing gulf between the 
masses and their government. "It is the poor and the weak 
who will shape the coming India," he says with conviction. 
"Any party that appeals to the poor and attacks those with 
wealth has a certain appeal. The Communists do that. But we 
have avoided class war so far, and I think we should avoid it 
in future." This credo leads Shastri to discount Swatantra and 
other economically conservative parties. But he thinks that the 
Right Wing communalism represented by the Jan Sangh and 
other parties like it is a real menace which threatens to dis- 
integrate India. His only answer to divisive forces is the patient 
redress of minority grievances, which means the grievances of 
all, because every Indian is a member of at least one minority. 

The dismay Shastri feels at the emergence of Right Wing 
obscurantism does not prevent him, as it often does Nehru, 
from seeing the Communist shadow across India. Nor does he 
copy the Prime Minister in minimizing the international char- 
acter of the Communist movement. "Indian Communist lead- 
ers go to Moscow/' he told me in May 1962, "and get the line 
there which they then try to carry out here." When I asked 
him if he agreed with Nehru that Right Wing parties are 
more dangerous than the Communists, he replied obliquely, 
but nonetheless clearly: "Well, there's no doubt that if the 
Communists ever won here, India would change completely. 
Democracy would be no more. Parliament and our other insti- 
tutions would be finished. Everything that distinguishes India 
today would be changed." Shastri's understanding of interna- 
tional Communism as it actually functions today is more 
remarkable in view of the fact that he has never been out of 
India, not even to Ceylon or Burma. "So you see," he says 
disarmingly, "I am a very conservative person. But I try to 
read foreign books." He is also able to perceive what goes on 
in the Indian Communist party because his vision is not 
distorted by the refractive lenses of outworn doctrine. 

Neither the Left nor the Right opposition can do anything 
like the damage to Congress today that Congress is doing to 
itself. Shastri is acutely aware of the problem. He says: "The 


Congress party organization has to be a more compact and 
well-knit body. We need to know if the membership is prop- 
erly enrolled. Admission standards for active members [those 
who can hold office] should be higher. We must be stricter 
about officeholders in the party." 

The selection of Congress candidates in the 1962 election 
was made by Nehru, Indira Gandhi, and Lai Bahadur Shastri. 
The other nine members of the party's Central Election Com- 
mittee, including Sanjiva Reddy, then Congress president, S. 
K. Patil, and Jagjivan Ram, were so completely ignored that 
they soon stopped attending committee meetings. Shastri was 
consulted because he is known to be free of factional bias. As 
home minister he maintains closer day-by-day liaison with 
provincial and local party leaders than anyone else in the gov- 
ernment. He is far more important than the Congress presi- 
dent or any other purely party officeholder because he has the 
power to dispense government patronage and resolve disputes 
between state administrations. He is accessible to all and has 
Nehru's ear. As one New Delhi editor has written, "The king- 
pin of the whole central machinery is, of course, the Home 
Minister, Mr. Lai Bahadur Shastri, who can predict Mr. Neh- 
ru's views with rare certainty." 

Thanks in part to Shastri's influence, at least one third of 
the Congress incumbents in the central Parliament and in the 
state legislatures were dropped in favor of new candidates 
before the 1962 elections. The aim was to bring in new blood 
and break up entrenched and quarreling groups in the party. 
"Groups within Congress," Shastri concedes, "are reflected 
outside the party among the people at large. If the chief min- 
ister heads one group, you may feel you have a better chance 
to get into the university or to get a job if you're with his 
group. So our feuds spread out and affect people outside the 

Shastri's views on party affairs are illuminating. The same 
can hardly be said for his pronouncements on socialism and 
the state's proper role in the economy. These tend to be mas- 
terpieces of oversimplification. "We should try as far as pos- 
sible," he says, "to have equitable distribution of wealth. We 
should decentralize wealth, although this doesn't mean the 


same salary and the same house for everyone. Every person 
should have enough to live on, to clothe himself, and to 
educate his children." Shastri is not so biased by ideology 
against private enterprise as Nehru is, but he is less sympathetic 
to big business than Patil or Desai. 

"The difficulty arises," he insists, "more from the private 
sector's suspicions of the public sector than the public sector's 
encroachments on the private sector. Government is keen to 
increase production and improve techniques in different direc- 
tions. I feel India is an example to the world that the public 
and private sectors can work together for the growth and ex- 
pansion of the country." 

The example is admittedly less edifying when the state of 
Indian agriculture and cutbacks in the third five-year plan 
are taken into account. Shastri says he now agrees that there 
should have been more emphasis from the outset on develop- 
ing power and transport. He is less impressed than Nehru is 
by the Soviet-style crash approach to heavy industry. "I don't 
forget myself," he says smilingly, "when I see dazzling things 
like brand-new plants." The fact is that Shastri has had little 
voice in formulating India's economic policy. He usually con- 
fines himself to echoing the Nehru line. What he would do 
in this field if he became prime minister is impossible to 
predict. My own hunch is that he would try to muddle along 
with the hodgepodge of economic expedients now being ap- 

What would Shastri do in other fields as prime minister? 
Again the answers are obscure. I doubt if he himself knows. 
He would certainly adhere to some form of nonalignment in 
foreign policy, although he (like most of the other major figures 
in this book except Krishna Menon) would probably be dis- 
inclined to temporize with the Chinese Communists on the 
border issue. When I asked him point-blank in the spring of 
1962 if he thought adequate steps were being taken to protect 
the northern border, he hesitated for a long moment and then 
answered simply, "No." When the Chinese intruded into In- 
dia's Northeast Frontier Province in September of the same 
year, while he was acting as prime minister in Nehru's absence, 
Shastri said flatly, "They must be driven out. There's no other 


way/' Shastri's outspokenness on this occasion belies the gen- 
eral notion that he always simply parrots Nehru. 

Shastri is a democrat by temperament if not by conviction. 
He is no Hindu communalist despite his parochial background 
and his long association with the late Purshottamdas Tandon, 
a traditionalist who was ousted by Nehru as president of Con- 
gress. My feeling is that Shastri would never knowingly jeop- 
ardize India's secular parliamentary institutions. Autocracy is 
repugnant to his nature. So is violence. "I, for one/' he says, 
"can never support any kind of encouragement towards vio- 
lence or violent activities/' He is disinclined to utilize the 
Preventive Detention Act or the other legal weapons by which 
India could be transformed into a virtual police state. More- 
over, he is humane. I remember the anguish that filled his 
voice when he told me of the "unspeakable way" Brahmans 
used to treat untouchables in south India. Being of the people, 
and not simply from them, he feels their woes more intensely 
than other cabinet ministers. He wants to lift the weight of 
corrupt and inefficient bureaucracy from their backs. So far, 
it must be admitted, there is little to show for his efforts to 
reform the administration. The Home Ministry continues more 
or less as before. But the impulse for change still animates the 
Home Minister. 

At a time when other Congress leaders were loath even to 
whisper the words "deputy leader" for fear of antagonizing 
Nehru, Shastri told me calmly, "There should be a deputy 
leader of the Congress parliamentary party but I don't think 
the Prime Minister is thinking in those terms." Shastri never 
sought the honor for himself. "I may be better as a conciliator," 
he told me, "if I don't have such an office." 

This reluctance to thrust himself into the limelight has 
prompted many observers, including knowledgeable Indian 
politicians, to dismiss Shastri as a straw man. But a high civil 
servant who knows him intimately gave what I consider an 
accurate appraisal of the man. "Shastri," he said, "doesn't have 
firm ideas on every subject, but he has strong moorings. I 
know few people so free from brutality and with so strong an 
aversion to anything smacking of violence. He's intelligent 
but not an intellectual. He has the capacity to feel and think 


like the decent common people of India. Instinctively, Shastri 
can share the feelings of the common man in the village/' 

Another long-time co-worker says, "Only a crisis will bring 
out his true qualities." The question is whether this extremely 
dedicated, industrious, and high-principled little man could 
master the convulsive forces unleashed in a crisis. Would his 
popularity in Congress outlive Nehru? A leading party official 
remarks doubtfully, "Shastri is liked and respected in the party 
but his standing depends on the favor Nehru shows him." 
On the other hand, a qualified American student of Indian 
politics says that the Home Minister has turned out to be 
"the real power" in the party organization because the state 
chief ministers look to him to solve factional disputes in their 
party organizations and to help them with patronage and in 
other ways. By reason of his official position, one New Delhi 
editor feels that Shastri is already the front-runner in the 
succession race. 

Shastri's popularity among many Hindi speakers in the 
north is specially notable in view of his comparatively recent 
emergence on the national scene. He is not an impressive 
speaker, either on the hustings or in Parliament. There is 
nothing magnetic in his appearance. Nevertheless, a poll con- 
ducted in 1961 by the Indian Institute of Public Opinion 
showed that Shastri ranked fourth among those favored to 
succeed Nehru as prime minister. The percentage supporting 
Shastri was far smaller than for the three front-runners, Jaya- 
prakash Narayan, Morarji Desai, and Krishna Menon, but 
greater than that for Y. B. Chavan, S. K. Patil, and other 

Shastri says privately that he will not contest the premier- 
ship with Desai. If he plays his cards right, he may not have to. 
Desai's own thrust may evoke a counterthrust that would dead- 
lock the Congress party and open the way for Shastri. There 
is considerably more guile in the little man than his manner 
indicates, and the appearance of mediocrity is often an ad- 
vantage for a politician. Shastri absorbs praise and abuse from 
Nehru with equal grace. His equanimity has even won him 
the Prime Minister's affection, and he is also very close to 
Indira Gandhi, whom he used to visit when she was a lonely 


child in the Nehru family mansion at Allahabad. If she came 
to power, he would be assured an important place in the gov- 
ernment. I have even heard it said that Shastri is planning to 
use Mrs. Gandhi as his front, but this seems a little farfetched. 
It seems more likely to me that Mrs. Gandhi would back 
Shastri as a compromise minister, thinking she could use him 
for her own ends. In any event, the two are not likely to be 
at odds when the showdown comes. 

Shastri's most serious handicap, besides his unassertive per- 
sonality, is probably his health. A former colleague in the 
Union cabinet says that his first heart attack caused no lesion 
but that a second or third attack could be crippling. By driving 
himself eighteen hours a day without letup and moving around 
the country by jeep and on foot, Shastri takes risks that Pandit 
Pant avoided. He never suffered the kind of injuries that in- 
capacitated Pant, but he is still far from robust. 

Shastri is the most authentically Indian of the personalities 
described in this book. He is nearest the mind and soil of 
India. He reflects the strengths and weaknesses of the Indian 
villager. If he is to enter history as the second prime minister 
of independent India, he must do so with the mandate of the 
party bosses, including Nehru. If he is to be more than a 
footnote to history, the mandate must be upheld against all 
challengers by the overwhelming will of the Indian people. 
Armed with the party mandate and sustained by the popular 
will, Lai Bahadur Shastri could take his place with vastly 
magnified stature on the world stage. 

Y. B. Chavan 

ONE NIGHT IN NOVEMBER 1943 a young Indian underground 
leader slipped into the village of Phaltan, in Bombay state. 
He groped his way through the darkness until he reached the 
modest cottage where his even more youthful wife lay seriously 
ill. It was a time of stress for India. The burdens of war had 
ignited violent resistance to British rule. A kind of guerrilla 
warfare had broken out in parts of the country. The young 
underground leader was one of the guerrilla fighters. He had 
taken exceptional care to conceal his movements from the 
British, and knew he should spend only a few hours with the 
girl whom he had married six months earlier. But when he 
saw how ill she was, he forgot his usual prudence and spent 
all day and the following night at her bedside. 

He felt guilty because his wife had fallen ill in prison after 
being arrested for no other reason than her relationship to 
him. The British had released her when her condition became 
critical. He wanted to send her to Poona, where better treat- 
ment was available. But the next morning, before she could 
be moved, there was a knock at the door. Someone had in- 
formed the police. They had come to arrest Yeshwantrao 
Balwantrao Chavan, saboteur, poet, criminal lawyer, journal- 


Y. B. CHAVAN 131 

ist, ex-convict, student agitator, and leader of the resistance in 
the most turbulent district of western India. He was twenty- 
nine years old at the time. 

This wartime episode reflects the courage and compassion of 
the man who is now regarded as India's most promising 
younger leader and a leading candidate for the office of prime 
minister. Chavan (pronounced with the accent on the first syl- 
lable) had risen, before his appointment in November 1962 as 
defense minister, to be chief minister and undisputed political 
boss of the state of Maharashtra, which includes the city of 
Bombay. He is now enshrined as the latter-day hero of India's 
martial Marathas, who make up almost half Maharashtra's 
population. The impulsive young resistance fighter has proved 
dynamic, intelligent, earthy, and massively self-assured in his 
role of popular leader. 

A Westerner's first meeting with an Indian politician is often 
icily formal. Many are ill at ease and hesitate to speak openly. 
It usually takes several talks to establish any rapport. Not so 
with Chavan. The first time I met him I felt as if I were 
conversing with an Indiana politician. Although he had been 
up until five o'clock that morning selecting candidates for 
district elections, he showed no sign of fatigue. He was genial, 
hearty, and affable. He laughed more easily and more often 
than any other Indian leader I have met. His English is by 
no means exceptional, but he sensed the purport of every 
question before I finished speaking. 

Chavan is of medium height, with heavy eyebrows, thick 
features, and dark, expressive eyes. His burly, almost shape- 
less Maratha figure makes him look short. His complexion is 
so dark that an Indian photographer once told me, "When I 
am developing his pictures, I always lose him in the dark- 
room." Indians are intensely color-conscious in their social 
relations, especially when making marital arrangements for 
their offspring, but color is not a political handicap. Chavan's 
face is constantly mobile. He reacts to everything. When he 
smiles which he does often his heavy face is illuminated by 
a set of apparently perfect teeth. His crumpled dhoti hardly 
matches the sartorial elegance of Menon and Desai, but it 
seems to go with his forthright character. 


The Chief Minister looks the part of a provincial Indian 
politician. But he combines rustic charm with a taste for 
books and ideas notably lacking in most of his party colleagues. 
He has outward simplicity and inward sophistication. His 
bulky frame seems to vibrate with energy. 

Chavan has a more balanced combination of political at- 
tributes than any Indian leader I have met except Nehru. All 
things being equal which they rarely are in politics I think 
Chavan has a better chance than any other politician now 
in the running to become a durable and distinguished prime 
minister of India. It was felt until recently that he was not 
likely to succeed Nehru directly if the Prime Minister died or 
retired before 1967, because the Congress party chieftains 
would want someone familiar with the central government, 
and Chavan would have to serve at least a brief apprenticeship 
in New Delhi before he would be eligible to take the reins. His 
appointment as defense minister should go far toward remov- 
ing this difficulty, and by virtue of his comparative youth, he 
can afford to wait. 

There is a new generation about to inherit power in India 
today. Chavan is its political expression. He is the only Con- 
gress leader I have met who did not call himself a Gandhian. 
He feels no need to conceal his sharper political contours in 
the loose cloak of Gandhism. He makes no ritual obeisance 
to ahimsa or to saruodaya. He was brought up politically in 
the harsh school of the underground movement in his native 
Satara district of western Maharashtra. For four years he main- 
tained Bombay by force as a bilingual state against violent 
opposition from Maharashtrians and Gujaratis who demanded 
the creation of separate linguistic states. Nor has Chavan ever 
regulated his private life according to Gandhian precepts. He 
strikes no ascetic poses. He enjoys rich food, sleeps late, and 
relishes such modern conveniences as air conditioning. As chief 
minister of a prohibitionist state, he finds it politic to be a 
teetotaler, but he has no squeamishness about seeing others 
drink. He eats meat and much else that the strict Gandhians 
deny themselves. 

Chavan is no rebel against Gandhism. My impression is that 
he simply feels that most of the Mahatma's injunctions are 


irrelevant to Indian society today. He has no interest in 
antagonizing the Gandhians; neither will he bow to them if 
he thinks they are obstructing something essential. 

For Chavan, the most essential thing is close contact with 
the masses and with the Congress party. He has achieved this 
by becoming a mass leader and a party leader at the same time. 
His second objective is effective administration. He served his 
apprenticeship under Morarji Desai, probably the ablest ad- 
ministrator in the upper reaches of the Indian government. 
Like his mentor, Chavan can dispose of 200 to 300 official files 
every night. But he never plays the Hindu despot. He never 
takes himself more seriously than he does his work. And he 
extracts far more work from his subordinates than Desai ever 
did. Above all, Chavan makes himself liked, rather than 
feared, by his colleagues and constituents. Gandhi was revered 
as a saint, Nehru is loved as a father, and Desai is respected 
as an administrator. Chavan is no saint, but, at least in Maratha 
eyes, he combines the attributes of father and administrator. 
This could become a new pattern in relations between ruler 
and ruled in India. 

When I first started asking people in Bombay about the 
Chief Minister, the chorus of approval was so unanimous that 
I began to suspect I was the victim of a conspiracy. But I soon 
realized that Chavan is genuinely popular and for good rea- 
son. He has given Maharashtra, and, before it, the old Bombay 
state, clean and relatively efficient government. By Indian 
standards his performance has been outstanding. He may not 
be as personally efficient and painstaking as Desai, whom he 
succeeded as chief minister, but he more than makes up for 
such shortcomings by his abounding humanism and gift for 
ingratiating himself even with political opponents. Unlike 
Nehru, he never talks down to his audiences, never lets him- 
self be provoked into public outbursts of temper, and rarely 
betrays impatience. 

I think the thing that strikes me most about Chavan is his 
uncanny knack for making all parties in a controversy think 
he is on their side. Until the last days of the bitterly fought 
North Bombay election, both the Menon and Kripalani camps 
were telling me that the Chief Minister was really with them. 


Some of this talk may have been wishful thinking, but much 
of it stemmed from Chavan's friendly overtures to both sides. 
When he finally did make his position unmistakably clear in 
speeches for Menon, he couched his appeals in language that 
would cause the least possible offense to the Kripalani camp. 
He made it clear that he was campaigning as a loyal Congress- 
man and lieutenant of Nehru for a candidate officially desig- 
nated by the party high command. 

People on both sides still believe that Ghavan was with them 
on the hotly debated question of applying land ceilings to 
Maharashtra's large sugar estates. The sugar-mill owners, who 
control the big estates, argued that breaking them up would 
cut production and raise costs. "Progressives" in Congress in- 
sisted that the big operators should not evade the land-ceiling 
law. Dr. Rafik Zakaria, a socialist Congressman and minister 
in the state government, told me that Chavan opposed the 
Planning Commission's effort to exempt the sugar plantations. 
The same day, A. D. Shroff, a prominent Bombay financier 
and member of the conservative Swatantra party, told me, "If 
Chavan was compelled to apply the land ceiling to the sugar 
estates, it was not by his choice." 

The upshot was typically Indian: the ceiling has been duly 
applied to the sugar estates but the big operators have formed 
co-operatives, thereby evading the acreage restrictions. Chavan's 
popularity, Maharashtra's sugar output, and socialist predilec- 
tions for land reform have all been safeguarded. 

It would be wrong to conclude that Chavan tries to be on 
all sides of every issue. He takes firm positions on many ques- 
tions. But he does so in a way calculated to minimize resent- 
ment on the opposing side. He shuns political vendettas and 
never gives the impression that he is acting out of spite or 
vengeance. He actively strives to befriend all factions and 
compromise all viewpoints. I sometimes feel that he may over- 
reach himself in the pursuit of popularity. His distaste for 
making enemies tends to blur his political outlines and leaves 
many Indians, especially outside Maharashtra, wondering 
where he really stands on the larger issues facing the country. 
Like the governor of an American state, he is able to avoid 
committing himself on many controversial issues. 

Y. B. CHAVAN 135 

Chavan is a product of the rugged Satara hills south of 
Bombay, an area whose people have been historically addicted 
to freedom. He was born there in the squalid village of 
Deorashtre on March 12, 1914. His father, who was a small 
farmer and part-time bailiff of the local court, died of plague 
when Yeshwantrao was barely four years old. Chavan calls 
himself "a typical product of village life." In his boyhood, he 
says, "when we compared life with village urban life, we found 
it rather oppressive. That paved the road to the demand for 
equality on our part in the sense that we yearned for equal 
opportunities." After his father died, his mother, an illiterate 
peasant woman, devoted her energy to educating her four 
children Yeshwantrao, his two older brothers, and one older 
sister. Young Chavan was enrolled in high school in the nearby 
town of Karad, and there he won prizes in essay writing and 
elocution contests on "patriotic" subjects. He was a thin, in- 
tense young man in those days, overshadowed by his brother 
Ganpatrao in both studies and athletics. But Yeshwantrao al- 
ready possessed unusual self-confidence. When his teacher once 
asked students whom they most wanted to be like, the first 
reply was "Sivaji," the seventeenth-century Maratha chieftain; 
another was "Tilak," the first Congress party extremist; and 
a third answer was "Gandhiji." But when Yeshwantrao's turn 
came, he announced firmly, "I just want to be Yeshwantrao 

Even today Chavan differs from his Congress colleagues in 
refusing to call himself a Nehruite or to identify himself with 
any single personality of the independence movement. He 
says, "I was never the worshiper of any personality." He first 
went to jail when he was sixteen years old, for agitating among 
students in his school. He was released after a few weeks. His 
mother and his eldest brother, Dnyanoba, who had succeeded 
his father as the local bailiff, were shocked. But Yeshwantrao 
told his mother that he was doing nothing that Sivaji and 
Tilak would not have done. The old peasant woman was 
eventually pacified. 

At eighteen Chavan was again arrested by the British. He 
had joined Gandhi's nonco-operation movement in a new out- 
burst of patriotic fervor. He recalls, "They found a bulletin 


on my person and they prosecuted me. I pleaded guilty and 
I was sentenced to eighteen months' rigorous imprisonment/' 

Jail was his campus. There the young agitator from Satara 
met leaders of the independence movement. He attended po- 
litical lectures, joined a prison study circle, and devoured 
books secretly circulated among inmates. India might yet be 
British if so many Congressmen had not gone to universities 
behind bars. 

In prison Chavan read everything he could. Despite the 
heat and the "C"-class food, he mastered some abstruse works 
on political theory. He read everything available on Marxism, 
imbibed Lenin, and went through several works of the English 
Fabian socialists. The program of the British Labour party 
drafted by Sir Stafford Cripps caught his imagination. He liked 
the books of Bertrand Russell and Lord Morley's essay "On 
Compromise." But he was most deeply influenced by the Marx- 
ism of M. N. Roy, a pioneer Indian Communist who was later 
expelled from the party for defying the Comintern line on 
India. Chavan was attracted by Roy's historical perspective 
and his revolutionary approach. He calls this second jail term 
"the year of revolution for me/' 

From his studies in prison, he went on to further studies. 
He passed the matriculation examination in 1934 and entered 
Rajaram College, in Kolhapur, from which he was graduated 
with a degree in history and economics four years later. After 
India had been taken into World War II, he was awarded a 
Bachelor of Laws degree from Poona Law College and started 
practice as a criminal lawyer in Karad. "In our taluka [dis- 
trict]/' Chavan told me with a wry smile, "every pleader is 
a criminal pleader/ 1 Such is the combative temper of the 
Satara hills. But politics remained his first concern. The year 
he was graduated from law school, he became a member of 
the Congress party's Maharashtra provincial committee. He 
visited every village in his district. "I knew the whole district 
as I know the palm of my hand," he boasts. And he still 
knows it. 

World War II was a turning point for Chavan, as for so 
many other Indians. He parted ideological company with M. 


N. Roy when the Bengali Communist called the war an ac- 
cidental conflict. 

"It took a long time for me to make a rational analysis of 
the whole thing," Chavan told me. "It was said that Hitler's 
Nazism was the greatest danger to human rights in their 
democratic form. But at the same time we couldn't make 
much of a distinction between British and German imperial- 
ism. I felt it was intellectual romanticism to say we should 
support British imperialism against German imperialism. This 
struggle within myself went on for a long time." 

The moment of decision came on the night of August 9, 
1942, when word spread that Gandhi had been arrested for 
espousing the Quit India movement. Chavan was attending 
a meeting of 300 Congressmen in Bombay that night. He re- 
members the angry crowds that gathered in the streets of the 
city when news of Gandhi's arrest became known. 

"Finally," he recalls, "I said I must be with the freedom 
forces in India. For me, British rule was an equal evil." 

He thereupon joined the resistance movement in Satara and 
soon carried a price of 1,000 rupees (about $200), set by the 
British for his capture dead or alive. He described his role to 
me in these words: "Our idea was not to court jail. We had 
to prepare the people for some sort of mass action." The action 
took the form of violent protest marches on district govern- 
ment offices. "We tried to plant the national flag on the 
kucheris [local government headquarters] in symbolic capture 
of power," Chavan said as his eyes lighted up. "The police 
reacted sharply. They opened fire on several processions, kill- 
ing nine marchers at one place and injuring dozens of others." 
Chavan was deeply affected when a man who had been with 
him the night before was shot dead as he held the national 
flag aloft. "After the firings," he said, "we decided this was 
wasting manpower. We decided we should start a no-tax cam- 
paign and nonco-operation movement, a game of hide-and- 
seek with the authorities." 

The underground distributed anti-British pamphlets, trained 
recruits in sabotage, and organized clandestine study groups. 
But Chavan admits that it was difficult to keep up popular 


enthusiasm for the cause. After eight or ten months there was 
a lull. The police went on the offensive. Chavan says that they 
were assisted by landowners and "other vested interests" in the 
villages. The underground leaders decided the time had come 
to deal severely with this "reactionary element/' Their deci- 
sion was the origin of the famous Patri Sarkar, or parallel 
government, movement in Satara during the war. On a small 
scale it resembled Chinese Communist guerrilla warfare. Most 
of the Patri Sarkar leaders later joined the Indian Communist 

Chavan's role in the movement is now minimized in his 
official biography. It is said that he never took a direct part 
in sabotage operations except to observe the attempted derail- 
ment of one freight train. The attempt failed. Chavan now 
says that he went on that particular expedition "for the thrill 
of it." In July 1960 he told an interviewer, "I did not like 
the violent turn of the Patri Sarkar. Once violence is started 
it is difficult to fix the limit." But he admits that the leader- 
ship of the movement had decided to carry out some "effective 
sabotage work" and that he belonged to one of the terrorist 
squads set up for this purpose. I have reason to believe that 
he took a more active and sanguinary part in Patri Sarkar 
than he now cares to admit. In any event, his terrorist career 
was short. Late in 1942 his young wife, Venutai, and his 
brother Ganpatrao were arrested as a means of bringing pres- 
sure on him. "My wife naturally had a severe shock," he said, 
"because she did not know any politics." She fell seriously ill 
in prison. When the British released her, she went to stay 
with her father at Phaltan. It was then that Chavan made his 
ill-fated night journey to be at her bedside. "I found her in 
so bad a condition," he told me, "that I thought I should stay 
one day more. By that time rny identity had been secretly 
betrayed to the police by someone." The last word came out 
with a hissing sound. His eyes hardened in remembrance and 
his massive Maratha frame became taut. Watching him, I had 
the feeling that his account with the "someone" who betrayed 
him had not remained unsettled. 

Chavan was arrested, convicted, and sent to jail. There he 
returned to intellectual pursuits. He took more large doses of 

Y. B. CHAVAN 139 

Marxism and wrote patriotic poetry. "At that age/' he remarks, 
"everybody is a poet." The subject matter of his verse was, 
he says, "naturally, political revolution." In 1944 he was re- 
leased from prison by mistake and spent a week at liberty 
before he was rearrested. The next year he was freed and was 
forthwith selected as the Congress candidate from Karad for 
the old Bombay Legislative Assembly. He won the election by 
a towering margin. He was thirty-one. 

Chavan was not content to become a potbellied parliamen- 
tarian. Satara continued to seethe in the early postwar years. 
Economic conditions were unbelievably bad. A bloody struggle 
continued against Brahman landlords and British overlords. 
British control had never been effectively reimposed since 
Patri Sarkar days. Law and order were nonexistent. One West- 
ern political observer with considerable experience in Bombay 
and Delhi says that he has authentic information that Chavan 
had a hand in two political murders in the factional infight- 
ing in Satara after the war. The truth may never be fully 
established, but I doubt that any political leader in the district 
came out of that period with clean hands. 

When the Congress party ministry was formed in Bombay 
in 1946, the young man from Satara was appointed parliamen- 
tary secretary to the minister for home and revenue, the im- 
perious Morarji Desai. The two men, completely different in 
outlook, temperament, and background, had never met before. 
Surprisingly, their association quickly ripened into friendship. 
Chavan was shrewd enough to realize he could learn much 
from the master administrator who was his chief. As he says 
now, "I was certainly observing Morarji at close quarters." 
Desai, for his part, found his energetic young lieutenant a 
refreshing change from the file-bound senior ICS officers. 

Chavan soon discovered that what he now calls his "ro- 
mantic" ideas of socialism had little relevance to the scarcity- 
ridden postwar Bombay economy. Distress was universal. Food 
was short. So was housing, transportation, power, and almost 
everything else except misery. Prices skyrocketed. Chavan found 
that the controls so glibly propounded by socialist theorists 
were easily evaded. Corruption had eaten deep into the fabric 
of Indian society. 


When Desai became chief minister of Bombay in 1952, he 
named Chavan to head the Ministry of Civil Supplies, with 
responsibility for food and other scarce items like fuel. Chavan 
was also put in charge of local self-government and community 
development. He soon won general esteem for his skill in 
introducing decontrol of food in Bombay state. 

He is remarkably clear today in his understanding of eco- 
nomic realities. As he puts it, "The problem [of prices] is 
there and the solution lies in more production of essential 
commodities, i.e., food and cloth/' Unlike the Chinese Com- 
munist leaders, he has never ignored the importance of mon- 
etary incentives in stimulating agricultural production. China's 
agrarian problems are, of course, much vaster and more com- 
plex than anything Chavan has faced in Bombay, but the way 
he has accommodated himself to the realities of the situation 
is impressive. 

In July 1960 he told the editor of the Communist-line 
weekly Blitz: "If you go to a man who has five acres of land 
and tell him the country is in need of more food, he goes by 
his own economics. If he thinks that he does not get more 
money by food crops and he can get more money by growing 
sugarcane or other commercial crops, he will say, 'Let your 
country go to hell. I want money for my children/ So the 
approach should be to the problem." 

Although voluntary "co-operative farming" is an official goal 
of Congress party policy, Chavan has been equally pragmatic 
in his approach to this explosive subject. He told Blitz: "So 
far as the question of agriculture is concerned, this is a sector 
of economic activity where the incentive to produce is very 
vitally linked up with the idea of ownership. . . . That is why 
to take this idea of ownership from the peasants without giving 
them the proper idea about it would naturally take away that 
incentive of production." 

He pointed out that in Yugoslavia and even in some Soviet- 
bloc countries collectivization has been stopped or slowed 
down because "it is not serving the purposes for which it was 
meant." He contends that Congress must "prepare" the Indian 
peasant for co-operative farming by successfully launching serv- 
ice co-operatives to provide him credit, seed, improved tools, 

Y. B. CHAVAN 141 

and marketing facilities. But he admitted in a talk with me in 
1962, "If the cultivator is never convinced, it's possible there 
will never be co-operative farming in India." The prospect 
does not alarm him. 

In Bombay state after 1952, one problem fast came to over- 
shadow all others: language. The agitation for carving separate 
linguistic statesMaharashtra and Gujarat out of Bombay 
state reached hurricane fury. As mentioned in the chapter on 
Desai, the Communists took up the cry and plunged the move- 
ment into bloody conflict with the police and the Army. The 
iron-willed Desai became intensely disliked for the repressive 
measures he instituted and for his refusal to make concessions 
on the language question. By 1956 linguistic fever was run- 
ning high all over India. Under the States Reorganization Act 
passed that year, Bombay was enlarged and made a bilingual 
state, with Marathi and Gujarati sanctioned for official use. 
Desai escaped to New Delhi. On the eve of the reorganization 
of Bombay state, Chavan was elected to lead the Congress 
party in the state assembly by a vote of 333 to 111. On Novem- 
ber i, 1956, he became chief minister of the enlarged Bombay 
state. He faced what seemed a hopeless political situation. 
Congress was committed to maintaining Bombay as a bilin- 
gual state. Chavan was young and unknown. Even Nehru 
wondered if he could hold fast against opposition that had 
shaken the redoubtable Desai. Chavan hung on grimly. Later 
he admitted that the pressure "took its toll of any vitality." 

Nehru paid public homage on three occasions to Chavan 5 s 
performance as chief minister. By the end of 1958, Chavan 
was persuaded that Congress could not maintain its stand 
against the linguistic agitation and hope to recapture Bombay 
state in the 1962 general elections. He is widely credited in 
Maharashtra with bringing this truth home to Nehru and the 
Congress high command. His role may be exaggerated in retro- 
spect, but it is tribute to his Rooseveltian sense of timing that 
he escaped from the collapsing edifice of old Bombay state in 
time to avoid serious political injury and not before he had 
made his name with Nehru as a fearless lieutenant of the 
central government. 

Following the advice of Chavan and others, Nehru retreated, 


and the new linguistic states o Maharashtra and Gujarat were 
born on May i, 1960, to the relief of almost everyone except 
the Communists. They had lost their last effective issue in 
Bombay. The united front they had forged against Congress 
quickly disintegrated. 

Chavan now says that the reorganization of India on lin- 
guistic lines was inevitable. "The basic idea of having lin- 
guistic states is a correct thing," he says. "It's an expression of 
the diversity of Indian life. This diversity is a fact and should 
be a source o strength." He contends that a linguistic state 
also brings the machinery of government closer to the people 
and provides an opportunity for the development of indigenous 
literature, theater, and films. 

On this issue Chavan differs from Desai, who believes that 
linguistic states are a bad thing. The divergence reflects the 
different approach of the two men: Desai, the administrator, 
thinking first of administrative efficiency; Chavan, the poli- 
tician and humanist, with his eye on what the electorate 

Chavan could never have weathered the years after Desai's 
departure and before the decision to divide Bombay state had 
it not been for his extraordinary tact in dealing with the op- 
position. Whereas Desai can alienate even his most fervent 
admirers, Chavan can disarm the most partisan critic. His 
courtesy and good humor are now proverbial in the Bombay 
Legislature. He is regularly in his seat during the question 
hour in the legislature and handles the most embarrassing 
queries with candor and an easy manner. When he first suc- 
ceeded Desai, Bombay expected him to retain the regulations 
and restrictions imposed by his puritanical predecessor. What 
happened was, as one young Indian businessman recalls, "a 
refreshing contrast." House searches by the police for suspected 
bootleggers or illegal distilleries were largely abandoned. The 
cosmopolitan city of Bombay heaved a sigh of relief. Many 
residents felt as if they had been released from a reformatory. 
They were pleased to see their young Chief Minister relaxing 
at evening receptions and were delighted to hear him give 
speeches that did not end in homilies on the evils of self- 

Y. B. CHtAVAN 143 

I was impressed by the easy way Chavan mixed with some 
of Bombay's leading industrialists and financiers at a recep- 
tion I attended. He has no particular fondness for big busi- 
ness, but he bantered with the tycoons as naturally as with a 
gathering of Maharashtra Congress party workers. He listened 
gravely to their complaints about Bombay's chronic power 
shortage and promised to do something about it. When he 
rose to speak, he began by praising the business community's 
contribution to Maharashtra, then gently chided them for 
concentrating their plants around Bombay instead of pioneer- 
ing in the backward areas of the state. He ended with a hap- 
pily turned phrase about providing electric power for any 
industrialist who went into the back country. 

Unlike Desai and Nehru, Chavan never lectures his audi- 
ence. He is succinct. Even more unusual for an Indian pol- 
itician, he can talk about what he is supposed to talk about 
when he gets up to speak. If he opens a girls' school, he will 
discuss women's education. In the same situation Desai might 
sermonize on the virtues of self-denial. Nehru, who often for- 
gets what he is supposed to be inaugurating, is likely to solilo- 
quize on nuclear testing or the future of Asia. 

The formation of the first Maratha state in 142 years (albeit 
under New Delhi's control) has prompted the inevitable and 
absurd comparison of Chavan with Sivaji, the great Maratha 
empire-builder. Maratha patriotism has swelled. Typical of 
the prattling hero worship now lavished on Chavan is the 
discovery by one newspaper that "Chavan has materialized 
Sivaji's dream of a strong and unified empire on India's west 
coast." A more thoughtful observer says that Chavan has given 
Maharashtrians self-respect and a feeling of individual identity 
for the first time since 1818, when they were subdued by the 
British. The tough, warlike Marathas provided some of the 
finest soldiers in the old British Indian Army, and they fulfill 
the same function in the present Indian Army. They are a 
sturdy, self-reliant race with a goo-year-old imperial tradition. 
They are accustomed to helping shape the political destinies 
of the rest of India. Maharashtra has an active, intellectual 
middle class- based on Bombay, Poona, and other cities. The 
peasantry, vigorous and progressive by Indian standards, has 


never suffered the burden o feudalism that crushed the Bihar 
country folk. Historically, Marathas have advocated education. 
Every sizable town in the state has a secondary school. Most 
of them are privately run although they receive state aid. 
Marathas have traditionally been farmers, teachers, clerks, 
soldiers, or policemen. Business has been in the hands of 
Parsis and Gujaratis. The state's natural resources are largely 
untapped. Consequently, Maharashtra has always had a slight 
have-not complex, resulting in a radical political outlook. 

Chavan knows how to appeal to this mentality. He has 
promoted provincial pride without letting it degenerate into 
chauvinism. He has satisfied the craving for education by 
building more schools, especially ones with a technical bias, 
and by providing more teacher- training facilities. He has en- 
couraged Marathas to enter business and professions like 
medicine, where they have had little representation. Some 
people think he has gone too far in identifying himself with 
Maharashtra. The Maharashtra Congress party is now vir- 
tually a Maratha caste organization. As the Statesman of Cal- 
cutta remarked, "The outstanding leaders of the Congress, 
Mr. Kamaraj Nadar [Madras chief minister] and Mr. Chavan, 
have adroitly used caste loyalties. With all their ability and 
acumen, if they had not been born in the strategic castes of 
Nadars [toddy-tappers] and Marathas, these leaders might have 
remained among the also-rans of Indian politics." By exploit- 
ing caste and provincial loyalties to the hilt, some observers 
feel that Chavan has disqualified himself for an all-India role. 
He emphatically denies this. He told me: "My present respon- 
sibility is Maharashtra. But my approach, background, every- 
thing, is absolutely all-India. As a member of the Congress 
Working Committee I have to take the larger view. Even my 
thinking for Maharashtra flows from my thinking about na- 
tional problems. 11 

Chavan apparently thought he could usefully remain chief 
minister of Maharashtra until some time in the mid-sixties. 
Until then he would be consolidating his position and strength- 
ening his ties with Congress leaders in other parts of the coun- 
try. He was in no hurry to go to New Delhi. Sadiq AH, the 
former general secretary of the All-India Congress Com- 

Y. B. CHAVAN 145 

mittee, said that Chavan would not consider going to the 
Center for anything less than the Home Ministry. As AH put 
it, "He would come only for the assurance of political prefer- 
ment in the future." There is little doubt that the ultimate 
preferment Chavan has in mind leads to the prime minister's 
residence on Teen Murti Marg. 

Even while he remained in Maharashtra, Chavan was busy 
creating an all-India image. He had started making speeches 
about foreign policy. They were largely a restatement of Nehru 
ideas, but they established his license to speak on foreign affairs 
in the highest councils of the party. The care he exercised not 
to step on Nehru's sensitive toes in the foreign-policy field was 
glaringly obvious when he droned through a prepared speech 
to the so-called Seminar on Portuguese Colonialism in October 
1961 in Bombay. He usually does not prepare his speeches, 
but with the seizure of Goa already in the offing he wanted 
to be absolutely sure that he said nothing amiss. 

Whatever Chavan may have said about foreign policy was far 
less important in creating a national reputation than was his 
systematic and successful efforts to cultivate the minorities in 
Maharashtra. Like New York, Bombay is a congeries of minor- 
ities. In Maharashtra as a whole, the Marathas account for 
about 45 per cent of the population. Before Maharashtra was 
made a separate state, there was talk that Gujaratis, Parsis, 
Sindhis, south Indians, and other non-Marathas in Bombay 
would find all doors closed to them and would consequently 
leave the city en masse. These fears have proved unfounded. 
The minorities have little political power in Maharashtra, 
but they still enjoy their traditional position in business, 
trade, and the professions. Chavan is much more popular with 
them than was Desai, not because he has done anything out- 
standing to improve their lot, but because he goes out of his 
way to demonstrate interest in them. He attends their parties, 
puts his arm around their leaders, and constantly talks about 
how much the minorities are a part of Maharashtra. 

Chavan's assiduous cultivation of everyone has raised some 
doubts about his sincerity. As one of his admirers puts it, "It 
makes you wonder whom he really does like and whether it's 
all being put on." Chavan says of himself, "I don't give the 


impression that anyone is my confidant. I don't have an inner 
circle. But I watch people very closely/' A former member 
of the Rajya Sabha in New Delhi says, "Chavan is not a man 
of principle. He will do what works." Morarji Desai says, 
"Chavan is all right. He's done well." He adds with a trace 
of resentment, "Chavan is interested in himself. This is com- 
mon in politics. It's nothing to be surprised at." S. K. Patil, 
who is engaged in an apparently losing fight with Chavan for 
control of the Bombay branch of the Congress party, calls 
the Chief Minister an "opportunist" who does whatever Nehru 

Such criticism of Chavan is rare. What makes it unique is 
its comparative mildness. Indian politicians rarely stop short 
of character assassination in their judgments of a colleague. 
Political foes whom one would expect to denounce Chavan in 
the bitterest terms actually come out with encomiums about 
him. R. D. Bhandare, leader of the radical wing of the Repub- 
lican party of India, composed largely of untouchables, is 
savagely critical of most Congress leaders, including Gandhi 
and Nehru, but not of Chavan. He says, "Chavan has the 
capacity to be a national leader. He's a socialist by conviction." 
He says that the Chief Minister at first took seriously the 
demand of a few extremist untouchable converts to Buddhism 
for a separate Buddhist homeland and began to express doubt 
about the loyalty of all former untouchables. But he soon 
realized his error and sent special police officers to reconcile 
feuding caste Hindus and untouchable converts to Buddhism 
in several Maharashtra villages. Bhandare, who, like most 
leaders of the untouchables, has a chip on his shoulder the 
size of a boulder, says, "We like Chavan's way of dealing with 
the [untouchable] problem. He will change his attitude on any 
particular issue provided we approach him in the right way. 
We have no mental animus against Chavan." 

In the same vein, a respected Praja Socialist party leader in 
Bombay says, "Chavan's way of handling things has been really 
remarkable. In almost every other province the Congress has 
been riven by factions and groups. Maharashtra is relatively 
free of that. Basically, Chavan is very sound because he is a 

Y. B. CHAVAN 147 

At the other end of the political spectrum, A. D. Shroff says 
that Chavan is well disposed toward business and only "pre- 
tends to be a socialist because everyone in India today has to 
play up to Nehru." Shroff considers Chavan "a coming man," 
free of Desai's dogmatism. Like other Bombay businessmen, 
Shroff credits Chavan with having improved the state adminis- 
tration, kept corruption down, and reconciled conflicting in- 

Praise from such diverse quarters shows that Chavan is a 
consummate politician, but it does not give a clue to what he 
really stands for, if anything. His public pronouncements are 
not very enlightening. Whether he speaks in Marathi, Hindi, 
or his Indianized English, his words tend to fall into the 
platitudinous pattern of Congress party political speeches. The 
clue to Chavan lies solely in his actions. They show clearly 
that he is a pragmatist, not only on large issues (as Desai is), 
but in his habits of working and living (as Desai is not). 
Chavan is no faddist or dogmatist. He began political life as 
a Marxist and he still uses a Marxist vocabulary. Talking to 
me in April 1962, he remarked with complete seriousness, 
"Individually, there are some good industrialists." He is suspi- 
cious of monopolistic tendencies in Indian business. When I 
asked him to clarify a statement he had made to Blitz in 1960 
about stock exchanges not being necessary in a "grown-up 
socialist economy," he replied with typical suavity: "That was 
a theoretical discussion. I was asked if the stock market is 
necessarily part of our economy. I don't think the stock market 
is necessarily part of the economic structure, particularly the 
speculation part of it." 

I have never seen Chavan more animated than when he told 
me, "The young man I admire most in the world today" is 
President Kennedy. What raised Kennedy's prestige in his 
eyes more than anything else was the President's firm handling 
of the steel-price issue in 1962. When Chavan heard that the 
big steel companies had capitulated under pressure from the 
White House, he said he felt elated. Half rising from his chair, 
he told me excitedly, "It was a great victory on the home front 
for Kennedy." He clearly pictures himself in such a role. 

Chavan had never been abroad when he made these re- 


marks to me in the spring of 1962. But he has long been fond 
of reading American history, both revolutionary and contempo- 
rary, and can discuss such figures as Jefferson and Lincoln. 
Inevitably, he compares Lincoln to Gandhi. Recently he has 
broadened his acquaintance with the American scene by read- 
ing novels such as Allen Drury's Advise and Consent. He is 
almost entirely self-educated as far as American history and the 
contemporary world are concerned. Until recent years Indian 
universities paid scant attention to such subjects. He often 
borrows books from the American Consulate General in Bom- 
bay. When he found himself traveling on the same train early 
in 1962 with Jane Abel, the Consulate's political officer, he 
engaged her in a long conversation about American history 
and politics and proceeded to borrow most of the books she 
had brought to read on the train. 

At diplomatic receptions in Bombay, the peasant-born Chief 
Minister moves with assurance and dignity, smiling at every- 
one, murmuring a few words of greeting but spending most 
of the time listening. He is one of the few Indian politicians 
I have met who is a good listener and who genuinely wants 
to learn. As one American diplomat remarked, "You can stand 
with that man for half an hour and come away to realize that 
you've been doing all the talking. You don't really know any- 
thing more about what Chavan thinks than you did before." 

Such talents make the Chief Minister his own best source 
of political intelligence. Wherever he goesto dinner on swank 
Malabar Hill or to a night watchman's funeral in the slums 
of North Bombay he is constantly amassing information and 
impressions, educating himself and gauging his administra- 
tion's performance against the complaints he hears. As he 
says, "You have to be in touch with public opinion through 
different channels. It's a constant process of communication." 
The process of communication keeps him on the move eighteen 
hours a day. Like Churchill, he prefers to do his brainwork 
at night. Days are for meeting and talking to people. Because 
he toils until 1:30 A.M. and often much later, the Chief Min- 
ister likes to sleep late. And when he does arise he does no yoga 
exercises, says no prayers, and performs none of the ablution 

Y. B. CHAVAN 149 

rituals most caste Hindus consider inescapable. Yoga would 
be good for Chavan, because he is seriously overweight, a 
problem his wife worries about. He is supposed to be dieting, 
but he relishes good living too much to stint himself or to 
engage in the puritanisms that so many Congress leaders like 
to advertise. 

Mornings are the only time of day that the Chief Minister 
has to himself. He likes to gaze out over the calm expanse of 
the Arabian Sea from Sahyadri (Eternal Mountain), his official 
residence set among the millionaires' mansions on Malabar 
Hill. In his air-conditioned sitting room are pictures of the 
three persons who, Chavan says, have most influenced him: 
Gandhi (two photographs), Sivaji, and his mother, now well 
over ninety. She still lives at Karad in a typical peasant house. 
No one knows her exact age. She says that her son has some 
job that causes him to move about all the time. Chavan takes 
care to see that his periodic visits to the wizened old lady 
are well publicized. Being a peasant boy is no more of a po- 
litical handicap in India today than being born in a log cabin 
was in nineteenth-century America. 

Visitors who have been lounging around the house since 
early morning start trooping into Chavan's sitting room at 
nine o'clock every morning. For an hour and a half he hears 
their grievances, listens to their complaints, and receives their 
petitions. Every politician in India is a kind of court of con- 
tinuous appeal. After one talk I had with Chavan, we walked 
downstairs to find about thirty disgruntled local politicians 
waiting on the front porch. Each one wanted to know why 
he had not been nominated by the Congress party (which in 
Maharashtra means Chavan) to run in forthcoming district 
elections. Gesticulating expressively, the Chief Minister ex- 
plained the situation in Marathi. The office seekers were still 
irate. Chavan shouldered his way through them and pulled 
open the door of the 1956 Dodge he uses to get around Bombay. 
One man would not be put off. He stuck his head through 
the car window and began haranguing Chavan. The Chief 
Minister switched to English and finally growled, "I am the 
boss." With that he closed the car window, practically de- 


capitating the disconsolate politico, and ordered the driver to 
get moving. As he drove off, the group on the porch settled 
back to await his return. 

After completing his morning audiences, Chavan dons his 
white Gandhi cap and leaves his home at 10:30 A.M. for the 
twenty-minute drive to the Sachivalaya, the Maharashtra state 
government headquarters. This is a functional six-story sky- 
scraper (by Bombay standards) in the rather insipid style that 
might be called Indian Modern. In his paneled, book-lined 
office on the sixth floor, five telephones four white and one 
black cluster by his desk. I do not know the significance of 
the black one. In any event, he uses them sparingly. Most of 
his time in the office is taken up with visitors state officials 
in the morning, delegations or individual private callers in 
the afternoon. Except for the Wednesday cabinet meeting and 
periodic sessions of the Maharashtra Congress Committee, 
Chavan's days are largely devoted to what one aide calls "pub- 
lic relations." The only time his secretaries can approach him 
with paper work during the day is when he is eating a box 
lunch at his desk. From 5:30 to 6:30 P.M. Chavan receives from 
thirty to forty visitors who come without appointments. The 
old mogul tradition of public audience persists. In the evening 
the Chief Minister usually dines out (without his wife) and 
attends charity shows or meetings of community organizations. 
He endures long-winded speeches of welcome with cheerful 
fortitude. By 10:30 P.M. he is back at the Sahyadri. Then his 
real work begins. He scans several hundred official files, on 
everything from hydro power to patronage, and jots his deci- 
sion or comments in the margin as soon as he turns the last 

The general impression in India is that Chavan's health is 
excellent. But there are signs that the killing pace he has set 
himself is beginning to tell. He fell ill in February 1962 
during his almost nonstop electioneering. According to one 
close friend, he had not allowed himself time to recover fully 
by the end of April. 

Even if Chavan had the strength of ten, he could not single- 
handedly administer a state of nearly forty million people. 
Maharashtra's population is larger than that of most European 

Y. B. CHAVAN 151 

countries. Chavan relies on a governmental machine that is 
good by Indian standards but still far from European or Amer- 
ican norms. After the 1962 elections, the Chief Minister ap- 
pointed an outsized cabinet of seventeen ministers and four- 
teen deputy ministers, comparable in numbers to Nehru's cabi- 
net in New Delhi. He was not motivated by considerations of 
efficiency. On the contrary, such ministerial avoirdupois usu- 
ally encumbers the administrative process. Chavan, who was 
stoned when he addressed election meetings in one region re- 
cently incorporated into Maharashtra, was striving to appease 
conflicting regional interests and promote what Indians call 
the "emotional integration" of his state. Whether multiplying 
cabinet portfolios will in fact accomplish this aim is open to 
question. Fortunately, Chavan had the wisdom to select as his 
finance minister a brilliant Brahman and former ICS officer, 
S. G. Barve, who dilutes the heavy Maratha concentration in 
the cabinet and can fight Maharashtra's battles with the ICS 
bureaucrats in New Delhi. This is very important in assuring 
any state a reasonable share of central government funds, 
especially for development. Barve's presence is also expected 
to improve the general tone of the Maharashtra administration. 

The most daring step Chavan has taken in his public career 
is a law that came into force on May i, 1962, whereby demo- 
cratically elected district councils are given funds and execu- 
tive authority to conduct administration, planning, and de- 
velopment at the local level. In Maharashtra, the councils are 
picked by universal adult suffrage instead of by indirect elec- 
tion, as in several other Indian states. Power is being decen- 
tralized so that the government, as the Times of India re- 
marked, "is no longer amorphous, remote and inscrutable, but 
immediate, present and accountable." The ultimate aim is to 
energize the stagnant countryside and associate Maharashtra's 
impoverished, sun-blackened rural masses with the quest for 
self-generating progress. Success in Maharashtra would give 
powerful impetus to rural regeneration throughout India. 

To achieve success, Chavan has surrendered more power- 
arid money to local bodies than any other chief minister in 
India. Almost a third of Maharashtra's state budget will hence- 
forth be spent by village and district bodies. The entire land 


revenue, the traditional backbone of government finance in 
India, is now allocated to the district councils and the pancha- 
yats. Every increment in land revenue will earn a matching 
grant from the state government. This should encourage the 
district bodies to overcome their usual reluctance to collect 
taxes. Each district council, or parishad, will have a spe- 
cialized executive committee chosen on the basis of propor- 
tional representation of all parties and interests in the council. 
This provision should make it more difficult for landowners, 
merchants, and moneylenders to stifle free discussion. In recent 
times panchayats lacked the money to pay even partial wages 
to the village watchman. Now, to make service on the councils 
more attractive and to reduce corruption, the state pays 500 
rupees a month (about $100) to the president of each district 
body, and salaries to the members of the executive committees. 

Despite the attractive features of the system adopted in 
Maharashtra, Chavan faces an uphill fight to make local gov- 
ernment more than an interesting subject of study for sociol- 
ogists. As S. K. Dey, India's minister for community develop- 
ment, says, "It is forgotten that the neon lights and the gold 
rush behind them have seduced the best minds from the 
countryside. If there is govnda [gangster] rule in the village, 
there is no one to provide the antidote." Starved for brains 
and money, village institutions have withered in many places, 
even where they have been revived under official auspices. 

The panchayat, or council of village elders elected by adult 
citizens of a village, is almost as old as India. Under centuries 
of mogul and British rule these institutions fell into decay as 
the villagers lapsed into torpid despair. Where they survived, 
the village panchayats became the plaything of the district 
collector or the most powerful landlords. Even today district 
officials tend to be contemptuous of the villagers' ability to 
handle their own affairs. When the collector or his deputy 
makes all the decisions, interest in the panchayat soon evapo- 
rates. Caste often makes village democracy a sham, and pan- 
chayat elections are conducted almost entirely on the basis of 
caste. I remember visiting a village in Raj as than where only 
members of the caste that controlled the panchayat were 
allowed to benefit from a new irrigation system. No matter 

Y. B. CHAVAN 153 

which caste runs the panchayat, the untouchables there know 
they will still be excluded from the main village well and the 
makeshift temple. 

In Maharashtra, Chavan is providing a large number of 
district officers, technicians, and consultants to serve as the 
staff of the district councils. It is difficult to say how competent 
these people are. And the better they are, the more likely 
they are to dominate the district councils instead of serving 

Such dangers and difficulties do not make Chavan pessimistic, 
at least in public. He insists that he is optimistic about the 
great experiment he has launched. "There is no doubt," he 
says, "that panchayat-i-raj [government by panchayats] will be 
successful. Very much so. Of course, there will be initial dif- 
ficulties. But I have faith in the people." 

Although Chavan is ultimately responsible for the success 
or failure of panchayat-i-raj in Maharashtra, it is not clear 
how much, if any, of the basic thinking behind the scheme 
is his. One respected Praja Socialist leader says flatly, "Chavan 
hasn't produced a single new idea on panchayats/' 

Panchayat-i-raj is a long-term challenge to Chavan. The 
most serious immediate threat he has faced in his public life 
arose on the morning of July 12, 1961, when the earthen 
Panshet dam outside Poona gave way under the pressure of 
torrential monsoon rains. Chavan immediately chartered a 
plane and flew to Poona with a few aides. He found flood 
waters raging through the stricken city. Poona was devastated. 
By conservative official reckoning, 32,000 people were home- 
less and thousands of others had fled their homes for fear of 
new disaster. When the dam collapsed, large parts of the city 
were inundated so quickly by the cascading deluge that at 
least thirty-one persons were drowned. Those who escaped had 
no time to retrieve even jewelry or family heirlooms. Poona 
was a nightmare of chaos and despair. Electricity, water supply, 
sewage, and communications were disrupted. Typhoid threat- 
ened to reach epidemic proportions. 

In such crises Chavan is at his best. He immediately took 
personal command of relief operations. He called together 
the demoralized local officials and ordered each to survey a 


particular problem and report back the next morning. Then 
he set out on foot through the water and mountains of debris. 
At first he was greeted with sullen looks and angry words 
from the dazed populace. For three days and two nights he 
never stopped moving. He comforted weeping women, listened 
sympathetically to outraged homeowners, and picked up chil- 
dren in his burly arms. Any capable political leader might do 
as much. But Chavan drove himself through those grim July 
days with a fury that surpassed politics. He waded down every 
lane and alley. He set up transit camps for the homeless and 
procured food grains and drinking water for the thirsty and 
famished. And he listened to the most violent denunciations 
of his administration without a flicker of annoyance. 

There is little doubt that local officials were negligent in 
failing to evacuate low-lying sections of Poona or even to issue 
forceful warnings when heavy rains started falling in the 
Panshet dam's catchment area on June 25. From that day, the 
water level behind the dam rose steadily and menacingly. On 
the night of July 10, the executive engineer noticed water 
seeping through the downstream rock-toe. A night-long vigil 
was ordered. The following day cracks had appeared along 
the edges of the settled portion in a direction across the dam 
axis. This ominous development was reported to the super- 
intending district engineer in Poona. The Army was called in. 
At 6:30 P.M. on July 11, 200 army sappers began desperately 
stacking earth-filled bags in the sunken portion of the dam. 
Throughout the night, as the water surged higher, half-hourly 
reports were flashed to the collector of Poona, the highest- 
ranking local official But the residents of the city were al- 
lowed to sleep undisturbed, not knowing of the catastrophe 
that seemed imminent and was to engulf them. 

A few days later an official investigation was ordered. The 
disaster at Poona was bad enough in itself, but the fate of the 
man appointed to probe it has given rise to insinuations against 
Chavan that, as one of his closest advisers told me, have hurt 
him more than anything else in his years of public life. 

The sequence of events began on October 13, 1961, when 
R. S. Bavdekar, a highly respected retired judge of the Bombay 
High Court, wrote to Chavan resigning from his post as head 

Y. B. GHAVAN 155 

of the commission appointed to investigate the Panshet calam- 
ity. He announced that he was quitting because he suspected 
that an accident report submitted by the dam's chief engineer 
had been tampered with by officials of the state government. 
Chavan says that he was unable to see Bavdekar because he 
was "terribly busy" that week selecting Congress candidates 
for the state assembly. But the Chief Secretary of the state 
government, N. T. Mone, was ordered to do everything pos- 
sible to persuade the old Judge to withdraw his resignation. 
For the next six days Mone and Bavdekar met repeatedly at 
odd hours of the day and night at the Sachivalaya. They 
wrangled bitterly. At one point Bavdekar charged the Chief 
Secretary with having personally stolen documentary evidence 
submitted to the commission and substituting falsified doc- 

The end came at 9:45 P.M. on October 19, 1961, when the 
sorely tried Bavdekar plunged to his death from the window 
of his fourth-story apartment in Bombay. The Judge is alleged 
to have said earlier that his health was failing and he could 
not carry on as head of the investigation commission. The 
police recorded his death as a suicide. 

Bavdekar's death was seized on by opposition parties, in- 
cluding the Communists, as an election issue. They whispered 
that Chavan's government had murdered him after failing to 
dupe the Judge with forged documents. The accusations were 
so crude and so obviously political in inspiration that they 
changed few votes in the 1962 election although the whole 
episode did leave many questions unanswered. A later report 
by Justice V. A. Naik, of the Bombay High Court, dismissed 
Bavdekar's suspicions as "a figment of his overwrought imagina- 
tion/' But, as Chavan himself admits, "this thing must have 
weighed with Bavdekar." 

I have questioned Chavan in detail about the Judge's death. 
He swears he is sure in his own mind that no one in his ad- 
ministration tampered with evidence given Bavdekar or tried 
to bring pressure on him. "I'm continuously trying to find out," 
he says, "what was the real reason for Bavdekar's action. A 
judge shouldn't act merely on suspicions." He insists that the 
report Bavdekar believed had been falsified was only an in- 


formation memorandum to enable the Chief Minister to an- 
swer questions on the Panshet disaster in the state assembly. 
Chavan says that it was never intended for submission to 

As C. D. Deshmukh, the former Union finance minister, 
who comes from Bombay, says, "The Panshet dam collapse and 
the Judge's death would have been the end of almost any 
other government. But Chavan pushed that aside and wasn't 
hurt by it in the election." A Western diplomat stationed in 
Bombay is less uncritical. He says that the government's ex- 
planation seems "too facile/' A well-informed newspaper execu- 
tive in Bombay told me, "Our feeling is that there is something 
underhand in Bavdekar's suicide, although I know High Court 
justices do occasionally go potty." A leading Bombay indus- 
trialist whose party opposes Congress says that Bavdekar was 
inclined to be a "little unbalanced." The mystery remains. 

Whatever the final verdict of history, the Bavdekar episode 
is not likely to retard Chavan's rise to all-India stature. Frank 
Moraes has written, "Given the very vital element of luck, 
I venture to predict that some day Mr. Chavan will achieve 
the office of Prime Minister of India. He has the requisite 
timber that mellows rather than hardens with experience and 
keeping. . . . Contemplativeness marches alongside practical- 

At the Bhavnagar Congress session in December 1960, 
Chavan won more votes for re-electon to the Congress Working 
Committee that any other candidate except Indira Gandhi. 
In their private discussions, the editors of the Times of India 
are said to have concluded that Chavan is the man most likely 
to be the next prime minister. He has youth, ability, and 
charm, as well as a united provincial party behind him. He 
has also been remarkably adept at keeping the good will of 
all factions in New Delhi. Even a brief period of service as a 
minister in the Union cabinet may dissipate some of this 
support, but will probably not destroy it entirely. South 
India would be more inclined to accept Chavan than Desai as 
prime minister, because Chavan refuses to agitate for the im- 
position of Hindi as the national language. Uttar Pradesh 
might accept Chavan because, he gives the impression that he 

Y. B. CHAVAN 157 

would co-operate loyally with the party bosses, most of whom 
hail from U.P. This impression may well prove mistaken once 
Chavan is in the driver's seat, but until then it bolsters his 
standing in the traditional heartland of Congress power. Nehru 
likes men who are Leftish in thought and elastic in practice. 
Chavan is both. Like Lai Bahadur Shastri, he has displayed 
a shrewd pliancy toward anything coming from Nehru, no 
matter how distasteful it was to Maharashtra. This attitude 
has earned him the Prime Minister's gratitude. Jayaprakash 
Narayan, who ordinarily is allergic to party bosses, calls Chavan 
the ablest chief minister in India. Dr. A. V. Baliga, who man- 
aged Krishna Menon's campaign for re-election in 1962, says 
that Chavan is "one of the few leaders who, like Prime Minister 
Nehru, sincerely believe in and work for a socialist society/' 
Baliga calls the Chief Minister "truly secular in his outlook," 
and says, "It is not surprising that many people already think 
of him as one worthy of succeeding Nehru." 

One of the few dissenting opinions about Chavan was voiced 
by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., a White House adviser, who scorn- 
fully dismissed him as a "fathead" after chatting with him for 
half an hour in February 1962. Even for a snap judgment, 
Schlesinger's comment is surprisingly wide of the mark. No 
one who makes the slightest effort to know Chavan could 
regard him as a fathead. He is an Indian version of the capable, 
hard-driving American governor or big-city boss. There is 
nothing fatuous about Chavan. 

Another American observer, whose judgment of Indian pol- 
iticians presumably carries more weight with Washington than 
Schlesinger's, says he thinks that Chavan has an excellent 
chance to become prime minister. He feels that the Chief Min- 
ister's only drawback is that he is a "thinner" politician 
figuratively speaking than Nehru or even Morarji Desai. 
This is probably inevitable in view of Chavan's strictly provin- 
cial role until recent years. My own feeling is that the real 
pitfall he faces is being identified as a caste politician. A purely 
Maratha figure has little future in Delhi. Although Chavan 
disavows caste chauvinism, his political machine is now almost 
entirely Maratha. The test of his ability to control his own 
followers is still to come. His professed secularism also remains 


to be put to the test. As long as he ran a one-caste political 
organization in Maharashtra, he could never prove that he 
had the capacity to balance caste and communal forces, re- 
quired of any all-India leader. 

Such limitations should not obscure the fact that Chavan 
has already shown immense talent for self-development. Al- 
though he has headed a one-caste machine, he has a far more 
cosmopolitan outlook than any chief minister in India has had. 

Even if he never takes up permanent residence in the prime 
minister's house, he is bound to play a vital role in Indian 
politics in the years ahead. He probably represents the new 
generation more ably than any other leading politician in the 
country. The smiling man from Satara may lack ideological 
definition, but he has the executive ability and homespun ap- 
proach that appeal to younger Congressmen and to the new 
electorate that sustains them. The world will hear more of 
Yeshwantrao Chavan. 

Indira Gandhi 

PLATO BELIEVED that "immortal sons defying their fathers" 
were the guarantee of progress. Jawaharlal Nehru has no son 
to defy him, but he has a daughter whose defiance lies in her 
apparent determination to achieve the things her father only 

Indira Gandhi, Nehru's dearest and most trusted disciple, 
aspires to put his gospel into practice. If she succeeds, she 
could become the most powerful woman in the world today. 
If she fails, she will join the ranks of the anonymous offspring 
of famous fathers. She is different from any of the others 
sketched in this book, not only because she is a woman, but 
because her political potential is harder to measure. She has 
probably been involved in more top-level decisions than any 
other member of India's present ruling hierarchy except her 
father. Yet she bears official responsibility for none and can 
properly claim credit for none. Her power is vast, amorphous, 
and indefinable. No one doubts that she has easier and more 
frequent access to her father than any other Indian, but no 
one really knows the extent of her influence on him. No Con- 



gressman dares defy her, yet none openly proclaims his al- 
legiance to her. She holds no official position in the govern- 
ment, but when she goes abroad, President Kennedy and 
other chiefs of state vie with one another for her favor. No 
public figure in India disclaims political ambition so insistently 
and none is more disbelieved. 

Such anomalies make Indira Gandhi one of the most fas- 
cinating enigmas in India today. Even her looks are a subject 
of controversy. She is much more attractive than her sinister- 
looking newspaper pictures, but at first glance there is some- 
thing forbiddingly regal about this child of the Indian revolu- 
tion. Her long, thin face and Roman features are severe in 
repose. I am somehow reminded of a Hapsburg empress when 
I see her slender sari-draped figure sweeping through the car- 
peted halls of the prime minister's residence in New Delhi. 
She enters the little sitting room where visitors are received 
so swiftly and noiselessly that I am always startled and slightly 
flustered. It is as if a queenly apparition had suddenly material- 
ized on the couch beside me. But her imperial aura and my 
confusion vanish as soon as she greets me in a voice so soft that 
I must strain to hear. Her smile is disarming, almost girlish. 
The dark eyes are reflective and a bit melancholy. Her white 
embroidered sari is immaculate. She dresses simply, with little 
jewelry. Her hair, beginning to turn gray noticeably, is cut 
short and waved softly, a radical departure from the tight bun 
most Indian women knot at the back of the head. 

There is a note of urgency in the way she talks, in the way 
she fidgets with her sari and shifts restlessly on the couch. 
If she is interested or amused, an impish smile keeps tugging 
at the corners of her mouth. If she is bored or annoyed, her 
natural reserve can become glacial. But her most striking 
quality is a passionate sincerity that makes her seem more 
candid and outspoken than she really is. She has her father's 
knack for appearing to be modest while saying consistently 
immodest things about herself. There is a kind of controlled 
intensity about her that I find appealing, even charming. It 
is as if she were Imploring you to uphold all sorts of good 
causes in which the powers of light find themselves heavily 
outnumbered by the forces of darkness. She can be agitated 


without sacrificing her composure, and emphatic without being 
strident. Behind the first lady of India I can see the lonely, 
insecure child who used to admonish her dolls to court arrest 
when her parents were in jail. 

Whatever else I may think about her, I can never forget 
that she is a Nehru. The chiseled features are the same, as 
are the seeming hesitancy in the voice, the Brahmanical self- 
assurance, and the little calculated displays of annoyance. 
Above all, she is the political projection of her father. Her 
socialism may be more uncompromising, but it is no less 
romantic than his. She, like her father, is a case of arrested 
ideological development, clinging to outworn Fabian dialectics, 
tilting at vested interests, and forever invoking the Utopia of 
scientific rationalism. She has the reputation of being more 
radical and incisive than her father, but this is hardly sur- 
prising. Youth can afford to be incisive, and radicalism always 
flourishes best without responsibility. In any event, she dis- 
claims doctrinal orthodoxy. "I don't really have a political 
philosophy/' she says. "I can't say I believe in any ism/' 

Her detractors are quick to offer an explanation. "Indira 
Gandhi has no ideas of her own," a former minister in Nehru's 
cabinet told me. "If you include her in your book, you will 
be reduced to saying polite things." I have felt no such com- 
pulsion. A Western historian who has known the Nehru family 
for many years calls her a "silly little girl without an idea in 
her head." One of India's great ladies, a world-famous social 
worker and disciple of Gandhi, witheringly dismisses her as a 
'Very nice person genuinely humble." 

Such disparagements may be confirmed when Indira Gandhi 
faces the world without the protection of the parental banyan 
tree. She may shrivel in the merciless sun of Indian politics. 
But my own feeling is that she has performed too effectively 
in too many varied roles for anyone to write her off today. 
Apart from her father, she may be an unknown quantity; she 
is certainly not a minus quantity. Even her enemies concede 
that she was successful in her one-year term as president of 
the Congress party in 1959-1960. With a political realism lack- 
ing in many older Congress leaders, she foresaw the necessity 
for dividing the old Bombay state on linguistic lines. While 


Nehru vacillated on Kerala, she denounced the Communists 
for trying to subvert education in the state and urged Presi- 
dent Rajendra Prasad to oust Kerala's Communist govern- 
ment. She later helped forge the coalition that defeated the 
Communists at the polls in Kerala. When the Tibetan revolt 
broke out in March 1959, she took a stronger line than either 
her father or Krishna Menon. However she may have modified 
her position since then, her bold stand during the Tibetan 
crisis proved that she does have the courage to differ with her 
father on an important issue. 

Indira Gandhi's real forte is organizational and administra- 
tive work. Since before independence, she has been the Prime 
Minister's official hostess a job in which she must decide such 
diverse questions as who should meet visiting chiefs of state 
and what food they should be served. She accompanies her 
father on most of his trips abroad and understudies him at 
New Delhi diplomatic receptions. When Hindu-Moslem ten- 
sions exploded at Jubbulpore early in 1961, she was on the 
scene, organizing relief and pacifying the antagonists, long 
before other Congress leaders put in an appearance. If the 
Indian minority in East Africa is apprehensive about political 
developments, she is dispatched to listen to their grievances 
and allay their fears. When Indo-American relations show signs 
of strain, it is she who undertakes a month-long lecture tour 
of the United States. She has been a member of the Congress 
party since 1938 and a member of the powerful Congress 
Working Committee since 1955. She also belongs to the 
party's Central Elections Committee and Central Parliamen- 
tary Board, She is president and cofounder of the Women's 
Department of Congress. She has organized legislators' semi- 
nars, women's work camps, and other training for Congress 
members. She has campaigned intensively and extensively in 
every major Indian election since independence. She has gone 
to jail for the party (thirteen months), fasted as a token of 
support for Gandhi, and made walking tours for the party 
into the most backward and remote corners of India. Every 
Congress candidate for Parliament in the 1962 general election 
was approved by her in consultation with her father and 
Home Minister Lai Bahadur Shastri. She is the key member of 


the special seven-member subcommittee set up by the party 
after the election to punish rebellious and delinquent Con- 
gressmen. In many ways her influence in the party today is 
more pervasive than when she held the office of Congress 

Her welfare activities are legion. She is president of the 
Indian Council for Child Welfare, vice-president of the Inter- 
national Union for Child Welfare, chairman of the National 
Integration Committee, member of the Executive Board of 
UNESCO, member of the Central Advisory Board of Educa- 
tion, and founder-president of the Bal Sahyog Samiti, an or- 
ganization devoted to rehabilitating delinquent boys. She is 
a trustee of innumerable philanthropic and cultural organiza- 
tions, and unofficial patron and protector of Indian artists. She 
may occasionally neglect some of her myriad organizations, but 
she has never wittingly neglected her responsibilities as the 
mother of two boys, now in their teens. 

The pressure on her time is such that even her father has 
difficulty seeing his Indoo (moon), as he has called her since 
she was a child. She keeps two secretaries in perpetual motion. 
Several years ago she told an interviewer that she had not had 
a holiday "since I don't know when in eight years perhaps/' 
When she accompanies her father on what is supposed to be 
a vacation, she says that people keep telephoning and "are 
offended if you don't see them/' Her health, never robust, has 
suffered under the strain of relentless work and irregular hours. 
When she left for her lecture tour of America in the spring 
of 1962, she told me that she thought she was "going to die," 
but she felt better by the time she returned to Delhi. She has 
a recurrent kidney ailment which causes her severe pain on 
occasion. Some students of Indian politics discount her as a 
force after Nehru on the grounds of health alone. My own 
impression is that her frail appearance and well-publicized 
infirmities are deceptive. They win her sympathy at home and 
abroad but never seem to prevent her from taking on any 
job, no matter how arduous, that interests her. 

There is something about the only child of Kamla and 
Jawaharlal Nehru that has always aroused compassion. She 
was born at Anand Bhavan, the Nehru family mansion in Al- 


lahabad, on November 19, 1917, while India groaned under the 
burden of a war being fought on another continent. She used 
to play around the swimming pool behind the old house and 
munch pastries on her grandfather Motilal's lap. "I think I at- 
tended my first Congress meeting when I was three/' she told 
me smilingly when I asked when her political career began. 
"I went everywhere, especially when the All-India Congress 
Committee was meeting. But the most important meetings 
were on our lawn, so there was no question of having to go 
attend them." When the party was not caucusing and her 
parents were off in prison, she would marshal her dolls in 
processions demanding independence for India. Then other 
dolls, representing the police, would round them up and take 
them to jail. At other times she would collect the servants 
around a table top and deliver thunderous political harangues. 
"I haven't the remotest idea what I said to them or whether 
it made any sense," she says, laughing. "All my games were po- 
litical ones." 

Asked if she had a childhood hero, she said, "When I was 
very small I looked up to Joan of Arc." Then she added rather 
sheepishly, "But I don't remember this really. Father reminded 
me about it. When they'd ask me whom I wanted to be like, 
I would say I didn't want to copy anyone. I just wanted to 
be myself." 

In retrospect she thinks her mother, a frail tubercular 
woman, had much more influence on her than her father. "I 
think," she insists with a trace of defiance, "I'm very much 
more like her than anybody else." She remembers her mother's 
determination to do something about women's education 
(when not one Indian woman in a hundred could read or 
write) and the way she ran the Congress party in Allahabad. 
She particularly recalls how her mother helped change Jawa- 
harlal Nehru from an Anglicized and rather foppish product 
of Harrow and Cambridge into an Indian patriot over the ob- 
jections of conservative womenfolk in the family who frowned 
on his getting mixed up with Congress. 

Her parents' involvement in politics brought more than her 
share of heartbreak to their small daughter. She watched for- 
lornly as police hustled all the Nehru adults off to prison and 


seized cars, carpets, and any other movable property at Anand 
Bhavan. As Nehru says in his autobiography: "It was the 
Congress policy not to pay fines. So the police came day after 
day and attached and carried away bits of furniture. Indira, 
my four-year-old daughter, was greatly annoyed at this con- 
tinuous process of despoliation and protested to the police 
and expressed her strong displeasure. I am afraid those early 
impressions are likely to color her future views about the 
police force generally." 

Loneliness colored her future views more than anything the 
police did. One of the few people who came to play with her 
was Lai Bahadur Shastri. She, however, has no recollection 
of playing with children, although she later married one boy 
who sometimes came to Anand Bhavan. She says that it was 
difficult for a child to make so many decisions that her parents 
would ordinarily make, including even the choice of her 
school. "It seemed my parents were always in jail/' she la- 
ments. For Indira there is the consolation of having learned 
at an early age to make her own decisions and, as she says, "to 
stand on my own feet." 

Her first taste of schooling abroad was in Switzerland. She 
returned at the age of ten to find that she was still too young 
to join her father's party. So she organized a children's 
auxiliary, known as the Monkey Brigade. The children car- 
ried messages for Congress members, helped picket shops sell- 
ing foreign cloth, and released adults from all sorts of routine 
party chores. On Sundays she would go to the home of the 
late Sam Higginbotham, an American Protestant missionary 
who ran an agricultural institute outside Allahabad, and help 
his wife sort clothes, toys, and books donated in America for 
Indian children. During the mass civil-disobedience move- 
ment in the early 1930*8, casualties were frequently brought 
to Anand Bhavan because city hospitals would not admit 
them. Her mother converted one large room into an emergency 
ward. Indian doctors who were sympathetic to Congress would 
come at night to treat the injured, many of whom were suffer- 
ing from gunshot wounds. She remembers one boy who was 
brought in with such a serious stomach injury that the doc- 
tors advised simply making him as comfortable as possible 


and awaiting the end. "But he was my first patient/' she told 
me, "and I was determined to see him through. I almost 
staked my faith in God on his pulling through." She should 
still be a believer, because she met her patient again during 
the 1951 election campaign. 

Indira Gandhi's schooling was constantly interrupted by 
the exigencies of the independence movement. "When every- 
one in the family was in jail/' she recalls, "I went to school 
at Poona." There she worked in slum areas among the un- 
touchables to promote Gandhi's campaign for handspun 
cloth in place of imported British textiles. She also attended 
Swiss boarding schools and the university at Santiniketan 
founded by India's Nobel Prize-winning poet Rabindranath 
Tagore. But her most memorable instruction was a corre- 
spondence course in world history given by her father from 
his prison cell. She was his only pupil. His long, discursive 
letters to her on the rise and fall of civilizations were later 
collected in a book entitled Glimpses of World History. The 
glimpses, inevitably obstructed at times by prison bars, were 
to form the basis of her political thinking. 

"What presents can I give you?" Nehru wrote on her thir- 
teenth birthday. "They can only be of the air and of the mind 
and spirit, such as a good fairy might have bestowed on you 
something that even the high walls of prison cannot stop." 

When her mother became seriously ill, Indira accompanied 
her to Switzerland, where Kamla died in 1936. The following 
year she was admitted to Somerville College, Oxford, where 
she joined the British Labour party. "I thought if I have to 
join something," she told me, "I'll join the Labour party." 
Of course, she found Labour more politically congenial than 
the Conservatives. She got to know the late Ernest Bevin, Ellen 
Wilkinson, and other party leaders, and attended Labour 
rallies. Harold Laski's widow remembers her as a "mousy, 
shy little girl who didn't seem to have any political ideas." 

While she was at Oxford, Indira met Krishna Menon, a 
man who was often to re-enter her life and to influence it 
profoundly. "I saw a lot of him, or, rather, a lot of his office," 
she says, "because I worked for the India League in the after- 
noons and evenings. In the evenings he was usually away or- 


ganizing meetings. He was very good at that. Menon gave you 
the feeling there was something worth-while to do for India. 
Otherwise there was no outlet at that time. There was no 
question of helping him personally, although he did have that 
effect on some of the British students who were very much 
drawn to him." 

Indira herself was drawn to a young Indian Parsi named 
Feroze Gandhi, who was studying at the London School of 
Economics. Feroze had been born in Bombay, but his family 
was from Allahabad. He had been one of her few childhood 
playmates and was later recruited for Congress party work by 
her grandfather Motilal. Feroze made much of his devotion 
to her mother and was at Kamla's bedside when she died. He 
then went back to England and bombarded Indira with ardent 
love letters. The two were eventually married, on March 26, 
1942, against Nehru's wishes and over the objections of the 
rest of the family, who opposed a match between a member of 
their Brahman clan and a Parsi. At that time almost all mar- 
riages in India were arranged. But, as Paul Grimes, the former 
New York Times correspondent in India, says, "In the first 
known test of one strong Nehru will against another, Indira 
won." Minoo R. Masani, the former socialist leader who was 
close to Menon in the thirties, says, "Both Indira and Feroze 
were taken in tow by Menon in England." On their return to 
India, they joined the new All-India Students' Federation, 
which later became a Communist front. 

Indira Gandhi seems to have made little impression in Eng- 
land. Reginald Sorensen says, "Indira Gandhi didn't impress 
me except as the reflection of her father. I think she was 
purely her father's daughter, close to Menon only to the ex- 
tent that he was her father's friend. But I don't remember 
her too clearly. She didn't come very much to the India 

Her stay in England was cut short by illness. Before she 
could take her degree at Oxford, her father sent her to Leysin, 
in Switzerland, to recover from the severe pleurisy she had 
contracted in the English winter. She regained her health 
quickly but got stuck in Switzerland after France fell to the 
Nazis. She spent a year trying to get back to India. All the 


frontiers were closed. "By that time I wanted to get home/' 
she told me. "I felt that the war was more important than my 

Back in India, she plunged into Congress politics with 
Feroze, who was also working at the time as a newspaper 
editor in Allahabad. Six months after their marriage, they 
both went to prison for their political activities. At the begin- 
ning they were in the same jail, but were allowed to see each 
other only twice. Feroze had been sentenced to serve eighteen 
months. Indira was detained without trial and therefore did 
not enjoy the "A"-class treatment usually accorded political 

"When I entered prison/' she told me with a sardonic smile, 
"there was nothing on my card to indicate my status except a 
crude X. So the jail superintendent, who was a pucka Anglo- 
Indian decided to put me in a new category X class. That 
turned out to mean extremely bad treatment for me." 

When she heard she was about to be arrested, she addressed 
a political meeting in Allahabad, because she "wanted to do 
something to merit arrest." The day she entered the barracks- 
like prison compound, she was running a high temperature. A 
government physician sent from Lucknow examined her and 
prescribed a special diet of eggs, Ovaltine, and fruit. As soon 
as he left, the jail superintendent jeeringly tore the prescrip- 
tion to shreds before her eyes. When her family sent her boxes 
of mangoes (for which she has a special fondness), her jailor 
took delight in telling her, "We enjoyed your family's gift very 
much. The mangoes were delicious." Of course she never 
saw them. 

She was confined with twenty-two other women in one large 
barrack with barred windows the size of doors. During the 
day the sun made the place almost unbearable. Sanitary facili- 
ties were primitive and semipublic. Because she did not rate 
as an "A"-class prisoner, she was not allowed to receive letters 
or parcels or have the fortnightly interviews allowed other 
political prisoners. She spent thirteen months in confinement. 
Nehru remarks in his autobiography that the British seemed 
to make a point of subjecting women political offenders to 
particularly harsh treatment in hopes that Congressmen would 


keep their womenfolk out of the independence movement. 
Despite the rigors of her imprisonment, Indira Gandhi never 
considered refraining from political activity. 

The only period of comparative domestic tranquillity she 
and Feroze ever enjoyed was from 1944 to 1946, the interval 
between the birth of Rajiv, their first son, and San jay, their 
second. The family lived during this time in Allahabad. The 
coming of independence uprooted them. Nehru moved to a 
small four-room house in New Delhi when the Constituent As- 
sembly convened in 1946 to draw up a constitution for the 
future independent state of India. In this house Nehru tried 
to accommodate fourteen or fifteen people, including Indira, 
her husband, and their first child. The evening before Sanjay 
was born, Lady Cripps stopped by and asked Mrs. Gandhi to 
help her pick out a Kashmir shawl. "There's no one," she 
pleaded, "who knows just what is right for me the way you 
do." Indira went along although she felt faint. "That night," 
she told Barbara Lazarsky, the wife of a former American 
Embassy official in Delhi, "my second son was born prema- 
turely. We put up a tent, and my husband was put out in 
that, and the nanny and the baby and I stayed in the bedroom, 
as we couldn't risk the outdoor chill." 

She was still unwell when Gandhi asked her to tour the 
Moslem areas of old Delhi during the bloody riots that pre- 
ceded the partition of British India. Cholera had broken out 
among the terrified Moslems, who preferred to starve in their 
hovels rather than risk Hindu and Sikh vengeance by ventur- 
ing out. Indira Gandhi hired a grain truck and brought doc- 
tors into the beleaguered Moslem quarter. At first she worked 
at getting troublemakers arrested, but then she decided she 
had to have "another angle" and started trying to arrange a 
meeting of leading Moslems and Hindus. Her efforts bore 
fruit in typically Indian style when 500 Moslem and Hindu 
notables mingled at a mammoth tea party in old Delhi. Com- 
munal tension eased. 

Shortly before partition, the late Pandit Govind Ballabh 
Pant, then Congress party boss in the United Provinces, asked 
Mrs. Gandhi to run for the state assembly. She refused, re- 
minding him that she had already declined to run for the 


Constituent Assembly. Pant, who was not accustomed to being 
denied, was furious. He cabled Gandhi asking him to order 
her to run. She told Gandhi that her children were still small 
and needed a mother and that she would not be bullied. The 
Mahatma, recognizing someone of his own inflexible mold, 
laughed and shrugged his emaciated shoulders. 

Since then, Mrs. Gandhi says, she has been asked to run 
every time India has had a general election. She has always 
refused, because, as she says with girlish wilfullness, "I don't 
want to." She insists that in Parliament she would be "limited." 
She means that as a member of the Congress parliamentary 
party she would become another cog in the mechanical ma- 
jority that rubber-stamps whatever Nehru presents. As one 
of the few important Congress leaders who is not a member 
of any legislative body, she can escape the slings of ministerial 
office while she strengthens her position in the party and 
among the masses. 

Despite her refusal to hold legislative office, Indira Gandhi 
became increasingly enmeshed in politics and statecraft after 
independence. She became her father's official hostess when he 
was appointed head of the provisional cabinet before parti- 
tion. Later she moved with him into the sixteen-room mansion 
on Teen Murti Marg, traditionally the abode of British com- 
manders in chief in India, that was to become the prime minis- 
ter's official residence. When Nehru visited China in 1954, 
she went with him. An English correspondent who covered 
the trip described her appearance at a Peking reception or- 
ganized by a Chinese Communist women's group: "When 
Indira Gandhi entered the clinically furnished room there 
among the massed blue boiler suits of ideological orthodoxy 
and the square bobs of liberation, she resembled in some way 
a lotus flower that had been planted in a bed of broccoli." 

A Chinese Foreign Ministry official who observed her in 
action exclaimed, "It's remarkable; she has a lot of the West 
in her but, dear me, how intelligent." 

The following year she accompanied her father to the Ban- 
dung conference, where she was so charmed by Chou En-lai 
that Western newsmen accused her of having been predisposed 
in his favor. Her most valuable function at the conference 


was to moderate her father's outbursts of temper. Purple with 
rage, Nehru began stalking out of one particularly stormy 
session until she was overheard to murmur, "Papa, control 
yourself/' Needless to say, no other member of the Indian 
delegation would have said as much. Later that year she ac- 
companied her father on an official visit to the Soviet Union. 
She first went to Russia in 1953 on a private visit after attend- 
ing Queen Elizabeth's coronation in London. She was im- 
pressed by what she saw, especially in Soviet Central Asia, but 
she insists that she could never accept the totalitarian features 
of the Russian regime. In 1949 and in 1956 she accompanied 
her father to America. 

Such preoccupations did not prevent Indira Gandhi from 
playing an ever larger role in Congress party affairs, especially 
in the women's section. Indian women used the independence 
movement as a vehicle to assert their long-denied rights, and 
after freedom they continued to agitate through Congress. 
They were fighting purdah as well as the British. Mrs. Gandhi 
traveled constantly in the most inaccessible parts of the coun- 
try, addressing thousands of public meetings, laying dozens of 
cornerstones, and accepting innumerable garlands. 

Such a life was bound to detract from her marriage. Feroze 
pursued his own career. He was elected on the Congress ticket 
to the provisional parliament and was a member until his 
death. He soon made an independent reputation as a cru- 
sader against corruption. In 1958 he led the attack on T. T. 
Krishnamachari, then Finance Minister, in connection with 
a scandal in the state-owned Life Insurance Corporation. 
Feroze was a Left Wing socialist, whom I have heard called 
a "stooge" of Krishna Menon. My own impression is that he 
co-operated with Menon for tactical and ideological reasons 
but that he was no one's stooge. It is also widely said in Delhi 
that Feroze was unfaithful to Indira. Whatever the truth, 
their marriage was blighted in the decade after independence. 
At times Feroze lived with his wife at the Prime Minister's 
house, but when he became a member of Parliament he es- 
tablished separate quarters in New Delhi. Although they had 
been separated, Indira was deeply affected by her husband's 
first heart attack. Menon is said to have promoted a reconcilia- 


tion. Indira and Feroze spent a vacation together with their 
children in Kashmir, but found that their paths had become 
too divergent. They agreed to separate again. Rajiv and Sanjay 
usually stayed with their mother at the Prime Minister's house 
on vacations from their fashionable Dehra Dun boarding 
school in the foothills of the Himalayas. 

Feroze died in 1960, after another heart attack. He was in 
his political prime, and was regarded as one of the few bright 
young men in the aging Congress party. He would almost 
certainly have attained national stature if his career had not 
been cut short. 

Indira Gandhi had already become a national figure. In 
January 1959 she signed a manifesto of the Congress party's 
so-called "Ginger Group" attacking the party for lethargy and 
failure to carry out its stated policies. This step publicly iden- 
tified her with the Congress Left Wing, although neither she 
nor Feroze actually belonged to the Ginger Group. Most 
members of the group have since been defeated at the polls 
or in party infighting. The remnants have gravitated toward 
Krishna Menon. 

On February 2, 1959, while Mrs. Gandhi was on a three-day 
padayatra (walking tour) in her father's constituency in Uttar 
Pradesh, she learned that she had been unanimously elected 
president of the Congress party, the fourth woman and the 
third Nehru to hold the post.* She succeeded a party wheel 
horse, Uchhrangrai Navalshanker Dhebar, who had been im- 
prudent enough to complain to Nehru that the Prime Min- 
ister was stifling criticism in the party. 

The day a half-dozen Congress state committees (hoping to 
ingratiate themselves with her father) nominated Indira 
Gandhi to take charge of the party, Congress seemed headed 
for a debacle. Never since it was founded in 1885 by Allan 
Octavian Hume, a Scotsman and former member of the 
Indian Civil Service, had the party been so divided. Each one 
of its millions of members (no one knew the exact number 
because so many members were bogus names on a register) 
seemed a faction unto himself. Corruption and opportunism 

* Her grandfather Motilal and her father previously headed the party. 


had robbed Congress of its preindependence luster. In Kerala 
the party had disintegrated in fratricidal disputes, and the 
Communists had been voted into power for the first time. 
Other states threatened to follow suit. The Congress party 
organization rotted while a parade of self-seekers beat a path 
to the Prime Minister's door. The job of party president had 
been correspondingly devalued. At least one state minister 
had turned it down before Mrs. Gandhi was nominated. When 
her election was announced, one Indian editor said that she 
had donned "a crown more of thorns than of roses," adding, 
"Mrs. Gandhi has been sentenced to hard labor." She knew 
it. She protested that she had not sought the post, which was 
true. "I'm not at all anxious to be in this job," she remarked a 
bit plaintively. But once the crown of thorns was thrust on her 
head, she set to work with characteristic Nehru diligence to 
clean up the Congress mess. Even her critics admit that she 
did a good job during the short term she served. Although 
her selection was primarily a gesture to her father, she soon 
surprised the cynics by demonstrating that she had ability in 
her own right. From being a comparatively minor figure in 
party councils, she suddenly blossomed as an all-India figure 
who could more than hold her own with the party bosses. One 
of her first acts as president was to drop her father from the 
twenty-one-member Congress Working Committee, a body on 
which he had served since the igso's. Lest she be accused of 
filial ingratitude, she announced that he would still be in- 
vited to attend committee meetings. She presided at party 
conclaves with a rod of iron, silencing long-winded Congress 
elders, including her father, with the gavel when they ex- 
ceeded their time. 

As far back as 1951, she had shown that she could draw 
crowds at election rallies in her father's constituency when 
he was unavailable. Now her speaking gifts were put to the 
test before mammoth audiences all over India. Dressed in 
locally made saris and sandals, with her head modestly cov- 
ered by a shawl in the Hindu style and her forehead smeared 
with red powder (the villagers' way of showing respect), Mrs. 
Gandhi preached the gospel of unity and progress. 

Her executive ability, if not her political judgment, de- 


veloped quickly. At her first press conference after becoming 
Congress president, she proclaimed: "The nation is in a 
hurry and we can't afford to lose time. My complaint against 
Congress is that it isn't going as fast as the people are advanc- 
ing. And that can be fatal for a political organization." She 
conceded that the outlook and methods of the Communists 
were different, but predicted with a naivet that was soon to 
disappear that they, too, could be expected to co-operate in 
the "task of national development and reconstruction." 

In an interview with the Communist-line weekly Link, 
she even hinted at a kind of popular front in India. "I would 
like to see active people, nonparty and from other parties, 
working together with Congress as has happened on the food 
front. ... In this way not only would a much larger section 
of the people be actually involved in constructive work, but 
party pressures would be less able to obstruct people or pro- 
grams that didn't agree with their own interests." 

This invitation naturally sent shivers of delight through 
India's Communists and fellow travelers. The pro-Communist 
weekly Blitz noted that Mrs. Gandhi was the same age as her 
father had been when he was elected Congress president for 
the first time at the famous Lahore session which took the 
pledge to win unconditional independence. "Indira will live 
up to this noble example," Blitz warbled, "if her progressive 
thinking and her will for dynamic action provide a corrective 
to the compromises her father is sometimes forced to make." 

Six months later the Communists were to regret her ca- 
pacity for "dynamic action." She had contributed significantly 
to their downfall in Kerala. "Everything the Communists are 
doing is wrong," she told reporters after visiting the state in 
the spring of 1959. She found that the state government had 
actually prepared school textbooks glorifying Lenin and Mao 
Tse-tung as world heroes and ignoring Gandhi. Her reaction 
was immediate and decisive. While her father wavered, she 
went to President Prasad, a staunch Hindu traditionalist, and 
argued forcefully that the central government should oust the 
Communists and assume direct control of Kerala, where the 
state government's efforts to control the schools had already 
set off bloody riots. Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, a member of 


Nehru's first cabinet and a lady of considerable perspicacity, 
says, "Indira was good on Kerala. She'd been down there, and 
saw what the Communist government was doing. She came 
back and insisted on the Center's taking over," The Kerala 
Communist government was ousted on July 31, 1959, and New 
Delhi took charge of the state under Article 356 of the Indian 
Constitution, which empowers the president of India to as- 
sume direct control of a state if he is satisfied that its govern- 
ment is not being carried on in accordance with the Consti- 
tution. That was the first step. The next was to produce a 
coalition capable of defeating the Communists at the polls 
and forming a viable state administration. Mrs. Gandhi over- 
rode strong opposition in Congress to forming an electoral 
entente in Kerala with the Moslem League, an avowedly com- 
munal party. As she told me later, "I don't believe the Moslem 
League is any more communal than anyone else in Kerala. 
Everything there is communal. Everything is run by the Nairs, 
the Nestorians, the Namboodris, or some other sect. You have 
to deal with communal parties unless you want to forget about 
Kerala entirely." 

Her persistence paid off in the special election in February 
1960 in which the anti-Communist electoral front composed 
of Congress, the Praja Socialist party, and the Moslem League 
won ninety-three seats in the state assembly, against twenty- 
nine for the Communists. Ironically, the Communists' per- 
centage of the popular vote actually increased from 35.28 to 
43. Their strength in the legislature fell from sixty to twenty- 
nine because they were no longer able to profit from three- 
cornered or four-cornered contests. 

Kerala and later encounters with the Communists have 
taught Mrs. Gandhi a respect for Communist organizing 
ability that is a far cry from her earlier infatuation with the 
Soviet Utopia. "Our people don't work," she says about her 
own party. "The Communists do very intensive work. They're 
well organized. They'll do anything if it advances the party. 
They have more dedication because they are in total opposi- 
tion. Anyone who isn't dedicated simply drops out of the 
Communist party/' However repugnant she finds Communist 
lack of scruples, I always have the feeling when I talk to her 


that she has a sneaking admiration for Communism, which 
she calls "a kind of fascinating creed that has an attraction 
for the people that the democratic movement doesn't have." 
She is no more immune to that attraction than is her father, 
who still regards the Indian Communists as more "progressive" 
and therefore less dangerous than even conservative members 
of his own party. Actually, Mrs. Gandhi is slightly to the left 
of her father, which leads some Indians to label her an out- 
right fellow traveler. For example, Purshottam Trikumdas, 
the veteran socialist leader, says unequivocally, "She's been a 
fellow traveler all her life except for a short phase." The phase 
he refers to was during her tenure as Congress president, when 
she took a firm line on Kerala and favored granting asylum 
to the Dalai Lama and other Tibetans fleeing Chinese oppres- 
sion. Her enthusiasm for the young god-king has now cooled. 
When I questioned her on Tibet and the Dalai Lama, she 
denied that her attitude had changed. "I'm still opposed to 
what happened," she said mildly. 

On the question whether the Dalai Lama should be al- 
lowed the same freedom of political expression as refugee 
Nepalese politicians in India, she was equivocal. "Since we 
have this trouble with China/' she said, "it would complicate 
our situation. I think Chinese policy is partly motivated by 
their desire to consolidate Tibet and the frontier with India. 
They strongly disapprove our giving sanctuary to the Dalai 
Lama. The Chinese call us American satellites." Asked if she 
thought they really believed that, she answered, "Yes, I do. 
I think the Chinese felt the need to consolidate their hold on 
the border since we were politically 'unreliable/ " 

This explanation overlooked the fact that the Chinese had 
already "consolidated" more than 14,000 square miles of what 
India insists is its own territory. Nor did Mrs. Gandhi's re- 
marks to me in the summer of 1962 betray any awareness that 
the Chinese were even then getting ready to assert their claims 
to a further 36,000 square miles of Indian territory with ex- 
plosive force. When the blow fell in October, Mrs. Gandhi 
led the demand for a resolute response by India, but her 
record as a prophet of Peking's intentions is no better than 
the worst in New Delhi. When she moved the foreign-policy 


resolution at the All-India Congress Committee meeting in 
January 1962, she denounced Western nations for criticizing 
the seizure of Goa. She ignored the urgent question of Chinese 
intrusions. The resolution itself made only one passing refer- 
ence to China, urging a "peaceful settlement" of the dispute. 

One important reason for her zigzags on China and 
the border dispute is undoubtedly Krishna Menon. Indira 
Gandhi appears to have been in an anti-Menon phase during 
her Congress presidency. When a Western woman journalist 
expressed dislike of Menon in a talk with her early in 1960, 
Mrs. Gandhi agreed and urged the journalist to tell Nehru. 
She is reported to have said that she no longer discussed 
Menon with her father "because he wo.n't listen to me on that 
man." But after Feroze's death, things changed. She was deeply 
distressed and may have turned to her husband's friend for 
solace. In any event, Menon oiled his way back into her 
good graces, lavishing flattery on her, ostentatiously fanning 
her at public meetings, advising her on which saris and 
what jewelry to wear, and generally insinuating himself into 
her life. One close friend of the Nehru family says, "Menon 
flatters Indira and cultivates her tirelessly." In England I was 
even told that she and Menon will be married, which would 
be like matrimony between Rasputin and Florence Nightin- 
gale. I think the idea can safely be dismissed; nevertheless, 
Menon generates the intellectual kinetic energy to move her 
conventionally "progressive" ideas about socialism and world 
affairs off dead center. He has long performed much the same 
service for her father. Mrs. Gandhi's lectures in America in 
the spring of 1962 bore many traces of Menon's influence, 
even down to the language she used. 

Menon knows how to exploit her weaknesses. He caters to 
her girlish petulance and helps her give vent to the stultifying 
frustrations that beset anyone engaged in Indian politics. My 
impression is that she still thinks she can dispense with Menon 
whenever it suits her purposes. That may not always be true. 
But right now, as one Delhi editor puts it, "Indira eats some- 
times out of Menon's hand and sometimes out of Lai Bahadur 
Shastri's hand." 

Whatever she really thinks about Menon, Mrs. Gandhi 


has often defended him. She praised his "fine brain" and de- 
nied that he was a Communist when she was asked to "ex- 
plain" Menon during a talk to the Women's National Press 
Club in Washington in November 1961. After the struggle 
for the deputy leadership of the Congress parliamentary party 
in 1961, she made it clear that she had favored Jagjivan Ram, 
who was backed by Menon as a counterweight to Finance 
Minister Morarji Desai. She told me that only Desai himself 
thought he had a chance to win. In fact, the opposite was true. 
Everyone believed that Desai would have won if Nehru had 
not insisted that the election of a deputy leader be called off. 

Indira Gandhi is close to several members of the Menon 
camp, including the Leftist Oil Minister, K. D. Malaviya, 
whose radical socialism apparently conforms to her thinking. 
Her message of greetings to the Socialist Congressman, a 
journal favoring Menon and edited by Malaviya's brother, 
contained a denunciation of "reactionaries." She condones 
the strong-arm tactics of Orissa's millionaire Chief Minister, 
Bijoyananda Patnaik, who is financially and politically linked 
with Menon. "Orissa," she says with finality, "needs a jolt." 
And under Patnaik it is getting one. 

The notion that Indira Gandhi is her father's logical suc- 
cessor is now being quietly put forward by Congress Left 
Wingers. Mrs. Violet Alva, deputy chairman of the Rajya 
Sabha and an avowed Menon admirer, believes that Mrs. 
Gandhi qualifies because she has "shared her father's secrets" 
over the years. Mrs. Raj an Nehru, the politically ambitious 
wife of the Secretary General of the External Affairs Ministry, 
told me that Mrs. Gandhi's mass following assures her a 
"brilliant political future." Such expressions reflect her 
strength in the women's section of Congress, but her support 
is by no means limited to the distaff side. Among the Congress 
rank and file her prestige has risen considerably in recent 
years. There is already an active "lobby" in Delhi proclaim- 
ing the virtues of younger leadership of the kind she would 
supposedly provide. Among state chief ministers she could 
probably count on Patnaik's support as well as the blessings 
of Mohanlal Sukhadia, the youthful chief minister of Raja- 
sthan, and Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed, the Kashmir premier, 


for what they are worth. She would also be backed by 
Damodaram Sanjivayya, the youthful Congress president, 
whom she nominated for his present position. I think Y. B. 
Chavan might accept her as a stopgap prime minister if he 
could not make the grade himself and feared that the Desai- 
Patil group might otherwise seize power. The attitude of south 
Indian leaders like Kamaraj Nadar, chief minister of Madras, 
and C. Subramaniam, the able minister of steel and heavy 
industries, is doubtful, but there is nothing to show that they 
oppose her. In the present Union cabinet, the Right Wingers, 
including Desai and Patil, are certainly cool to her. However, 
if it came to a choice between her and Menon, the Right 
would probably prefer her. Shastri is reported to have said 
that he would rather work under Mrs. Gandhi than hold the 
top job himself. 

If Menon is balked in his own bid for power, which I re- 
gard as almost certain, there is now considerable evidence 
that he will try to put up Indira Gandhi as her father's politi- 
cal heir. Malaviya, Jagjivan Ram, and the rest of the anti-Desai 
faction in the cabinet would back this enterprise. Menon's aim 
would be to play the kingmaker for her, much as Ceylon's 
coterie of ruling politicians exploits the name of that coun- 
try's figurehead Prime Minister, Mrs. Srimavo Bandaranaike. 
But Indira Gandhi is not Mrs. Bandaranaike. She has shown 
that she has a will of her own at least as strong as that of any 
member of Nehru's present cabinet. She has had enough ex- 
perience of practical politics to know when she is being used 
for ulterior ends. And she now knows what works in India and 
what is simply doctrinal icing on the cake. In the succinct 
words of one Bombay editor who knows her well, "Indira is 
no fool." She may be attracted by Menon, but I doubt that 
she is duped by him. Minoo Masani, who is not one of her 
admirers, says, "Indira is not a Menon stooge, but she would 
go along further with him than any other Congress leader be- 
cause of her ideological convictions." This assessment cor- 
responds to everything I know on the subject. Indira Gandhi 
has not just discovered Menon; she knows his faults as well 
as his strong points. Nor has his flattery yet blinded her to 
her own limitations. I remember her telling me with some 


impatience that there were "heaps of people" who could make 
as good a Congress president as she. 

Mrs. Gandhi insists that she has no political ambitions, 
wants no career, seeks nothing for herself, and threatens no 
one. Not many people in Delhi are convinced by such pro- 
fessions. As her aunt Mrs. Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit says, "What- 
ever it was that originally prompted Indira to get into poli- 
tics, I'm sure shell continue. She's too deeply involved to get 
out now." But a high-ranking British diplomat who sees her 
often says: "Indira is like a soccer player who could have 
kicked the ball through the goal posts any time she had 
wanted to. The ball has been at her feet for a long time. If 
she had wanted to establish herself as the next prime minis- 
ter, she could easily have done so. I sense in her a genuine 
reluctance to plunge into politicsa vague feeling that her 
primary duty is to care for her father and be by his side." 

This view is provocative, but I think it overestimates her 
power and underestimates her ambition. No one, not even 
a member of the Nehru family, can establish title to the suc- 
cession without Nehru's public endorsement. The ball has 
always been at the Prime Minister's feet, and he has always 
carefully avoided kicking it in the direction of any would-be 
successor. Indira's eye may now be on her father, rather than 
on the ball, but once he is gone she is not likely to watch 
passively while others score the goals. If she feels bound to 
sustain him in his last years, she will feel even more bound 
to sustain his policies when he is no longer there to uphold 

Indira Gandhi clearly wants to make a niche for herself in 
Indian life. The question arises: Where? Social work, which 
has never really excited her, provides no adequate outlet for 
her energies. When I asked her in the spring of 1962 whether 
she preferred politics or welfare work, her answer was il- 
luminating: "I don't really make a distinction. I have an 
idea of what India should become. Anything I do I regard 
as a step toward ensuring what I want India to become. 
Political stability ... is the foundation on which every- 
thing else is built. I feel strongly enough about it to do some- 
thing about it." 


This feeling will remain the motive force in her life. It will, 
I believe, overcome all hesitations and uncertainties. Unless 
her health should deteriorate unexpectedly, there is no doubt 
in my mind that Indira Gandhi will remain an active per- 
former in the political arena. 

All factions might accept her as a compromise prime minis- 
ter in a national crisis after Nehru, but few Indians expect 
she would last long. She lacks her father's uncanny talent for 
being on all sides of every important issue. She is more sharp- 
edged and less inclined to compromise. In India, perhaps 
more than anywhere else, politics is the art of the possible. 
How long could she keep the support of rival groups in 

One difficulty is that, despite her preachments about so- 
cialism, no one can really predict what she would do as prime 
minister. As she told me on one occasion, "I wouldn't say I'm 
interested in socialism as socialism. For me it's just a tool. 
If I found a tool that was more efficient, I'd use it." But in 
India's present semifeudal state she thinks socialism is the 
"only thing." She rejects the idea of totalitarian control, be- 
cause India is "too individualistic." But I suspect that her 
splenetic streak might prompt her to resort to short cuts 
once she collided head on with Indian reality. Her stand on 
nationalization is equivocal. She once told a New York Times 
correspondent that nationalization was not practical in India 
today. When I asked her three years later if she still believed 
that, she answered, "It depends on nationalization of what. 
If something is running well in private hands, why disturb 
it simply for the sake of nationalization? But if they're mak- 
ing a mess of it or have monopoly control, then go ahead 
and nationalize." She thinks that the government should 
decide when such a move is necessary. She is equally vague 
on the relationship between state-owned industry and private 
enterprise. Should the state sector expand at a faster rate? 
"A larger public sector certainly," she counters, "but not 
necessarily at the expense of the private sector." She contends 
that the public sector versus private sector controversy in 
India is "unfortunate." She is nevertheless on record as favor- 
ing measures such as state trading in food grains (to regulate 


prices and supplies), across-the-board price control, the fixing 
of "productivity norms" for state and private industry, for- 
mulation of a "national wage policy," and regulation of in- 
comes and salaries, possibly including ceilings on urban in- 
comes. All this fits the socialistic pattern of society advocated 
by her father since 1927 and grudgingly adopted by the Con- 
gress party as official policy in 1955. State trading in food 
grains has now been largely discarded. Nehru's bid to intro- 
duce a ceiling on urban incomes has been rebuffed. The "na- 
tional wage policy" and the productivity norms are probably 
destined to remain chimeras. Price control is widespread but 

If Indira Gandhi is fuzzy on economics, she is clear on the 
need for making India a nation. She would probably attack 
the communal demon more zealously than most other con- 
tenders for the premiership. Like her father, she would enjoy 
the confidence of India's minorities, especially of the Mos- 
lems. She might do something to rescue Indian education 
from the morass into which it has sunk. Social welfare would 
get higher priority under her, but the overlapping and con- 
fusion that hamper efforts in this field would doubtless con- 
tinue. The Civil Service would, I expect, regard her with cool 
neutrality. The Army might resent the idea of a woman prime 
minister, but with fifty-one women in the present Indian 
Parliament it is too late to talk of keeping women out of 
politics, even the highest politics. Mrs. Gandhi has wisely 
avoided becoming identified as a red-hot feminist. She has 
worked for women's rights with considerable success but 
never to the exclusion of political activity on a broader 
front. Therefore, the fact that she is a woman is not the first 
objection you hear when her name is mentioned as a possible 
successor. The career of Mrs. Pandit, who became the first 
woman president of the United Nations General Assembly 
and has represented India in Washington, London, and Mos- 
cow, has helped accustom Indians to the idea that women are 
qualified to hold high positions in government. 

Mrs. Gandhi's attitude toward the United States is no more 
reserved than her father's, probably less. She has visited 
America six times and gets on well with Americans from Mrs. 


John F. Kennedy down to the Gila Bend garden club. In 
foreign policy, including relations with Washington, she is 
likely to follow her father's lead more unswervingly than in 
any other field. The Nehru version of nonalignment would 
continue unchanged unless she faced drastically different cir- 
cumstances. India's relations with the Soviet Union would 
remain friendly, and Mrs. Gandhi would probably make an- 
other bid for rapprochement with China. 

This assumes that Indira Gandhi's father would actively 
promote her candidacy or at least allow it to be promoted by 
others. I think this assumption is valid. As Frank Moraes has 
said, there is no question of Nehru's wanting to create a 
dynasty of his own; he would find such a suggestion distaste- 
ful. But Nehru will do everything in his power to thwart 
the ambitions of the Congress Right Wing. He may well per- 
suade himself that only his daughter could provide the essen- 
tial continuity of policy after he leaves office. She is, after all, 
his only child and the only member of the family capable of 
holding the torch aloft after he goes. 

Her father's active backing would remove many obstacles 
from Mrs. Gandhi's path. But I do not believe that her father 
could impose her on the country, even if he were willing to 
try. Mrs. Pandit says that India would not accept another 
Nehru as prime minister. Nehru must know how quickly the 
children of giants are dwarfed, even by ordinary mortals, once 
the giants depart. An American of some eminence in Delhi 
answered my questions about Indira Gandhi's future with 
several questions of his own. "What is Gandhi's son today 
without Gandhi? Where are the daughters of Sardar Patel 
and Mohammed Ali Jinnah, who everyone thought would 
be so important?" Where indeed? The same American calls 
Mrs. Gandhi "a woman of intelligence but not wisdom, with 
a facile but conventional mind." 

Even now, as Nehru declines in health and strength, his 
grip on Congress is loosening. How much weaker will it be by 
the time he goes? Indira Gandhi will cast a shorter shadow 
when she leaves the Prime Minister's house. It is her mis- 
fortune that she will lose her most precious key to power the 
moment she needs it most when her father's passing has left 


an empty room at the top. Without the key, I doubt that 
Indira Gandhi can open the door to that room unless, of 
course, it were battered down for her by as yet unseen forces 
dedicated to the Nehru legend and its political trappings. 

Jayaprakash Narayan 

"JAYAPRAKASH is the future prime minister of India/' 

When these words were spoken in 1948 by the first Prime 
Minister of India, they expressed a widespread conviction. 
Today neither Nehru nor anyone else familiar with India 
would make such a prediction without qualifying it. Yet 
Jayaprakash Narayan, once acclaimed Asia's premier socialist, 
continues to evoke a deep response among millions of In- 
dians. His contradictory conscience mirrors the anguish of 
one seventh of mankind. In a disenchanted age he still 
strives to approximate the ideas and ideals of Mahatma 
Gandhi. Gandhi called him the greatest Marxist in India. 
Now many Indians call him the greatest Gandhian. His end- 
less voyage of ideological discovery has made him a wayfarer 
in politics, but it still ripples the stagnant waters of Indian 
thought. He is India's foremost dissenter, critic, intellectual 
nonconformist, and fighter of lost causes that never lose their 
following. He is a man seemingly destined to be nobly wrong 
when others were meanly right. 

Narayan has never been a minister or a government official. 



He has no experience of administration, no talent for or- 
ganization, and no taste for practicality. Politics as practiced 
by him is truly the art of the impossible. He is always one ism 
out of step, one generation too early or too late. His Descar- 
tean obsession with first things has led him into the political 
wilderness and the philosophical void. He is par excellence 
the character in search of a role. He is, or can be, contradic- 
tory, elusive, enigmatic, equivocal, or simply confused. Yet, 
when contemplating what India can expect after Nehru, his 
far-ranging mind and fearless conscience may prove indis- 
pensable. He could still be prime minister of India. 

Narayan has made a round trip from one end of the ideo- 
logical spectrum to the other, and even broadened it a bit. As 
a student in Bihar, he began with Gandhi but soon forsook 
him for Marxism in its many hues. When all shades of 
Marxism turned gray, he returned to offer posthumous al- 
legiance to the Mahatma. But even Gandhism seemed a pale 
reflection of Indian imperatives. He is now wandering some- 
where beyond the normal political spectrum in a murky re- 
gion where only his eye detects the nuances. 

He still perceives or thinks he perceivesthe evils of In- 
dian society as clearly as when he was an ardent young Com- 
munist. But his retreat from all political dogma has become 
a rout. 'Tor the root/' he says, "we will have to go to man 
himself." He believes that nothing can really change in India 
until the ordinary Indian villager is changed. The state can- 
not legislate the new man. In his scheme of things, the gov- 
ernment is almost irrelevant. Individuals, he maintains, can 
only be redeemed from their own folly and ignorance by 
other, more enlightened, individuals. The apparatus of party 
politics and the modern state is more harmful than helpful in 
the remaking of man in India. For Narayan, political plat- 
forms have become the impedimenta of virtue. He spurns all 
parties, but his revulsion at the Left is so strong that he now 
finds himself closer to the political Right. Today he can even 
applaud the big-business conservatism of the Swatantra party 
and the "decent conservatives" who compose it. 

Most of his shafts are now aimed at the devotees of Com- 


munism, the god that failed him, as well as at those who, like 
Nehru, incline to propitiate it. Narayan, the implacable revo 
lutionary and underground terrorist has become the prisoner 
of committee rooms and lecture platforms, a quarry for pro- 
moters of good causes in every quarter of the globe. His causes 
are far-flung: "peace marchers" in Northern Rhodesia, political 
prisoners in Indonesia, panchayats in Nepal, police firings in 
Patna, nuclear tests in the Pacific, co-operatives in Uttar 
Pradesh, and, above all, the salvation of mankind. Some of 
his enthusiasms are trivial and quickly dissipated. Others, 
such as his resolute demands for justice in Hungary and 
Tibet, shook many Indians out of their complacent faith in 
Nehru's global omniscience long before the Chinese assault 
awakened the rest of the country. His proposal for arbitration 
of the Sino-Indian border question was the only fresh thinking 
done on the subject in the three years between the first major 
frontier clash in 1959 and the Chinese attack in 1962. But 
when the real blow did fall, Narayan was characteristically 
confounded by his own perplexities. As an ardent believer in 
nonviolence, he said he had been unable to reach any con- 
clusion and had no "positive program to place before the 

J. P., as he is widely known in India, has the serious, slightly 
preoccupied look of an American college professor. Half-rim 
spectacles contribute to the air of sobriety. His complexion is 
light, and he favors the white dhoti and open sandals. There 
is, as Vincent Sheehan says, a nobility in his appearance, voice, 
and manner. He has unshakable self-possession and Gandhi- 
like serenity. His voice is low, well-modulated, and slightly 
weary. He is a much more engaging person than his some- 
times pontifical pronouncements would lead one to think. He 
is considerate, generous, and outwardly humble. His sense of 
the ironic is never far below the surface. Unlike some of his 
contemporaries in Indian politics, Narayan is a man of taste, 
refinement, and almost infinite patience. His Gandhian asceti- 
cism, unlike Morarji Desai's, is never mechanical and never 
a burden on others. For example, he prides himself on his 
knowledge of fruits and makes no secret of enjoying them. 


Although he is a vegetarian and a diabetic, he makes no fetish 
of diet. He is cosmopolitan, as few Indians are, without ever 
having lost his unmistakable Indianness. 

I spent one of the longest days of my life talking to him 
in Patna, capital of his native Bihar state. Not that J. P. is 
ever boring; it is the ordeal of sitting cross-legged on a stone 
floor in his airless little study for an entire day that is ex- 
hausting for a Westerner. I was met at the Patna airport by 
one of his secretaries in a jeep station wagon. In one quarter 
of that squalid provincial town is a girls' school that J. P. 
uses as his headquarters when he is in Patna. I walked up 
a flight of stone steps to the second-floor study, which is bare 
except for coir mats and a few cushions on the floor and a 
small desk and one chair in the corner. On all sides yellowing 
books, papers, and other mementos of his life fill glass- 
enclosed bookcases. The atmosphere reminded me more of a 
museum than of a politician's workplace. One tired ceiling 
fan hardly stirred the air. 

The musty torpor of the place suddenly vanished when 
Narayan entered with his usual preoccupied air and ingratiat- 
ing smile. He apologized for the lack of furniture and ex- 
plained that it was his habit to sit on the floor. With profes- 
sorial precision he told me how I should arrange the cushions 
behind my back. I asked only one question about his early 
career, and he began his story in a soft, almost self-deprecating 
voice. The refreshing thing about him (as compared with 
most other Indian politicians) is his avoidance of pompous 
cliches. He can talk for hours without being garrulous. His 
choice of words makes every sentence a thing of joy. He ex- 
plains his actions but never tries to conceal his mistakes. He 
avoids the politician's penchant for self-inflation. He assumes 
that he does not need to make protestations of his good faith. 
He is not afraid to voice strong opinions, even to denounce 
what he regards as chicanery, but I have never detected any 
bitterness or spite in him. In this he is the antithesis of 
Krishna Menon, whom he considers a menace. 

Unlike Desai, J. P. does not require a Western visitor to 
renounce all nourishment. He is quick to offer tea and what- 
ever else is available. The difficulty is that not much is avail- 


able in his kitchen that a Westerner is likely to find appetiz- 
ing. That day in Patna I drank endless cups of tea and 
munched the dry Indian pastries that are his staple diet. 
Since that was all he ate, I was reluctant to ask for anything 
more. So throughout that long day I sat in his study hot, 
famished, and fascinated while he reviewed his life. I had 
seen him before, and was to see him many times afterward, 
but that day in Patna sticks in my mind. What follows is the 
gist of what he told me. 

He was born on October 11, 1902, in the tiny village of 
Sitabdiara, in impoverished Bihar province. His father was a 
minor provincial irrigation official. The Narayans are mem- 
bers of the same Kayastha caste that Lai Bahadur Shastri be- 
longs to. 

Narayan was eighteen when Gandhi visited his district and 
urged students to boycott the local high school. His parents 
were furious when he left school one month before gradua- 
tion. They tried to enroll him in Banaras Hindu University, 
but he refused because Gandhi had condemned any educa- 
tional institution aided by the British. His family had no 
money to send him to England, but he had heard that it was 
possible for students from poor families to work their way 
through college in the United States. He sailed from Calcutta 
in August 1923, leaving his young wife, whom he had mar- 
ried while still in his teens, with his parents. By the time he 
reached San Francisco in October, the term had already 
begun at the University of California, at Berkeley. To earn 
money while he waited for the opening of the new term, he 
worked on a ranch near Yuba City. "This was the first time 
in my life," he told me, "that I had worked with my hands 
and earned something. It left a deep impression on me. This 
experience of working in factories and doing odd jobs at col- 
lege gave me an outlook on life that nothing else could have 
done. Mere theoretical Gandhism or Marxism couldn't have 
done it. The equality of human beings and the dignity of 
labor became real things to me." 

Before he left America, he had worked on a Sacramento 
grape ranch ("God, it was hot"), in a canning plant, a 
foundry, a Chicago stockyard ("Not killing things"), a terra- 


cotta factory, and as a salesman of hair-straightener and com- 
plexion cream in the Negro quarter of Chicago. The last job 
brought him the most money. Indian students were in de- 
mand for this work because they could tell the Negroes, "Look 
at our hair. Look at how light our complexion is." Narayan 
says, "This was cheating. I don't think I did the cheating 

He went to Chicago during summer vacation from the 
University of Iowa, where he had transferred because the 
tuition was too high at Berkeley. Looking for a job in the 
year 1926 was an unrewarding experience, and he soon found 
that he had an added handicap. "We don't want Asiatics/' 
one Chicago factory foreman told him brusquely. He got used 
to being told, "We don't take colored people," or "We don't 
want foreigners." "The rooming-house people were more 
diplomatic than the factory bosses," he recalls with a faint 
smile. "If I knocked at a house with a 'Room to Let' sign, the 
landlady would say she'd forgotten to take the sign down or 
had just let the room when she saw me." In Chicago he finally 
found lodging with an Indian Christian family. 

Narayan is not bitter about this. "I didn't have much 
direct experience of race prejudice," he says. "Apart from 
that, I was impressed with the democratic climate in the 
United States. I noticed how foremen and workers addressed 
each other by their first names. There was no feeling of being 
below or inferior or anything like that." 

The democratic climate was not warm enough to keep the 
young man from Bihar from joining a Communist study cell 
at the University of Wisconsin, the next stop on his academic 
safari. At Wisconsin he met a young graduate assistant in 
the German Department named Avrom Landy, who, as 
Narayan recalls, "gave me lots of his company." Landy began 
by giving him pamphlets by the Indian Communist M. N. 
Roy and Trotsky's writings. The group held their meetings 
at the home of a Russian Jewish tailor in Madison. For the 
benefit of the study circle, Landy even used his knowledge 
of German to translate works of Marx that had not yet been 
published in English. "I read voraciously," Narayan recalls, 
"and became a Leninist. Landy arranged for me to meet a 


Mexican Communist, Manuel Gomez, who was in charge of 
the Oriental Section of the Communist party, with offices in 
Chicago. I also met Jay Lovestone, the American Communist. 
It was arranged with Gomez that I should go to Moscow and 
join the new Oriental University set up to train foreign stu- 
dents in the science of revolution." 

Everything would be furnished free once Narayan reached 
Moscow, but he was told that he had to pay his own passage 
to Russia. The Soviet state was less well-heeled in those days. 
To earn money for the trip, Narayan left Wisconsin at the 
end of his first term and began knocking at Chicago factory 
gates. It was winter and bitterly cold. The young Indian was 
penniless. He lived on two meals a day of rice and sometimes 
pork and beans. His Indian landlord slipped him coffee. But 
the strain was too much. He fell ill and almost died. An 
Indian doctor who practiced in the Negro quarter of Chicago 
removed his tonsils but left the infected roots. It was three 
months before Narayan recovered. He was $900 in debt. He 
cabled his father for money. The elder Narayan was obliged 
to mortgage his lands. Another member of the family went in 
alarm to Dr. Rajendra Prasad, who was a Congress colleague 
of J. P/s father-in-law, and asked him to try to dissuade 
Narayan from going to Moscow. The future president of 
India wrote a letter praising the young man's intelligence and 
warning him that if he went to Moscow he was not likely to 
be allowed back in India. Prasad said that the fight for 
freedom was in India, not in Russia. 

"His letter carried weight with me," Narayan says now, "but 
I think I'd have gone to Moscow in any case if I hadn't fallen 
ill/' The upshot was that he returned to Wisconsin and 
switched from engineering to a liberal-arts course on Landy's 
advice. When Landy was given a lectureship at Ohio State 
University, Narayan went with him. At Columbus, where 
they roomed together for a while, Narayan finally received his 
Bachelor of Arts degree, on August 31, 1928. Afterward he 
studied for his Master's degree on a graduate scholarship and 
was one of the few foreigners chosen at that time at Ohio 
State to be a graduate assistant. His thesis was on "Societal 
Variation." Starting from his Marxian viewpoint, he argued 


that change in human society is the result of improvements 
in the tools of production. He also produced copious hand- 
written notes on such subjects as Zeno's social philosophy, 
the French Physiocrats, property laws among the Filipinos, 
and the relation between interest rates and wholesale prices. 
He wrote gloomy verse and youthful denunciations of human 
bestiality, especially the sex instinct. 

I have perused the comments of his professors at Ohio State 
written at the time. They make interesting reading. Albert P. 
Weiss, of the Psychology Department, predicted that Narayan 
would attain "an outstanding position as a social theorist." 
F. E. Lumley, of the Sociology Department, said that the 
young Indian "ranks as high as or higher than any student 
I've ever had." Naively the professor remarked, "I've not yet 
been able to find out, owing to his Hindu reticence and 
quietness, whether he has yet shaped up something in the 
way of a fundamental philosophy of life. He is aggressive in 
thought but not in action/' 

Narayan's experience is a frightening commentary on the 
ability of the Communists to capture the mind of a young, 
penniless, and insecure foreign student in America. As he says 
now, "My conception of a capitalist was of the big fat fellow 
with a cigar." He was intelligent and perceptive enough to 
rid himself of this stereotype in later years, but he is excep- 
tional. How many other young Asians and Africans who em- 
brace Communism in their student days in the West are able 
to re-create their intellectual terms of reference? Experience 
seems to belie the common belief that education in the United 
States (or another Western democracy) inevitably turns for- 
eign students into admirers of Western institutions. Of course, 
things are far better for impecunious foreign students in 
America today, but the fact that Narayan could become a 
dedicated Communist while he was studying in the richest 
capitalist country on earth is something to be borne in mind. 

What prosperity he saw in the United States, Narayan ex- 
plained (with the help of Marxist-Leninist dialectics) as the 
result of the "open frontier" and labor scarcity, which kept 
wages up. But he says that he did not believe that American 


industrialists would follow Henry Ford's advice to pay labor 
enough to enable it to consume the products of machine in- 
dustry. While at Columbus, he was more than just a study- 
hall Communist. He participated in strikes and demonstra- 
tions organized by the Communists or Leftist-dominated labor 
unions. He got the line by regularly devouring the Daily 
Worker and New Masses. He found Americans, except those 
at universities, unbelievably ignorant about India. When he 
told one woman in Chicago that he was a Hindu, she replied, 
"Oh, you're from Honduras." But in the universities, he found 
considerable sympathy for Indian freedom. 

Narayan ended his seven-year sojourn in America one 
month before the stock-market collapse of October 1929. He 
sailed from New York, stopping off in England long enough 
to meet some British Communists and cable his father for 
more money; and reached home shortly before his mother's 
death. He was puzzled to find the Indian Communists refus- 
ing to co-operate with Congress and denouncing Gandhi's 
latest nonco-operation movement. "But what about Lenin's 
thesis on imperialism to the Second Congress of the Com- 
munist International?" Narayan inquired earnestly. The In- 
dian Communists smiled. Stalin had issued different orders. 

Narayan joined the Congress party in January 1930, be- 
cause "it fitted my understanding of a Communist's duty to 
work sincerely in the national liberation movement." The 
previous month he had met Jawaharlal Nehru. They imme- 
diately felt an intellectual kinship, which has survived all dis- 
agreements. Both men wanted to see Congress move to the 
Left. Nehru appointed the young Bihari to be research di- 
rector of the Congress Labor Department, a post for which 
J. P. had no particular qualifications except his work experi- 
ence in America. Soon promoted to general secretary of Con- 
gress, Narayan helped organize the great civil-disobedience 
movement that swept India in the early iggo's. In 1932 he 
was arrested and sentenced to Nasik Central Prison, where 
he met a high-spirited, well-educated group of young north 
Indian Congressmen who were to join him in launching 
India's socialist movement. Some members of the group were, 


like Narayan, Marxists. Others leaned more to British Fabian 
socialism or a vague kind of "Gandhian socialism." Despite 
these differences, which were later to prove fatal to Indian 
socialism, the Congress Socialist party (CSP) was founded on 

Ma Y *7> 1934- 

It was a party within a party, part of the Congress party 
and yet a separate political entity with its own organization 
and membership. "I thought if the Communists in Congress 
formed a group inside the party/' Narayan says, "we could 
be more effective. Now I think this was a mistake/' It was 
not his last. 

The Indian Communist party was outlawed the same year. 
The Communists received instructions from the Comintern to 
switch to a policy of Left unity and to infiltrate Congress. 
The newly formed Congress Socialist party was the answer to 
the Communists' prayers. Narayan even spared the Indian 
comrades the trouble of making the first overture. In January 
1936, on his recommendation, the CSP National Executive 
unanimously adopted a resolution to admit Communists to 
membership. Before the year was out, E. M. S. Namboodripad, 
future chief minister of the Kerala Communist ministry, and 
other Communists controlled CSP units throughout south 
India. Warnings by the National Executive proved futile. 
Narayan was still mesmerized by the dream of Marxist unity. 
By the time Britain had taken India into World War II, the 
Communists had captured the initiative in the Congress So- 
cialist party and enormously increased their own member- 
ship and following. 

Throughout this period Narayan sought to appease the 
Communists by giving them seats on the National Executive 
and issuing meaningless joint policy statements. The Com- 
munists paid off in flattery, hailing him as the "Indian Lenin" 
and "India's Revolutionary Number One." J. P.'s nai'vet6 
about the Indian Communists was matched only by his self- 
deception concerning the Soviet Union. 

"For us who have to do things, who have a task before us," 
he pontificated, "it is the great principle of a new life which 
the Russians are so boldly practicing that alone is of value. 
There is no power or party in India stronger than imperialism 


and if we humble the latter there will be no one to challenge 
our will." 

To those who argued that there were other roads to social- 
ism than Stalinism, Narayan retorted: "Today more than 
ever before it is possible to say that there is only one type, one 
theory of socialism Marxism. So far only the Communists 
have vindicated their theory of tactics by their great and re- 
markable success in Russia. Proponents of other methods are 
today everywhere in the trough of failure." 

No one was deeper in the trough of failure at that moment 
than Jayaprakash Narayan. His party's vitals had already 
been eaten away by Communist infiltration. Co-operation was 
a farce. By December 1939, even J. P. realized the situation 
and admitted that the Communist party "stood as the sworn 
enemy of the Congress Socialist party and of every other pro- 
gressive organization with which it had worked before." Four 
months later, the CSP National Executive belatedly resolved 
to expel all Communist members. Large chunks of what the 
socialists had fondly considered their party broke off and 
openly joined the Communist party of India (CPI). South 
Indian CSP units defected en masse to the Communists. As 
one socialist leader ruefully conceded, the CSP was "all but 

Narayan's awakening to Communist aims in India coin- 
cided with disenchantment with the country that called itself 
the Motherland of Socialism. Stalin's purges shook his faith 
in Soviet achievements. Exposes like Eugene Lyons's Assign- 
ment in Utopia and the report made on the charges against 
Trotsky by a committee headed by John Dewey accelerated 
his rethinking process. "The first breach in the Marxian cita- 
del in my mind," he told me in typically introspective vein, 
"came with the realization that without democracy there 
could be no socialism." The breach became a chasm when 
the Indian Communists obediently dropped all talk of Indian 
freedom and demanded that the country join the Allied war 
effort after Russia was attacked in June 1941. Narayan de- 
nounced the Communists for playing the imperialist game. 
He had earlier split with the Congress party when it voted to 
restrict its followers to nonviolent civil disobedience. He de- 


manded a complete boycott of the government until the 
British left India. He was arrested and sent to Hazaribagh 
prison, in a remote part of Bihar. 

From there, on the night of November 8, 1942, Narayan 
and five fellow inmates made what should rank as a historic 
jail break. Months of preparation went into the effort. They 
chose a moonlit night during the traditional Diwali celebra- 
tions, the most popular Hindu folk festival, when the prison's 
Hindu warders were off duty and other prisoners and Moslem 
warders were enjoying a special Diwali feast. At 10:00 P.M., 
while an inmate accomplice regaled everyone with funny 
stories, Narayan and his companions scaled a twenty-two-foot 
wall with the help of a rope made of dhotis. In their haste 
they forgot to take a package containing money, extra cloth- 
ing, and shoes. For three days and nights they wandered 
through dense forest. It was cold. They used their dhoti rope 
to protect bleeding and swollen feet. With a four-anna piece 
(equivalent to about six cents) that one of the men found in 
his clothing, they bought a handful of chiuda (parboiled, 
pounded rice) and some salt and red pepper from the tribal 
people in the area. But they were afraid to ask directions for 
fear of giving themselves away. So the little group stumbled 
on, occasionally dropping in exhaustion under a tree, but 
fearful of tarrying too long. 

On the third day they found a village where friends of a 
local Congressman then in prison gave them cooked food, old 
clothes, and most welcome of all some old shoes. Narayan 
had grown a beard. The British were offering a reward of 
10,000 rupees (about $2,000) for his capture dead or alive, 
and 5,000 rupees for each of the others. "Our biggest prob- 
lem," Narayan recalls, "was the inquisitiveness of the villagers 
we met as we walked through the back country. Whenever we 
stopped to draw water from a well, they'd ply us with ques- 
tions about our caste and subcaste. We finally got fed up 
answering their questions, but usually we met uneducated 
people who didn't suspect anything." They were loath to 
spend nights in the villages, where they could be more easily 
detected. When they did stop at a tiny country store to buy 
food and spend the night on the floor, they sensed from the 


proprietor's questions and his anxious looks that he suspected 
they were robbers or murderers. The night passed anxiously. 
Long before dawn the fugitives stole out of the store and dis- 
appeared into the forest. 

The father-in-law of one of the group was a zamindar, or 
landlord, who owned a village in the district. Half a mile out- 
side the village, the fugitives halted and sent a small boy to 
tell the zamindar's gumashta, or revenue clerk, that his mas- 
ter's son-in-law had arrived with some friends. The landlord 
himself lived several miles away. The gumashta was incredu- 
lous. "If they are there/' he grumbled, "let them come into 
the village/ 7 Finally he was persuaded to come out, but his 
doubts persisted because he had never seen his master's son- 
in-law. The desperate men were not to be put off. The clerk 
at length escorted them to his kitchen, or village administra- 
tive office, and prepared some food for them "very poor 
food/' Narayan recalls, "because he still suspected we were 
impostors." But after the clerk reported to the zamindar, he 
returned a changed man. "The food also changed for the 
better," Narayan says. "The clerk had orders to keep our 
presence dark. He thought we had committed some crime." 

Three days later the hunted men were on their way again, 
moving on foot, concealed behind gunny bags in a bullock 
cart, and feigning illness, to avoid prying questions, on third- 
class railway coaches. In passing near one town where British 
and American forces were based, the driver of their hired 
bullock cart was closely questioned, but he answered blandly 
that he was taking a load of grain to market. The fugitives 
had separated into two groups by this time to minimize 
chances of detection. Narayan's objective was Banaras Hindu 
University, where he had friends. The first one he approached 
a chemistry professor * had trouble recognizing the bearded 
rustic who knocked at his door. Then, obviously fearful, he 
stammered something about having guests who would be 
suspicious if Narayan holed up in the house. Narayan finally 
found refuge with another university teacher in Banaras. He 

* It is characteristic of J. P. that when he mentioned the professor dur- 
ing our talk he asked me not to use his name "because he behaved rather 


got in touch with underground headquarters in Bombay, 
where Mrs. Aruna Asaf Ali, who later joined the Communist 
party, was working. The underground sent him money and 
instructions on where to go. 

When he arrived secretly in Delhi, he wrote the first of his 
famous "Letters to Fighters for Freedom." One of them was 
an appeal to American servicemen stationed in India not to 
co-operate with the British, "who are waging a fascist war 
against us/' He asked them to consider him a fugitive prisoner 
of war. "Whoever among you may become a prisoner of war 
will consider it his duty/' he wrote, "to escape from the 
enemy's prison as soon as he has an opportunity. ... I want 
to dedicate myself at the altar of the liberation of our coun- 
try/' The document was covertly distributed in American bar- 
racks. One can imagine the puzzled interest it excited among 
readers who had never heard of Jayaprakash Narayan. 

Narayan was assigned to set up a terrorist headquarters 
and training center for saboteurs in neighboring Nepal. The 
underground Azad Dasta, or Freedom Brigade, was made up 
of ten-man sabotage squads. Most of its recruits were deserters 
from the Indian Army. Nepal's Rana regime winked at 
Narayan's activities until he set up a clandestine broadcasting 
apparatus that enraged the British. Under tremendous British 
pressure, the Nepalese finally sent armed police to surround 
the underground headquarters and arrest Narayan and six 
others, including Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia, who now leads 
the splinter Socialist party of India. As they were being con- 
veyed to the Indo-Nepalese border, Narayan managed to slip 
a message to an Azad Dasta volunteer whose identity was still 
unknown to the Nepalese. Four nights later, while the pris- 
oners were waiting at a Nepalese frontier post for British 
authorities to take charge of them, they were awakened by 
rifle fire. A haystack in an adjacent field was set afire. The 
Nepalese guards rushed toward the flames, only to find them- 
selves under a hail of bullets from thirty Azad Dasta attackers. 
A stray bullet struck a gong in the guardhouse where the 
prisoners were lodged. Narayan leaped to his feet and made 
a break for it. He was followed by the others, including Lohia, 
who kept objecting that no one seemed to care about his 


safety. "It's every man for himself/' Narayan snapped. The 
fugitives and their liberators fled together through the night. 
Before dawn they had crossed into Indian territory. Afraid to 
ride the trains, they asked a village boatman to ferry them 
across the Ganges. The boatman agreed but said he could not 
leave until his mother pounded some rice for him to eat en 
route. "We'll buy you food/' Narayan implored. But the boat- 
man was obdurate. From the looks they were getting, Narayan 
realized that the villagers thought his group was a gang of 
thieves. Slowly the fugitives began walking along a railway 
embankment, hoping to slip away without attracting further 
notice. But when they looked back, they saw they were being 
followed by seven or eight villagers armed with lathis. Then 
their pursuers started running after them. Suraj Narayan 
Singh, now general secretary of the Praja Socialist party in 
Bihar, whirled and trained his revolver on the villagers. He 
shouted, "Look, we are fighting for the freedom of our 
country. Is this the way for you to act? If you don't turn 
back, I'll shoot as many of you as possible/' The villagers 
turned back. 

In September 1943, as famine swept Bengal and India came 
increasingly to resemble an armed camp, the underground 
high command decided that Narayan should go to Kashmir 
to rouse the chronically rebellious Pathan tribesmen against 
the British. Narayan had escaped detection so long that he 
had grown careless. He had shaved his beard, taken to wear- 
ing European clothes, and adopted a Punjabi pseudonym 
Mehta. On September 16 India's most wanted underground 
leader boarded a sleeper train at Delhi for the long journey 
to Rawalpindi, on the northwest frontier. He was mildly 
surprised to find his pseudonym on a reservation slip on 
the compartment door, together with the name of a "Major 
Khan and family." Underground chiefs are not in the habit 
of booking reservations, even under their pseudonyms. He 
was even more surprised when no one appeared to share his 
compartment. When the train stopped at a wayside station, 
he got out and walked on the platform with his hat pulled 
low. "There was a man on the platform whose eyes seemed 
to burn into me," he recalls. "I should have broken the trip 


then, but I dismissed the strange feeling and got back on the 
train." As the train pulled into Amritsar early the next morn- 
ing, Narayan rolled up his bedding on the upper berth and 
opened the compartment door to ask for tea. "In those days," 
he told me with typical Indian irrelevance, "the tea service 
on the trains was much better than now." He was surprised 
to find three men, including an Englishman, standing out- 
side. He closed the door and started getting dressed. A few 
moments later there was a sharp knock. 

"Come in. I'm alone," Narayan said courteously, thinking 
the strangers were looking for berths. At this point the Eng- 
lishman asked to see his ticket. 

"Are you a railway official?" he asked. 

"No," the Englishman replied, "but I'd like to see your 
ticket." He scrutinized it for a moment, then asked, "Are you 
Jayaprakash Narayan?" 

"I don't know what you're talking about," Narayan lied. 
"I'm Mehraj Mehta." 

"All right," the Englishman said. "I don't believe that. 
We'll search your things." Then his eye lighted on the rolled 
bedding in the upper berth. "Where is the second man?" he 

"I'm alone, as I told you," Narayan answered. 

"Look here," the Englishman exploded. "This is not Nepal. 
This is the Punjab. I have orders to shoot. If there's the 
slightest suspicious move, I'll fire. Now you get dressed." 

Narayan, still in his pajamas, realized the game was up. 
Outside Lahore he was taken off the train in handcuffs. The 
Englishman, who was Lahore's senior superintendent of po- 
lice, kept warning him against trying to escape. As they drove 
into the grim Lahore Fort, he told Narayan, "We have 1,600 
armed police around here. This is not Nepal. Don't try any- 
thing." For the first month, Narayan was never allowed out- 
side his cell in solitary confinement. He was permitted no 
newspapers or books. Food was shoved under an iron bar 
into his cell by guards who had orders not to speak to him. A 
month after his arrest, teams of three or four police inspectors 
began interrogating him from early morning until late at 
night. He was allowed back into his cell only to use the latrine. 


The police told him they had arrested Mrs. Ali, Dr. Lohia, 
and other underground leaders. They pretended to read from 
written confessions, which sounded genuine because the po- 
lice had usually been just forty-eight hours behind him after 
his escape from Hazaribagh jail. One set of inquisitors adopted 
the "soft sell." They told Narayan that he was the most im- 
portant man in India after Gandhi and Nehru. They begged 
him to co-operate by giving them the names of other members 
of the underground. They even said that they would lose 
their jobs and their families would go hungry if they failed 
to persuade him to make a statement. The other team was 
abusive and menacing. They handcuffed him to a chair and 
slapped him on the face to prevent him from falling asleep. 
They threatened to take him to the basement dungeon and 
resort to the long neem tree twigs that Hindus use to clean 
their teeth. Their words were punctuated by screams from 
other parts of the fort. "I don't know if these screams were 
genuine or staged for my benefit," Narayan remarked to me 

The last ten days of the ordeal were the worst. He was 
allowed no sleep at all. After all-day questioning, he would 
be told at 9:00 P.M., "That's all for today. You can return to 
your cell and have a good rest." But just as he was sinking into 
an exhausted sleep, another team of interrogators would enter 
his cell and take him out for all-night questioning. He ate 
practically nothing during this time. "My head buzzed like 
a beehive," he says. For a week he was locked in a foul little 
cell in the basement dungeon. "But I think they would have 
had to put me through much more to make me talk," he says 
stoutly. "In any case, there really wasn't much to tell. People 
imagine this underground business is very sinister and im- 
portant. The fact is, you spend most of your time just trying 
to save your own skin." 

Suddenly the nonstop interrogation ended. By this time 
stories were circulating all over India that Jayaprakash 
Narayan, the lion of the underground, was being brutally tor- 
tured in Lahore Fort. A Bombay attorney who tried to ob- 
tain a writ of habeas corpus for him in Lahore was unlawfully 
arrested. A storm broke over the Punjab government. Three 


police officers who were responsible for arresting the lawyer 
were later censured severely by a Lahore court. The Punjab 
Home Secretary visited Narayan in prison to ask if he had 
"any complaints." "Yes, I do have a few," the prisoner replied 
with a trace of a smile. "I'll put them in writing if you give 
me paper and pen." Thereafter he was allowed to cook his 
own food and take exercise in the prison courtyard. He was 
produced in court sixteen months after his arrest. He had spent 
the entire period in solitary confinement and had been ques- 
tioned fifty days and nights. As a result of his petition to the 
High Court, he was transferred to Agra Central Prison, where 
conditions were much better. "Even in those days/' he recalls, 
"the Punjab police had a reputation for brutality." 

But he found the best of prisons galling. The day he learned 
that Paris had been liberated by the Allies, he wrote a moving 
account of his feelings. "It was a great day for Europe when 
Paris was liberated. But Europe is far away and beyond my 
world. A sealed-off, walled-off, barred and bolted, 15 by 12 bit 
of space that is my world, set in a cosmos of similar planets. 
A cosmos that is not of God's but man's creation. When I hear 
the howls [of prisoners] I find myself turning into a brute. 
Raging, tearing, brutal vengeance wells up within my being. 
I fight hard to keep my humanity. It is difficult, very difficult. 
And I am not sure I quite succeed." 

The only action Narayan could observe in his little world 
was the love life of Churchill, the prison tomcat. 

His political comments were bitter. On August 4, 1944, he 
wrote: "The Atlantic Charter has shrunk to the dimensions of 
the English Channel. The liquidation of empires and im- 
perialist policies cannot come from the top, that is, on the 
volition of the imperialist powers which, one should remem- 
ber, include the USA, which has a not inconsiderable economic 
empire in Central and South America. China's regeneration, if 
it is allowed full scope after the war, will be the second [after 
India] powerful nail driven into the coffin of world empires. 
As for the UN, it is a tremendous hoax. The postwar world 
is going to be dominated by Anglo-America and the UN will 
be only the bandboys." 


Despite his bitterness against the Western powers, Narayan 
had little use for Stalin and Stalinist methods. He was con- 
temptuous of Soviet apologists in the west. But as late as 
November 1944, he could still speak of "my lingering faith 
in Stalin's socialism/' but complained that "the head of a 
professedly socialist state talks like the imperialist and capitalist 
rulers of the world." 

At this time Narayan denigrated the village-based economy 
he now advocates. "Village self-sufficiency," he wrote from his 
cell on April 19, 1944, "had been the basis of Indian society 
in the past. Its political result was the civic and political isola- 
tion of the village. ... In free India the state will have 
consciously to endeavor to break up the remaining self-suf- 
ficiency and isolation of the villages and make them coherent 
economic units in a united and interdependent national econ- 

Narayan was finally released on April 12, 1946, long after 
most other Indian freedom fighters had been set free. He 
plunged back into the freedom movement and was again 
chosen to serve on the Congress Working Committee, for 
which Nehru had first nominated him in 1936. He resolved, 
as one American student observes, "to eschew doctrinaire 
political thinking in favor of pragmatic and empirical analyses 
of India's problems as a necessary first step in evolving a new 
'democratic socialism* related to Indian realities." But, as 
before, realities proved less congenial than theorizing on the 
nature of man and society. 

The socialists in Congress were more divided than ever. 
They rejected an offer of seats in the Constituent Assembly 
called to write India's future constitution. Less than seven 
months before Britain gave India its freedom, Narayan was 
writing in the socialist newspaper organ: "The soothing talk 
that the British have made up their minds to quit is calcu- 
lated merely to deceive the people and quieten their fears 
that, instead of eliminating obstacles in our path, we might 
compromise with them and thus jeopardize freedom and 
democracy. In the fire of revolution alone can be burnt down 
the edifice of imperialism together with the supporting edifices 


of feudalism and coromunalism. We have to exert the utmost 
pressure on Congress from within in order to persuade or 
compel it to accept a revolutionary course of action." 

The fires of revolution were to be lighted by some 10,000 
armed guerrillas said to have been maintained by the socialist 
underground. Narayan continued to function within Congress 
because he believed the socialists could eventually capture the 
party. He was encouraged in this delusion by Nehru's radical- 
ism and Gandhi's shrewd tactic of promoting socialist leaders 
to positions beyond the strength of their support. In 1947 
Gandhi proposed Narayan for the presidency of the Congress 
party, probably expecting that the office would moderate or 
discredit the socialist firebrand once and for all. Gandhi's plan 
was thwarted by the party's increasingly powerful Right Wing, 
led by Sardar Patel. On January 30, 1948, Gandhi was assassi- 
nated in New Delhi and the road was open for the Rightists to 
drive the Congress socialists into the political wilderness. The 
Patel group pushed through a resolution outlawing political 
parties within Congress. In 1948 Narayan led a battered band 
of followers out of Congress. A number of his former cohorts 
in the underground had already joined the Communists. 
Many moderate socialists opted to remain in Congress. The 
knell had sounded for the independent Indian socialist move- 

Narayan did not hear it. He still dreamed of militant mass 
struggle against social and economic injustice. He foresaw an 
aging and increasingly reactionary Congress on one side and a 
discredited Communist party on the other being swept aside 
by the swelling tide of "democratic socialism." In the after- 
math of Gandhi's death, he reread the Mahatma's works. He 
no longer dismissed him as a "bourgeois reformist" mired in 
"a bog of timid economic analysis, good intentions, and inef- 
fective moralizing." The problem of means and ends troubled 
him, and Gandhi had much to say on this score. When hard- 
core socialists accused him of trying to escape from political 
reality by talking about spiritual regeneration, Narayan 
replied: "I have no knowledge of matters spiritual if the term 
is understood in a religious or metaphysical sense. I have not 
suddenly come to acquire faith in something called the spirit 


or the soul or Brahman. Such philosophy as I have is earthly 
and human." 

By mid- 1950 Narayan had begun doubting even socialism. 
Where socialist parties had come to power in Western Europe, 
they had failed to transform society. Stalinist Russia was a 
growing nightmare. The ills of society seemed to dwarf and 
defy the power of any regime. Like Banquo's ghost, the 
specter of totalitarianism kept returning to haunt Narayan. 
He lashed out angrily at those who dubbed him a "reformist," 
accusing them of still living in the age "when one contrasted 
the failures of European social democracy with the brilliant 
successes of Lenin." He told his detractors: "But years have 
rolled by since then, years of poignant and tragic history, of 
lost dreams and of the very God that failed. . . . The new 
enthusiast . . . assumes that the theories will inevitably lead 
to the values; so, when the theories become a state religion 
he assumes that the values have been realized and socialism 
established on earth. The phenomenon is common in the 
history of religions." 

So also was the phenomenon of one man's progressive dis- 
illusionment. The 1951 Indian elections relegated the socialists 
to third place, behind Congress and the Communists. The 
socialists sought to bolster their position by merging with a 
small party formed by disgruntled Gandhian ex-Congress- 
men. The result was the Praja (People's) Socialist party 
(PSP), which still exists. But at the very moment he was em- 
bracing his new Gandhian colleagues, Narayan felt compelled 
to say, "One does not know whether there is anything like 
an integrated Gandhian philosophy." He acknowledged that 
history had "falsified" his stand on the necessity of violence 
for obtaining India's independence. Trying to escape from 
the "amoralism" of Soviet Communism, he began championing 
the Yugoslav brand. In January 1953 he told an Asian socialist 
conference in Rangoon that the Yugoslav Communists were 
"anxious to bring to an end as speedily as possible this one- 
party rule. The Yugoslav Communist party has decided it is 
for the people themselves to rule over themselves." Eighteen 
months later he was still convinced that the Yugoslav comrades 
were "the one and only Left party which has analyzed this 


new disease [Soviet totalitarianism] and is trying to find out 
how this new monster is developing further." But continued 
one-party rule and periodic reversions to the "hard line" in 
Yugoslavia have cooled J. P.'s ardor for the gospel according 
to Belgrade. 

The turning point in his postwar thinking came in 1952 
when he met the aged and venerable Acharya Vinoba Bhave, 
a Gandhi disciple then in the second year of his Bhoodan 
(land gift) movement. "He impressed me as a person in dead 
earnest/' Narayan told me of their first meeting in the Uttar 
Pradesh hinterland of north-central India. "He really wanted 
to go to the root of the question. It wasn't a question of just 
collecting a little land to blunt the land hunger of the revolu- 
tion. His program was really socialistic." 

Bhave had conceived the idea of Bhoodan on April 18, 
1951, during a visit to the strife-torn Telangana region of 
Hyderabad, in south India. The Indian Communists were 
then using Mao Tse-tung's guerrilla tactics to establish a Red 
pocket in the area, from which they hoped to expand until 
all India was communized by force. They had armed and 
organized the peasants for systematic attacks on the landlords 
in Telangana. When Bhave arrived at the village of Po- 
champalli, he was approached by a deputation of untouchable 
families who lamented their poverty and landlessness. The 
old man asked them how much land they would need to be 
self-supporting. One untouchable blurted, "One hundred 
acres/' but the others said they could make do with eighty. 
Bhave turned to the wealthier peasants and said, "There must 
be among you someone who can fulfill this request." One 
local landlord stood up to announce that he would give the 
untouchables one hundred acres. Bhave interpreted this 
episode as divine guidance to devote the rest of his life to 
soliciting voluntary donations of land to alleviate the plight 
of India's huge landless rural population. He collected more 
than 12,000 acres in Telangana. From September to Novem- 
ber 1951, Bhave was given almost 20,000 acres as he trudged 
from Telangana to Delhi. His movement, like so many other 
evangelistic efforts, caught the country's imagination for a 
time. During an eight-month stretch in Uttar Pradesh, Bhave 


met Narayan. There is no record of their talk, but Narayan 
says that he asked Bhave if he should resign from leadership 
of the PSP. The Acharya advised him not to take the step then. 
Two years later on April 19, 1954 Narayan announced 
dramatically that he was quitting "party and power politics" 
to dedicate his life to the Bhoodan movement. 

Despite the best efforts of Bhave and Narayan, Bhoodan 
has not fulfilled its early promise. The goal of fifty million 
acres in five years enough to give five acres to every family 
of landless agricultural laborers is far from attainment. In 
fact, after 1951, only about five million acres had been col- 
lected in a decade of dedicated effort by an army of sarvodaya 
workers. The sarvodaya (literally, uplift of all) ideal was 
championed by Gandhi and promoted by a loosely organized 
movement of his followers, including Bhave, after the 
Mahatma's death. One American study describes the sarvodaya 
objective as "an ideal social order based upon nonviolence 
and envisaged in terms of harmonious, casteless, classless 
society with equal opportunity for all/' When sarvodaya is 
achieved, society will also be stateless. Bhave conceived of 
Bhoodan as the perfect instrument for attaining this blissful 
order of things. 

As Bhoodan lost momentum, Bhave launched other dan 
(gift) movements: Sampattidan (gift of wealth), Gramdan 
(gift of entire villages), and Shramdan (gift of labor). "I tell 
people," Narayan says, " 'If you don't like Bhoodan, try 
Gramdan/ " The movement comes in all flavors. 

Under Bhoodan, as originally conceived by Bhave, the land- 
less were supposed to decide by unanimous agreement or by 
drawing lots who would get donated land. Under Gramdan, 
all land is given to the village community. From 5 to 10 per 
cent is set aside as comm9n land to be cultivated free of 
charge by the villagers. The produce of this land goes to the 
village store for common purposes in accordance with the 
decisions of the village panchayat. The rest of the land is 
redistributed on the basis of the villagers' "needs" and the 
size of their families. Thus, a family of ten, regardless of its 
ability to make improvements or work the land productively, 
would receive twice as much as a family of five. Cultivators 


in Gramdan villages are prohibited from selling or mortgaging 
the land they till. In the light of the Indian peasant's passionate 
attachment to his land, it is not surprising that many of the 
more than 5,500 villages that originally adopted Gramdan 
have now reverted to the old system. In many places the vil- 
lagers were swept up in the revivalist atmosphere of the 
Bhoodan-Gramdan movement without having any clear idea 
of what they were getting into. Mrs. Kusum Nair, the able 
Indian sociologist and writer, reports that many of the 
Gramdan villagers are primitive tribal people who joined the 
scheme simply because they were told their debts would be 

Distribution of Bhoodan land has been even more haphazard 
than its collection. Fewer than one million acres of the five 
million deeded to Bhave had been given away to landless 
laborers by the end of 1961. The rest was lying fallow or had 
reverted to the former owners. In most cases, donated land is 
of such poor quality that it is only marginally productive when 
farmed as part of a larger holding. Bhave has now implicitly 
acknowledged Bhoodan's disarray by appealing to landlords 
to make collective, rather than individual, land donations and 
to distribute their largesse themselves among the landless of 
their choice. I doubt if such patent buck-passing will appeal 
to landlords. 

With the fervor he once reserved for Communism, Narayan 
told Nehru in 1953, "Bhoodan is the seed of love that is to 
grow into the tree of world peace. Even Vinoba is merely the 
instrument of the Time-spirit." But the Time-spirit seems to 
have misused its instrument. As Narayan admitted to me, 
"Bhoodan is now in a state of stalemate. We've not been able 
to break that." He now feels that Bhoodan is "too cut and 
dried." Instead of propagating Bhoodan, or any of its sister 
movements, he believes that the 35,000 full- and part-time 
sarvodaya workers "should go to the people and try to find 
out what's troubling them, what their grievances are. We 
should never act as brokers between the people and the state." 

All during that day in Patna, as we sat cross-legged on the 
floor, Narayan had talked with almost clinical detachment 
about his most poignant experiences. But when he began 

Mrs. Indira Gandhi with the Dalai Lama at the Prime Minister's 
house in New Delhi 

Central Newsphoto Service, New Delhi 

Tavaprakash Narayan with Prime Minister Nehru at the Na- 
tional Integration Conference in New Delhi, October 1961 

Press Information Bureau, Government of India 

At left, Mrs. Indira Gandhi with her father, Prime Minister 
Jawaharlal Nehru 

Central Newsphoto Service, New Delhi 


Minister of Food and Agriculture S. K. Patil addressing a meet- 
ing of traders in Delhi 

Central Newsphoto Service, New Delhi 

At left, Jayaprakash Narayan addressing a meeting at Delhi Uni- 


Central Newsphoto Service, New Delhi 

S. K. Patil with Secretary of State Dean Rusk in Washington, 
June 1961 

Press Information Bureau, Government of India 

At right, General B. M. Kaul with Krishna Menon and Prime 
Minister Nehru at Ambala, 1958 

General K. S, Thimayya and General B. M. Kaul (third from 
left) watching Krishna Menon laying the foundation stone of 
the Defence Pavilion in New Delhi, August 1958 

Armed Forces Information Office, New Delhi 


speaking about the plight of the Indian villager, his usually 
serene face clouded with a kind of suppressed anguish. For 
the first time he seemed troubled. His expressive gestures be- 
came more emphatic. He remarked that Indians are "basically 
no different" from Germans, Japanese, or Chinese. "But a long 
period of foreign rule has atrophied them completely/* he 
said. "They are in the position of a fractured limb that's just 
been taken out of a plaster cast/* As he made this comparison, 
he gripped his right forearm and moved it slowly back and 
forth as if he were trying to rehabilitate India's wasted rural 
limb. Then, switching metaphors, he said that India's 
peasantry is a "sleeping Leviathan" whose immense potential 
strength is nullified by "despair, hopelessness, and a peculiar 
kind of lifelessness." The giant can never be aroused by 
pinpricks from Delhi or the state capitals. Subordinate officials, 
such as the government's so-called village-level workers, are 
"largely corrupt," according to Narayan. They resent out- 
siders like the sarvodaya workers entering the villages, "be- 
cause we may prevent them from getting something out of the 
people." Narayan was still physically present in the stifling 
little study, but I could see that his mind was now some- 
where in that bottomless cavern of misery called the Indian 
countryside. He was grappling with what is for him the 
supreme problem of India today. "On the other hand/' he 
went on, "the villagers automatically distrust any official or 
middle-class person. Then there is the caste system. It main- 
tains a veritable devil's workshop of idleness because it or- 
dains that certain castes may not perform any honest manual 

Narayan fell silent at this point and stared somberly into 
space. I wanted to ask more questions, but to break the silence 
just then seemed almost blasphemous. I don't know how long 
we sat there without uttering a word. It was a lizard that 
finally brought Narayan out of his reverie. "Open the book- 
case immediately/' he ordered his secretary in a tone of com- 
mand I had not heard before. "I wonder how long the poor 
thing has been in there." The secretary, a rather flustered 
young man, hastily unlocked the glass door of the bookcase 
where a small lizard had just appeared. Such animals are com- 


rnon in any house in India, and are usually welcomed because 
they keep down the insect population, especially during the 
monsoon. Lizards, being intelligent, rarely get trapped, and 
the one in the bookcase struck me as being well fed and 
healthy. But Narayan was concerned. "Leave the bookcase 
open," he said. "Be sure she doesn't get caught in there again." 

What is it about India that makes the once iron-willed 
revolutionary start with horror at the sight of a lizard behind 
a bookcase door? I sometimes feel that Indians care more 
about animals than about other humans. But this is not true 
of Narayan; he cares about everything, which is one of his 

Turning back to me after a last anxious look at the lizard, 
he reverted to the subject of caste as if nothing had inter- 
rupted him. "Appeals to caste were very open and widespread 
in the last election," he said. "Caste is the most persuasive 

The setback to Bhoodan has turned his restless mind to 
other outlets. As president of the All-India Panchayat parishad 
and the Association of Voluntary Agencies for Rural Develop- 
ment (AVARD), he now advocates drastic constitutional re- 
forms that would abolish India's parliamentary system and 
replace it by a multitiered arrangement based on village 
panchayats. He argues that the present "inorganic" system, 
based on individual voters and political parties, inevitably 
causes power to be concentrated at the top. Local organs of 
administration wither and centralized bureaucracy pro- 
liferates. He insists that political parties should be excluded 
from panchayat elections at village and district levels. How 
this is to be accomplished he has never convincingly explained. 
He says that there is no "collective will" in the caste-ridden 
Indian village today. In this situation, elections on party 
lines simply embitter caste and factional antagonisms. 

"Party quarrels over socialism, the public sector, and foreign 
policy have no relevance to village problems," he says. "The 
village is concerned with growing more wheat, building a new 
school, or digging a drainage ditch. These are not things on 
which the parties differ." 

Narayan wants candidates for Parliament and state legisla- 


tures to be chosen by an electoral college composed of two 
delegates from each village assembly in the constituency. Then 
each village assembly would vote on these candidates. This 
system is akin to Pakistan's indirect elections under "basic 

Narayan's insistence on sweeping constitutional changes 
was one reason for the breakdown of his talks with Nehru in 
1953 for a PSP-Congress alliance. Nehru had taken tire initia- 
tive in proposing co-operation at all levels between the two 
parties. As usual, Narayan overbid. He presented a sweeping 
"minimum program" calling for constitutional amendments, 
nationalization of banking and key industries, and other 
drastic measures that would have driven the Congress Right 
Wing into open revolt. Nehru backed off. He suggested that 
they drop the idea of "formal" co-operation. 

Narayan believes political decentralization requires eco- 
nomic decentralization. He now advocates "agro-industrial" 
communities that would be largely self-sufficient. They would 
process wheat, rice, fruit, and vegetables, as well as cotton or 
sugar cane. He also envisions their manufacturing such con- 
sumer goods as radios, bicycle parts, and sewing mechines. 
Economic activity in the village would be on the owner- 
worker or co-operative pattern. Such a "small-machine, labor- 
intensive" rural economy would, in his judgment, be neither 
"bureaucracy-ridden nor exploitative." He urges villagers to 
offer gram-samkalpaz. resolution to make their villages self- 
sufficient as soon as possible in clothing and other necessities 
that they can produce for themselves. At the same time the 
villagers would pledge to use only goods made in their village 
or neighboring villages. Narayan's reversion to Gandhian 
nostalgia for village industry is of a piece with his new-found 
regard for ancient Hindu Ayur-Vedic medicine. 

Another cause that he now espouses is the Shanti Sena (Peace 
Brigade). It is affiliated with the World Peace Brigade, of 
which he is cochairman with the Reverend Michael Scott. The 
Shanti Sena is mainly employed to counteract Hindu-Moslem 
tension. In the spring of 1962 Narayan expanded the brigade 
by relaxing regulations that virtually restricted membership 
to full-time sarvodaya workers. His aim is to have brigade 


members in every major Indian city in sufficient numbers to 
intervene when communal tensions threaten to erupt in con- 
flict. The Shanti Sena would be a kind of internal-security 
auxiliary force. He has also taken an increasing interest in 
the World Peace Brigade. In May 1962 he attended a rally 
in Tanganyika where the brigade debated sending volunteers 
on a nonviolent march into Northern Rhodesia to offer 
satyagraha (force of truth) against racial discrimination. Hap- 
pily, the idea was dropped. 

The pursuit of the quixotic has not made Narayan a nar- 
row-minded zealot. He may sometimes sit cross-legged on 
coir mats, but he is equally at home in London drawing 
rooms and New York lecture halls. He has a broader knowl- 
edge of the outside world than any other Indian leader except 
Nehru, and possibly Krishna Menon. Many causes* are in- 
scribed on his banner today, but he has given up his long 
search for solutions. I remember the look of weariness and 
resignation on his face as he remarked one night at dinner in 
Delhi, "Now I only try to do what's right. The rest must take 
care of itself." It would have sounded pompous coming from 
anyone else. He was not trying to dramatize himself. We were 
dining at the home of Indian friends who were distressed to 
see him in low spirits. Sensing their concern, he tried to turn 
the conversation to lighter subjects. He joked about his 
fondness for melon and urged all of us to eat more, although 
he himself ate almost nothing. But whenever the flickering 
candlelight caught his face in repose, I realized that the old 
revolutionary is a sorely chastened man. His pursuit of "what 
is right" means doing whatever appears useful without cal- 
culating the chances of ultimate success. His approach is now 
to projects and programs, rather than to ultimate truths and 
all-embracing doctrines. But his addiction to sweeping and 
often contradictory judgments persists. I remember one speech 
in which he talked about giving the rich an opportunity to 
"correct" themselves because "We all know that wealth cannot 
be amassed except by exploitation." But in almost the same 
breath he can proclaim, "A decent conservative is a decent 
person because he provides the ballast in the ship of state and 
prevents it from being blown over in a storm." 


Today Narayan falls midway between Nehru and Gandhi. 
Like Nehru, he is still a romantic socialist and a rational 
humanist. But unlike Nehru, he lacks political acumen and 
ability to manipulate men. Like Gandhi after the Mahatma 
retired from the Congress party in 1934, Narayan continues 
to exercise wide influence without formal responsibility. 
Gandhi always tailored his ideas to Indian realities. Narayan 
has often landed in the void. With a convert's zeal, he has 
embraced nonviolence and the Gandhian dictum that social 
progress is impossible without individual moral regeneration 
through sarvodaya. But he has never equalled Gandhi's un- 
canny understanding of the Indian mind, nor his luminous 

J. P.'s present role is almost as hard to define as his views. 
Nehru accuses him of "playing hide-and-seek between the 
pillars of politics and Bhoodan." India's Communist and 
fellow-traveling press labels him a Western stooge. Blitz ac- 
cuses "Bhoodani-Jeevandani * Narayan" of conspiring with 
reactionaries and "fossilized Gandhians" against Indian social- 
ism and the country's nonalignment policy. 

Despite his announced retirement from "party and power 
politics," Narayan says, "I am engaged in politics from head 
to foot, trying all the time to change its entire complexion. 
The type of politics I am engaged in is different from the 
politics which aims at securing power for the fulfillment of 
narrow partisan or personal ends. I am engaged in a deeper 
and wider kind of politics." 

He admits, however, that he would return to the crasser 
sort of politics to "answer the call of duty in an emergency." 
He is available for a draft. "One can't go around asking for 
Bhoodan in a crisis," he told me matter-of-factly, adding, "At 
present I wouldn't say there is a crisis. But there is lots of 
talk in Delhi about a military coup as Nehru shows signs of 
failing." Narayan now wants the PSP to merge with Congress 
to bolster the ruling party's weak "socialist core." This is 
necessary, he says,, to save Congress from reactionary com- 
munal forces on the Right and infiltrating Communists on 

* From Jeevandan, dedication of one's life to a cause. 


the Left. "But if I join Congress now amid all this succession 
talk/' he says, "they'll say I've become a contender for the 
premiership. They'll say I stayed out until I saw that Nehru 
was failing and then jumped back in." And so they would. 

In April 1962, when Nehru was seriously ill for the first time 
in twenty-six years, Narayan publicly expressed the view that 
the Prime Minister should have retired from office and "taken 
up the leadership of the people, like Gandhiji." The succes- 
sion could then have been settled while Nehru was still vigor- 
ous. If Nehru is physically unable to lead the country when 
the 1967 elections are held, Narayan fears that "violent forces" 
may extinguish Indian democracy. Most Indians who give his 
views any thought resent this suggestion. They prefer to rest 
in the shade of the Nehru banyan. J. P. had helped, however, 
to shake the comfortable Indian myth that Nehru is immortal. 

Nowhere has Narayan's myth-shattering been more valuable 
than in the realm of Indian foreign policy. In a scathing 
speech in Bombay on November 11, 1956, he denounced the 
Nehru government's "perverse and false" view of the Hun- 
garian uprising. The audience in the hall sat spellbound. 
Commenting on Krishna Menon's attempt to depict the 
slaughter in Budapest as Hungary's "domestic affair," Narayan 
said, "As an Indian I hang my head in shame that a spokes- 
man of my country should have gone so far in cynical dis- 
regard of truth and the fundamental principles of freedom 
and peace that are said to guide our international conduct." 
He pointed out that India's vote in the U.N. General As- 
sembly against the second resolution on Hungary (with only 
the Soviet bloc and Yugoslavia) was the logical consequence 
of Nehru's speech to the All-India Congress Committee a few 
days before, in which he largely parroted the Soviet line on 
Hungary. With something of his old polemic zest, Narayan 
exploded, "It took him [Nehru] two weeks to make up his 
mind about an event the significance of which should be 
clear to any person acquainted even slightly with the situa- 
tion in Eastern Europe. ... It is too sad for words. To apply 
one set of rules to Egypt and another to Hungary is to make 
use of a double standard which, to say the least, is unworthy of 
this country. The sooner we renounce this double standard the 


better for India's honor, for the peace of the world, and for 
good will among nations/' 

Narayan's "double standard" speech echoed throughout 
India. He had given pointed expression to the educated Indian 
public's dissatisfaction with Nehru's equivocations on Hun- 
gary. His was the voice of the loyal opposition. There could 
be no higher tribute to his success in this role than Nehru's 
long-winded attempts to justify India's original stand on 
Hungary even as he modified it to conform more closely to the 
facts. The Prime Minister had grossly underestimated his own 

The Tibetan revolt of March 1959 produced a similar situa- 
tion. Nehru sought to minimize the struggle as merely "a 
conflict of wills." As the Chinese systematically crushed 
Tibetan resistance, he quibbled over the question of China's 
"suzerainty" or "sovereignty" in Tibet and finally concluded 
that there was no real difference between the two terms. In 
either case, he said, Tibet was China's affair. 

Narayan led the outburst of protest. He rejected the "moth- 
eaten imperialistic formula" by which Nehru sought to por- 
tray Tibet as a purely Chinese concern and asked: "Overseas 
empires are perhaps easy to spot, but why should it be so dif- 
ficult to discern the reality behind the land empires whose 
contiguous territories create the illusion of a single nation- 

He cited the historical record. China, he said, had not ex- 
ercised suzerainty, sovereignty, or any other form of control 
over Tibet at any time from 1912 to 1950, when Chinese Com- 
munist forces invaded the country and compelled the Dalai 
Lama to accept the so-called Seventeen-Point Agreement. At 
this time India told the U.N. General Assembly that Chinese 
troops had halted some 300 miles from Lhasa and that the 
Indian Government was "certain that the Tibetan question 
would be settled by peaceful means." After Peking broke its 
pledge to respect Tibet's autonomy, the Dalai Lama's govern- 
ment repudiated the Seventeen-Point Agreement on March 
11, 1959, thereby provoking a full-scale Chinese assault. India 
maintains a consul general in Lhasa and trade representatives 
at several other places in Tibet. No other country except 


China itself has comparable access to information about 
Tibet. But Nehru complained constantly that he was in the 
dark about what was happening to India's northern neighbor 
and could, therefore, never express a clear judgment. Narayan 
called the Prime Minister one of "the worldly-wise, who, by 
their lack of courage and faith, block the progress of the 
human race, not towards the moon but towards humanity itself. 
These persons have a myopic view and forget that nothing 
stands, or can stand still in history not even the Chinese 

Narayan has been less successful but no less diligent in his 
efforts to correct the impression always left by Nehru's speeches 
that Soviet Communism and Western democracy are equally 
amoral technological civilizations. The Prime Minister finds 
great difficulty in distinguishing between the two systems (at 
least in public) and usually implies that Communism is more 
"progressive" than anything the West can offer. 

Narayan, the one-time Communist, makes a searing rebut- 
tal. "History will soon prove that Communism, instead of 
being the final flowering of human civilization, was a tem- 
porary aberration of the human mind, a brief nightmare to be 
soon forgotten. Communism, as it grew up in Russia and is 
growing up in China now, represented the darkness of the 
soul and imprisonment of the mind, colossal violence and 
injustice. Whoever thinks of the future of the human race in 
these terms is condemning man to eternal perdition. It is not 
the cold war or the economic war that will spell the ultimate 
defeat of Communism; it is, rather, the working of the human 

He has also provided a valuable corrective to Indian chau- 
vinism on Kashmir. His plea for understanding between India 
and Pakistan has earned him the gratitude of moderates in 
both countries. He is now trying to get in touch with what he 
calls "like-minded persons" in Pakistan in hopes of starting 
a "dialogue on the Kashmir problem in the spirit of non- 
violence." He feels that India has nothing to lose and much 
to gain by a friendlier approach to Pakistan; and that such an 
approach would evoke a similar response from the Pakistanis. 
He thinks that India has a good enough case in Kashmir to 


make some concessions, and he favors talks at the highest level 
on the whole range of problems that now bedevil Indo- 
Pakistani relations. Pakistan's President, Field Marshal Ayub 
Khan, has said that he wishes Pakistan had more men like 
Narayan a statement that made J. P. the target of violent 
abuse from Indian Communists and Hindu zealots. 

Narayan's reaction to the Indian seizure of Portuguese Goa 
in December 1961 was considerably less free of chauvinism. 
He first echoed Nehru's line about India's having been "com- 
pelled" to take Goa by force. He went even further, by assert- 
ing that India's action was "wholly due to the refusal of the 
NATO powers, particularly of Britain, to discharge honestly 
their responsibilities to the ideals of freedom they have so 
loudly professed as leaders of the so-called 'free world/ " He 
accused Britain and the United States of having "betrayed 
their lingering love for colonialism" by publicly deploring 
India's use of force. But in the same statement, issued Decem- 
ber 19, 1961, in Calcutta, he admitted that the taking of Goa 
would damage Indian prestige in the world and lay New 
Delhi open to the charge of inconsistency. Then, in a last 
Olympian leap into confusion, he concluded, "More par- 
ticularly and pointedly, the blame [for Goa] lies on Vinoba's 
head, the commander of the Shanti Sena, and us, his soldiers." 
It was wrong for the Peace Brigade to think in terms of solu- 
tions for international problems, "which are hidden in the 
lap of the gods/* but something positive and nonviolent 
should have been done to prevent the Goa issue. Less than 
six months later, he told me, "If force was justified anywhere, 
it was justified in Goa, but on the basis of the principles of 
the U.N. Charter it was wrong to use force. From the view- 
point of nonviolence it was 100 per cent wrong." Some of 
this mental tightrope-walking is a quest for truth. But most of 
it is probably an effort to accommodate to domestic Indian 
opinion and retain his popular following. 

The size of Narayan's following is difficult to determine. He 
is an all-India figure, one of the last of the old charismatic 
leaders like Nehru and Gandhi. His name is still a household 
word in north India, but the younger generation in Bombay, 
Bengal, and the south is less familiar with him. A Bombay 


newspaper executive says, "If you asked people in the south 
who J. P. is, they probably wouldn't know. He has been out 
of the political limelight for fourteen years." On the other 
hand, Dr. Ram Subhag Singh, the agriculture minister (under 
Patil) and one of India's bright young men, told me, "J- p - * s 
a pure man, widely respected for his ideals. He's now con- 
centrating on Bhoodan, panchayats, and the Peace Brigade, 
but he could be drawn back into Congress at any time. He 
has wide national influence/' A poll conducted in 1961 by the 
Indian Institute of Public Opinion reported that Narayan 
outranked all other contenders as the public's choice to suc- 
ceed Nehru. It should be emphasized, however, that Indian 
polling techniques are still unreliable, and even in this poll 
more than half those interviewed had no opinion when they 
were asked to express their preference for the next prime 
minister. The percentage favoring Narayan, although higher 
than that for any other contender, was only 11.1. He was 
favored by 14.1 per cent of the urban dwellers and 10.5 per 
cent of the country folk. 

Whatever his popular support, there are other factors that 
are likely to be more immediately important in deciding his 
political future. His standing with the Congress leadership 
after Nehru goes will be the most important single considera- 
tion. Lai Bahadur Shastri, S. K. Dey, and some other "Gan- 
dhians" in Congress are sympathetic to him. They are not likely 
to back him as prime minister (at least in the short run), but 
they would probably favor his inclusion in the Union cabinet. 
Congress machine operators like S. K. Patil and Kamaraj 
Nadar regard Narayan as a dangerous maverick. Morarji 
Desai, with whom one would think Narayan would have much 
in common, is hostile. Desai says that J. P. is a swinging pen- 
dulum that does not inspire confidence, and asks, "Why 
does Narayan always attack Congress in his public state- 
ments and always support the PSP if he is out of politics 
and unconnected with any political party?" Desai insists 
that J. P. became a fanatic anti-Communist "more out of 
disappointment and frustration than conviction." Echoing 
the view expressed many years ago by one of Narayan's profes- 
sors at Ohio State, Desai says, "He is a good man, but weak 


in action." Even those who sympathize with Narayan wonder 
if the aging titan of Indian radicalism has the stamina to 
take on the premiership and its crushing burdens. 

The best-educated guess in India today is that he has no 
chance of succeeding Nehru directly and little hope of doing 
it later unless a series of ineffectual Congress machine ap- 
pointees should destroy the country's faith in a party stalwart 
as prime minister. If the party bosses cannot rule with one 
of their own kind, they might feel compelled to draft Narayan 
back into the party as a symbol of national unity and a living 
reminder of the freedom struggle. This possibility presup- 
poses conditions of extreme distress in India, aggravated by 
the failure of successive Congress governments. By that time, 
of course, a conservative army clique might well decide that 
Congress was incapable of governing the country. Narayan 
might then be summoned to New Delhi to provide a respect- 
able civilian fa$ade for military rule. His increasingly Right 
Wing pronouncements, coupled with his known dedication to 
Gandhian nonviolence, could make him seem attractive and 
harmless to an army junta in search of a "reliable" premier. 

My own view, however, is that Narayan is not likely to win 
or be given the leadership of the government of India. Even if 
he were, I think his dissenter's soul would soon take him off 
the high road of power. His probings of the human spirit are 
not likely to stop short at the prime minister's desk, however 
much he may covet the office. The old revolutionary who now 
shudders at the plight of a lizard locked in a bookcase is ill- 
fitted to apply the kind of coercion that is the ultimate sanc- 
tion of government, especially in Asia. Reality is his greatest 
regret, and there is no escape from it at the summit. The 
gadfly of the Indian elephant can hardly turn himself into 
its driver. Jayaprakash Narayan, who has built and razed more 
temples of the mind than any other Indian of his generation, 
must say with Omar Khayyam: 

"Myself when young, did eagerly frequent 

Doctor and saint, and did hear great argument, 

About it and about, 

But evermore did leave by the same door wherein I came." 

S. R. Patil 

BOMBAY is INDIA'S MANHATTAN. It began on a cluster of seven 
tiny islands (which Ptolemy called the Heptanesia) separated 
at low tide by putrid malarial mud flats which prompted the 
saying, "Two monsoons are the life of a man/' The seven 
islands were made one by the reclamation efforts of the English 
East India Company. The resultant island of Bombay is about 
the size of Manhattan and roughly the same shape. 

There are other similarities. Bombay is the commercial 
capital of India. It professes to look down on Delhi, as New 
York looks down on Washington, To an Indian, Bombay 
means vitality, big business, overcrowded suburban trains, % and 
a stroll along Marine Drive as the sun sets in the Arabian Sea. 
No Indian is ever lost in Bombay, because he is sure to find 
others from his caste or district settled in some quarter of the 
city. It is the one place in India that could never be called 
provincial. Hindus, Moslems, Parsis, Jews, Jains, Christians, 
Sikhs, and agnostics all call Bombay home. Bankers and boot- 
leggers (since prohibition) find profit there. Artists, writers, 
and movie actors find Bombay as congenial a refuge from 



Indian reality as do the pimps and prostitutes who make it the 
country's most notorious sin bazaar. 

The Maharashtrian coolie in his driftwood shack and Sir 
Homi Mody, the Parsi financier, surveying the city from his 
air-conditioned mansion, is each a Bombay booster in his own 
way. No other Indian city inspires such loyalty. 

Even the smell of poverty is different in Bombay. The 
usual cow-dung smoke, garlic, and spice odors are compounded 
with Bombay's own grit and fumes, and the whole is soaked 
in the most oppressively humid air that I have ever en- 
countered. Its florid Victorian gothic architecture is more 
outlandish than anything else in India. Its harbor is more 
congested (with the exception of Calcutta's), its politics is more 
boisterous, and its evening parties (perhaps as a reaction to 
prohibition) are more frenetic. One of Louis Bromfield's 
characters says of Bombay: "There was nothing like this in 
the world, no city so fantastic. Baghdad in its heyday was no 
more absurd and mixed-up and fascinating." 

Bombay is not the largest Indian city (4,152,000 compared 
with more than 6,200,000 in Greater Calcutta), or the oldest, 
cleanest, or most beautiful. But it is the one city in India that 
has the self-assurance of knowing it is a city. Bombay makes 
no apologies for itself. I suppose that is why Indians from 
Amritsar to Tuticorin always talk of going "back" to Bombay 
even though they may never have been there, and why there 
is always a kind of suppressed excitement aboard an Indian 
plane bound for Bombay. 

No one mirrors the ebullient character of Bombay more 
faithfully than its political overlord for well-nigh thirty 
years, Sadashiv Kanoji Patil (pronounced with the accent on 
the first syllable). Since April 1957, he has been a member of 
the Union cabinet in New Delhi, but his heart and the roots 
of his political power are still in Bombay. If this man of im- 
mense energy, infinite patience, and vast organizing ability 
ever reaches the top, Bombay, not New Delhi, will be the real 
capital of India. 

I first met S. K. Patil (as everyone knows him in India) in 
the fall of 1959, soon after he had become Union minister of 
food and agriculture in Nehru's cabinet. Since then I have 


talked with him more often than with any other major figure 
in this book. I always see him at his big ministerial "bungalow" 
at 5 Dr. Rajendra Prasad (formerly Queen Victoria) Road, in 
one of the shadiest and most tranquil sections of New Delhi. 
The procedure is always the same. I am ushered in punctually 
(a rarity in Indian ministers' offices) to find Patil sitting be- 
hind a plastic-topped, boomerang-shaped desk in his small 
study, where several air conditioners keep the temperature 
near freezing. Patil wears a white buttoned-up achkan coat 
like Nehru's, but without the red rose in the buttonhole. His 
face is heavy and blunt, but the black eyes are lively, even 
mischievous. His English is unmistakably Indian, but his voice 
is deep and resonant, a pleasant relief from the piping sing- 
song of so many Indians. There is something bearlike and 
elemental about him. His directness and lack of verbal circum- 
locutions remind me of a busy American politician. He is 
blunt without ever being discourteous. 

"What can I do for you?" he intones as soon as I sit down. 
I ask my questions, and Patil is off, not garrulously, but with 
some forthrightly expressed ideas. As he talks, secretaries 
scurry in and out of the little office with penciled notes. Some- 
times he will take a long-distance call from Bombay, but most 
of the time he gives undivided attention to a visitor. He is 
an organizer who knows how to use time economically. When 
a half hour has passed, he booms, "Well, thank you very 
much," and rises to indicate the end of the interview. 

Despite his nonchalance, Patil is much less at home behind 
a ministerial desk in Delhi than in the rough-and-tumble of 
Bombay city politics. The "uncrowned king of Bombay/' as 
one former Congress party president calls him, has little use 
for the bulging files so dear to Morarji Desai's heart. Patil is 
a boisterous, exuberant extrovert in a country where the 
mighty are expected to cultivate a certain remoteness. As one 
Indian newspaperman remarked, "Patil is widely liked be- 
cause he is human. Unlike some of his Congress colleagues, 
he trails no sanctimonious coat behind him. Not for him the 
incense and myrrh of virtuous perfection.' 1 

One Indian who has never been attracted to Patil is Jawa- 
harlal Nehru. The Prime Minister kept him out of the cen- 

S. K. PATIL 223 

tral government for ten years after independence because 
Patil was the chief lieutenant of the late Sardar Patel, the last 
Congress leader who refused to bow to Nehru. Finally, in 
1957 seven years after Patel's death Nehru agreed to let 
Patil join the Union cabinet as a concession to the Congress 
Right Wing, which Sardar Patel had headed. He retains him 
in the cabinet for the same reason and because Patil has 
demonstrated executive ability of a high order in three central 

It would be hard to imagine two more antithetical per- 
sonalities than the fastidious aristocrat in the prime minister's 
seat and the long-time Tammany Hall-like boss who covets 
his place. Nehru has a subtle, often devious, mind, addicted 
to theorizing and allergic to compulsion and other crudities 
of politics. Patil has no taste for theory and no qualms about 
upholding authority by forceful methods. He prides himself 
on being tough and direct, although he can also be cunning 
when the occasion demands. Nehru abhors the mentality of 
the market place. Patil relishes it. Ironically, both men are 
Brahmans. But Nehru is a high-caste Kashmiri Brahman, 
whereas Patil (whose family name is derived from a word 
meaning village headman) comes from a lower subcaste of 
Saraswat Brahmans who worship the goddess of learning and 
were traditionally looked down on by other Brahmans on the 
west coast of India. 

The Prime Minister and his Food Minister are the senior 
Congressmen in the central government today in terms of 
length of service with the party. Patil might also share seniority 
of service in the cabinet with Nehru if he had not been ex- 
cluded for so long because of his association with the Sardar 
Patel faction. 

When he finally did come to Delhi, Patil found himself 
saddled with some of the toughest and least glamorous tech- 
nical jobs in the cabinet. First he had the Irrigation and 
Power Ministry for a year, then the Transport and Communi- 
cations Ministry for sixteen months. In August 1959 Ajit 
Prasad Jain resigned as Union minister of food and agricul- 
ture. He had failed miserably to solve the problem of India's 
chronic food deficits. The country's agricultural imports were 


larger than ever. Food prices were spiraling upward. Jain was 
not the first food minister to choke on his portfolio. The 
job had long been considered a graveyard of ministerial reputa- 
tions. When Patil was sworn in as food minister in Septem- 
ber 1959, it was widely assumed that Nehru was looking 
forward to the minister's early interment. 

Patil proved to be a lively corpse. He quickly set about 
dismantling the cumbersome system of government controls 
aimed at regulating distribution of food grains. He abandoned 
wholesale trading by the government in such staples as wheat 
and rice. He removed zonal restrictions on the movement of 
wheat within India. He opposed Nehru's industry-centered ap- 
proach to economic planning, and extracted more money for 
agriculture in the third five-year plan, which began in 1961. 
He exhorted, wheedled, and cajoled Parliament and the state 
governments into underwriting his policy of internal free trade 
in foodstuffs. Above all, he sought to harness the farmer's 
profit motive for the country's benefit instead of trying to 
stifle it under government controls. His aim was always the 
same: more food and the political blessings to be derived 
from it. 

The Indian peasant cultivator is long-suffering. He expects 
to be exploited, victimized, cheated, and ignored. Historically, 
he has had no alternative but to submit, to withdraw onto his 
own land (if he had any) and produce just enough to satisfy 
the landlord and provide for his family's subsistence. Often he 
failed even to do that. Patil realized that the incentive of 
higher prices was urgently needed to break the inertia of 
hopelessness in the countryside. 

"What I am saying," he told the Lok Sabha, "is that this 
mute man, this helpless man, the farmer, must be given the 
honor and dignity to which he is entitled. Seventy per cent of 
this country is made of farmers and by denying him the rights 
of his produce or by denying him even the place or position to 
which he is entitled, we shall never succeed, neither in agricul- 
tural production nor in any branch of development that we 
are going to take up." 

To drive home the lesson, Patil ordered every official in his 
ministry to spend at least fifteen days a year on a farm 

S. K. PATIL 225 

"whether they know fanning or not." Of himself he said, 
"Unless I soil my hand with mother earth and smell it also, I 
am not a food and agriculture minister." 

Paul's most spectacular coup came on May 4, 1960, when 
he strode into the White House to conclude the largest agree- 
ment for American aid since the Marshall Plan. For the next 
four years India could receive an average of one shipload a 
day of American grain to relieve hunger and build up vital 
food stockpiles against famine. The agreement signed by 
Patil and President Eisenhower provided for sixteen million 
tons of American surplus wheat and one million tons of rice 
worth $1.3 billion to be sold to India for rupees under 
Public Law 480. Eighty-five per cent of the proceeds are 
returned as grants and loans to promote India's economic 
development. The Times of India, which rarely finds virtue in 
American policy, exclaimed, "No government has ever been 
more generous." The deal Patil had negotiated gave India 
desperately needed time to step up its own grain output and 
to build more grain-storage capacity. It also gave Patil his 
biggest political boost since he had gone to Delhi. But the 
Communists objected that Patil was tying India to America's 
coattails. Other critics said that the massive infusion of gift 
food would kill the very incentive to produce that the Food 
Minister was trying to create. 

With the oratorical instincts acquired during long years 
of ward politicking, the square-shouldered, chocolate-faced 
man from Maharashtra rose in Parliament to rebut the 
charges. "I am not very fond of depending on other countries. 
I have as much self-respect as any other honorable members 
in this house. This country of ours being predominantly 
agricultural, it is folly, it is a hundred times folly, to go to 
other countries for food. But what can I do? What we are 
doing is merely to tide over the difficulties. I have said re- 
peatedly if this house cooperates with me, if the country co- 
operates with me, I have said that at the end of the third five- 
year plan [1966] there will be no necessity to bring anything, 
not even one maund of wheat or rice from any other country." 

Such was the challenge and the pledge that Patil offered 
India in the spring of 1960. He showed that he had a knack 


for the daring and the dramatic. His optimism might over- 
reach his discretion, but his spirited performance in the food 
crisis contrasted sharply with the general lassitude and indeci- 
sion in New Delhi. With mountains of American wheat and 
rice ready to funnel into Indian ports, Patil could undercut 
the speculators who drove up grain prices. "If somebody wants 
to play a trick by raising prices or anything like that," he 
growled, "I can blow all that grain like hot air into that par- 
ticular state when I know that it is necessary in order to hold 
the prices." Grain prices stabilized and in some places ac- 
tually declined. 

Patil turned next to mobilizing the forces of the market 
place. "Controls have got to go," he said in accents that would 
be familiar on Washington's Capitol Hill, but that sounded 
strange in the Parliament of socialist India. "Controls are 
bad," he told Parliament. "You know what these controls are. 
They make our lives artificial. When there is control, it is 
followed by ration cards." His attack on marketing controls 
was coupled with a new program old hat in America, but 
revolutionary in India for supporting farm prices. "When the 
prices are falling beyond the level where it is advantageous 
for the farmer and they are not remunerative," he declared, 
"then it becomes the duty of the state to run to the rescue of 
the farmers and buy the produce at a minimum price/' By the 
spring of 1962, he had set a support price for wheat of thirteen 
rupees a maund. He called it "the greatest thing that has 
happened in this country in recent years." In the fall of 1962, 
he was laying plans to set similar floor prices for rice and 
other farm products. At the same time the weather gods 
finally relented. India harvested an all-time record of eighty- 
two million tons of food grains despite destructive monsoon 
floods in the summer of 1961 and 1962. The main result of 
the grain deal with the United States had been its psycho- 
logical effect in curbing speculation on Indian markets, al- 
though shipments were stepped up after the Chinese attack 
in 1962. By the end of 1962, between 5.6 and 5.7 million tons 
of P.L. 480 wheat and about 450,000 tons of American rice 
had actually been imported under the Patil-Eisenhower agree- 
ment. One reason for the slow rate of imports was lack of 

S. K. PATIL 227 

storage capacity. But the situation on the food front had im- 
proved so markedly that the conservative Statesman of Cal- 
cutta sighed, "At last organization of the food supply is be- 
ginning to be effective." 

Paul's natural optimism reached dizzy heights. En route 
home from a fourteen-country tour in 1961, he boasted that 
India had solved its agricultural crisis and was now in a posi- 
tion to export food. He announced that government policy 
would henceforth emphasize cash crops such as jute, tea, and 
copra. He added pontifically, "I will not produce more food." 
Later, in Bombay, he reverted to his theme and insisted that 
India had "turned the corner" on food. 

He was immediately challenged by Indian and American 
authorities. The Times of India said, "It is one thing to deny 
that there is famine anywhere and quite another to claim, as 
Mr. Patil seemed to do, that the food problem of this country 
has been very nearly solved." It warned that complacency 
could only breed indifference. Patil insisted that the third- 
five-year-plan target of "self-sufficiency" in food grains would 
be attained, but he admitted that the goal of eighteen ounces 
of food grains per person per day had been scaled down to 
seventeen and a half ounces in accordance with the upward 
revision of population estimates. He argued that even sixteen 
ounces a day is adequate if wheat or rice is supplemented with 
other food. But the other food is not yet forthcoming. Per 
capita milk consumption in India is lower today than twenty- 
five years ago. While Patil boasted of increased rice yields, final 
official estimates for the 1961-1962 season showed a decline in 
the average yield from 909 pounds to 900 pounds per acre. 
Total rice production also dropped despite an increase in 
acreage. Indian productivity of the land continues to lag far 
behind that of other countries. No optimistic statistics can 
conceal the fact that most Indian farmers still use wooden 
plows of the kind already discarded in pre-Christian Rome. 
Even if irrigation water is available, they often do not know 
how to utilize it or they do not want to make the extra effort 
required to dig the necessary channels. Fertilizer and im- 
proved seed are in chronically short supply, and even when 
they are provided, they are frequently wasted. 


An Iowa farmer still grows almost five times as much corn 
and six times as much grain sorghum per acre as his Indian 
counterpart. And the lowan's hens lay almost four times as 
many eggs. Despite the existence of almost 3,000 state seed 
farms, less than i per cent of India's total corn and grain 
sorghum acreage is planted with hybrids. In the United States 
the proportions are exactly reversed. 

Fertilizer production has been a soft spot in all of India's 
five-year plans. Everyone admits that it is the crucial element 
in raising farm output, but production of nitrogenous fer- 
tilizer in 1961-1962 amounted to only about 300,000 metric 
tons (in terms of nitrogen), against the third-five-year-plan- 
production target of one million tons by 1965-1966. The rate 
of increase of India's fertilizer production was disastrously 
slow. Output at the big state-owned Sindri fertilizer plant in 
Bihar actually declined, although the staff was increased. In 
1961-1962 India imported 80,000 tons of fertilizer (in terms of 
nitrogen) to supplement domestic production, but effective 
demand by the farmers was estimated at 670,000 tons, about 
double the supply. In May 1962 Patil admitted that "hundreds 
of thousands of tons" of sodium sulphate, a crop poison, had 
been fraudulently sold by dealers to farmers as the popular 
fertilizer ammonium sulphate. 

Only slightly less serious than the failure to achieve fer- 
tilizer targets was the lagging progress of construction of 
grain-storage capacity. Late in 1962 Patil announced that he 
was almost two million tons short of the target of five million 
tons of storage capacity set for that year. The target has now 
been moved ahead to 1966. 

Not all these difficulties could be laid at Patil's door, but 
they hardly justified his bumptious optimism. His approach 
to food, as to everything else, is essentially political. He seems 
more concerned with the appearance of success than with any 
real change in Indian agriculture. The pursuit of political 
success on the food front does, of course, entail changes and 
improvements in production and distribution, but my feeling 
is that these are largely ephemeral. The basic problem remains. 

The pursuit of success has been the leitmotiv of Sadashiv 
Kanoji Patil's life almost since it began on August 14, 1900, in 

S. K. PATIL 229 

the tumble-down provincial town of Savantvadi, not far from 
India's west coast and on the edge of former Portuguese Goa. 
He was the eldest son in a family of three boys and three girls. 
His father was a minor police officer, on special duty in the 
area. The family owned some land. Young Patil was only 
ten years old when both his parents died. His admirers now 
tell how he "tasted hunger" in his youth, but when I asked him 
about this, he replied brusquely, "I wasn't actually hungry, 
but I didn't have very good meals either/' He looked after 
his three sisters and two younger brothers, but he managed to 
attend high school in the west coast town of Malvan and get a 
scholarship to St. Xavier's College, a mission school in what 
he calls "that grandest city, Bombay." He distinguished him- 
self in the school's debating society and made a good record 
in studies, but he was never graduated from St. Xavier's. In 
1920 he joined Gandhi's nonco-operation movement and led a 
student boycott of the school. In talking to me about his 
early life, he has always refrained from trying to paint him- 
self as a youthful hero. He told me candidly, "I had nothing 
to lose by following Gandhiji." Few Congress leaders would 
concede as much. Paul's debating experience stood him in 
good stead as he harangued his schoolmates on the glories of 
swaraj, or independence* 

A year before, at the age of nineteen, he had married an 
eighteen-year-old girl of his own subcaste. He says now that 
his marriage was "too early." His wife rarely appears in public 
and never accepts invitations to official functions. She can 
converse comfortably only in Marathi. In many visits to the 
Patil home, I have never seen Mrs. Patil, although I once 
talked with one of their daughters. 

For four years after leading the student boycott at St. 
Xavier's, Patil conducted so-called schools of national educa- 
tion, the Congress-sponsored nationalist institutions designed 
to replace what Gandhi called "satanic" British-run schools. 
The national-education movement collapsed in 1924 with the 
end of that phase of Gandhian nonco-operation. 

Patil had already been admitted to the University of Mis- 
souri, where he intended to study for a Master of Arts degree 
in journalism, but he had to wait six months for his visa to 


America. He says that he was the first student to go from 
India under the 1924 immigration act. During the three-week 
voyage from Bombay to England, he was perpetually seasick, 
and by the time he reached England his whole body craved 
an interlude on dry land. He spent a fortnight there, "to get on 
my legs/' and by that time the semester had already begun 
at Missouri. "I couldn't afford to waste another six months 
waiting for the new semester to start/' he says. "So I went to 
school in London/' There he was one of thousands of Indian 
students who studied under the late Harold Laski at the 
London School of Economics. He also attended the London 
School of Journalism. Laski had less impact on the bushy- 
browed young man from Savantvadi than the writings of 
Bertrand Russell and H. G. Wells did. The whole socialist 
ethos of the Bloomsbury intellectuals seems to have been 
largely lost on him. He acquired none of the English habits 
of thought, speech, and dress adopted by so many of his 
future colleagues in the Congress party. Three years in London 
were not enough to divert his thoughts from Bombay. 

When Patil returned to India in 1927, the nationalist move- 
ment was at low ebb. He had decided to take up journalism, 
and became what was then called a political commissioner 
(equivalent to a political reporter) on the now defunct Bom- 
bay Chronicle. He held the job five years, gaining a valuable 
ward's-eye view of Bombay politics. In 1929 he was elected 
general secretary of the Bombay city committee of the Con- 
gress party. The following year Gandhi launched his great 
civil disobedience movement, and Patil was jailed for the first 
time for his part in the disturbances that shook Bombay. In 
1931 he resigned from the Bombay Chronicle to devote full 
time to the Congress, and to jail-going. But he still regards 
journalism as his "only heaven/' and his passport still de- 
scribes his profession as "journalist." "Often," he says with 
a faraway look in his eyes, "I think I should go back to jour- 

From 1930 to 1945, Patil went to prison eight times, for a 
total of more than ten years. His record in this department is 
as good as Nehru's. What Laski and the London School of 
Economics failed to give him in the way of political education, 

S. K. PATIL 231 

Patil imbibed in jail. He read a great deal and lectured fellow 
inmates, as he says now, on "socialism, communism, and other 
theories/' I suspect there was a heavy admixture of practical 
politics with the theory. Political prisoners made up some 
90 per cent of the jail population in those days. At least a 
quarter of a million Indians learned political theory (usually 
Leftist) at government expense during this period when the 
British allowed Congress leaders to turn the jails into univer- 
sities. Patil says that most of his following in the country 
today, "which is pretty deep-rooted," is made up of former 
inmate-students and those whom they have influenced. 

During an interlude of freedom in 1937, he was elected to 
the All-India Congress Committee, a body on which he still 
serves. He was already a power in the Bombay Congress party 
when he was elected to the AICC. When World War II broke 
out, he felt no moral scruples about demanding Britain's with- 
drawal from India. He supported Gandhi's Quit India move- 
ment from the beginning, without the soul-searching that 
Nehru and Chavan went through. He insists that he also 
backed the Mahatma in opposing violence of any sort in con- 
nection with the wartime movement. "I was the most vocal 
critic of the underground movement," he recalls, "because it 
went against the moral philosophy of Gandhi's civil-disobe- 
dience movement." During this period Sardar Patel was con- 
solidating his grip on the Congress party in Bombay and 
nearby Gujarat. The Sardar was a genius at political organiza- 
tion, imperious, ruthless, and indefatigable. He needed a chief 
of staff in Bombay. Patil was his man. "What little I know of 
organization and administration, I have learned from this 
great man," he once wrote, with seemingly genuine reverence 
for his former master. He imitates the Sardar's frowning ex- 
terior and his air of total self-possession. He even manages to 
look a bit like Patel. When the grand old man of the Congress 
Right died on December 15, 1950, leaving Congress and the 
country to Nehru, Patil called it "the darkest day for India." 

The Sardar was an individualist and a conservative who 
openly scorned Nehru's socialist theories. During the inde- 
pendence struggle, he was remarkably successful in coaxing 
financial contributions from Indian businessmen, especially 


from the Bombay and Ahmedabad industrialists. He felt no 
hostility toward private enterprise and thought it should be 
given wide scope in the economy of independent India. Helen 
B. Lamb, in her chapter on "Business Organization and 
Leadership in India Today/' in Leadership and Political 
Institutions in India, suggests that Indian business may feel 
isolated and bereaved since Patel's death. Business contribu- 
tions to campaign chests are as eagerly solicited in India as 
elsewhere, but business endorsement carries less weight in 
Indian elections than it does in many American and British 
races. Helen Lamb has pointed out that Indian business lacks 
the prestige and general acceptance accorded business in the 
West. The Indian financial and industrial community is 
narrowly based and divided against itself on communal and 
family lines. The prevalence of black-marketeering (in peace 
as well as war), tax evasion, and adulterated products has 
tarnished the image of India's "private sector." Although 
Indian business emits the usual cries about socialism and 
government regulation, most firms are assured of fat profits 
because they operate in the world's second-most-populous 
closed market. There is little incentive to modernize antiquated 
textile or sugar-refining machinery or to compete in the ex- 
port market. Indian business is generally content to criticize 
Congress policy and governmental procedures without offering 
any practical alternative to Nehru's "socialist pattern of 
society." Despite the imperfections of Indian private enter- 
prise, I have always felt that Nehru could have harnessed its 
undoubted energies in the work of modernizing the Indian 
economy instead of encumbering business with a bewildering 
maze of regulations and restrictions. 

Bombay business houses and many in other parts of the 
country appreciate Patil's readiness to do favors for them, 
but they are increasingly dubious of his political prospects. A 
Bombay financier who is a leader in the Swatantra party, 
told me, "Patil's heart is with us. If he came and asked me for 
anything, I'd give it to him even though he's in Congress. I'm 
a great admirer of Patil, but I don't see any future for him." 

These doubts are well founded. Since he came to Delhi in. 
1957, Patil has not only failed to grow in stature under the 

S. K. PA TIL 233 

Nehru banyan tree, but his political roots, stretching back to 
Bombay, have been seriously loosened by the emergence of 
Y. B. Chavan as the new Congress powerhouse in that part of 
India. It is ironic that Patil's political fortunes should have 
declined while he was winning at least temporarily India's 
battle for food. But such is the way of politics, an ungrateful 
mistress. It proves again that in India personalities and politi- 
cal organizations are far more important than the most out- 
standing performance in office. 

Many Indian and foreign political observers now insist that 
Patil is out of the running for the prime ministership. Former 
Union Finance Minister G D. Deshmukh says, "Patil has good 
managerial ability, but so far as his popular influence is con- 
cerned, it's practically nil except for what he can obtain by 
logrolling with the mercantile community in Bombay. He is 
distrusted and disliked by the people at large, who think he's 
too much of a machine politician. Patil gets things done by 
making deals with the money boys in Bombay." 

I doubt that Patil has so completely lost his following in 
Bombay, but there is no doubt that he lacks an all-India mass 
following. Only .5 per cent of those polled by the Indian 
Institute of Public Opinion in 1961 favored Patil to succeed 
Nehru as prime minister. Even a late-comer like Chavan, with 
no experience in the central government, outpolled Patil. 
Seventy-three per cent of those questioned had no opinion 
about Patil's performance, while only .8 per cent rated him 
"very good." However crude such gauges of public opinion in 
India, it is apparent that Patil must depend on support from 
the Congress machine rather than from the electorate at 
large. His own machine the Bombay provincial Congress 
committee is now in danger of being absorbed into the larger 
Maharashtra provincial Congress committee, which is con- 
trolled by Chavan. 

Patil knows that Chavan is undermining his position in 
Bombay, but he is reluctant to make a frontal attack on the 
powerful Chief Minister of Maharashtra. Of Chavan he says 
warily, "It takes two to make a quarrel. I tell people I'm not 
going to quarrel with Chavan." 

To bolster his waning power in Bombay, Patil flies there 


from Delhi almost every weekend. He goes on Thursday or 
Friday and returns on Monday. He cuts ribbons, lays corner- 
stones, inaugurates seminars, addresses luncheon groups, and 
appears wherever a crowd can be assembled. As an American 
resident of the city says, "Bombay is Patil's Brooklyn. He loves 
it. Whenever he gets up to speak, he murders the English lan- 
guage almost as badly as Casey Stengel. He opens and closes 
everything. But the longer he stays in Delhi the more shadowy 
I feel he's becoming for these people/' As the only man ever 
elected mayor of Bombay for three terms, Patil is far from 
conceding defeat. "I've served that city for the last forty-two 
years as no other man in history/' he told me when I asked 
about Chavan's inroads. "In the 1962 election I got 64 per 
cent of the votes cast in my parliamentary constituencyan 
all-time record. For the last thirty-eight years I've been elected 
in some shape or form from the Bombay city south constitu- 

The test of who runs the Congress machine in Bombay came 
during the bitterly contested race in 1962 between Krishna 
Menon and Acharya J. B. Kripalani. Patil has never concealed 
his hatred of Menon and, despite intense pressure from 
Nehru, he never explicitly endorsed Menon during the cam- 
paign. Chavan, on the other hand, campaigned for Menon in 
the closing stages and also ordered Congress workers to go all 
out to re-elect the Defense Minister. Menon's landslide victory 
was owing considerable part to Chavan's dominance in the 
Bombay party organization. Menon tried to avenge himself 
an Patil after the election by urging Nehru to drop him from 
the cabinet. Nehru demurred, thereby saving Patil from politi- 
cal extinction. Patil admits that his position is precarious. "If 
I leave government," he says grimly, "I'll be forgotten. That's 
the way things work here." 

Even on the managerial and organizing side, Patil's role 
has been curtailed. He took little part in directing the Con- 
gress campaign in the 1962 election. Although he has proved 
over the years to be the party's ablest fund-raiser, he was 
stripped of most of his power in this field when party fund- 
raising was decentralized to the state organizations. 

Patil's weakened position makes him chary of expressing 

S, K. PATIL 235 

views at variance with Nehru's. Except on the affairs of his 
own ministry, he keeps silent in public. Even in private his 
opinions seem to be based more on expediency than on con- 
viction. He insists that an "indigenous" brand of socialism is 
inescapable in impoverished India, but never explains what 
it is. He says that the state should intervene in the economy 
when private capital is not forthcoming. But he clearly favors 
a broader role for Indian business. He takes credit for opening 
the badly muddled fertilizer industry to private firms and 
for enabling the Tatas, India's largest private producers of 
electric power, to expand their capacity. He wants private 
operators to undertake a program of crop insurance, but thinks 
the job is probably too big for anyone but the government. 
When Nehru wanted Congress to campaign in 1962 on a plat- 
form calling for a ceiling on urban incomes, Patil objected in 
the Congress Working Committee. In the end the platform 
contained only an innocuous reference to "some limitations 
on high urban incomes through taxation and other means." 

Like other conservative members of the cabinet, Patil is 
privately critical of Nehru's handling of foreign policy. He 
asks why India must offer advice on every international ques- 
tion, whereas Japan, "a much richer and more developed 
country than we," takes a stand only on questions of concern 
to itself. He objects to the way the cabinet was bypassed when 
Nehru and Menon decided to seize Goa and to negotiate for 
the purchase of Russian MiG-2i supersonic fighters. Patil 
thinks that Menon's anti-American diatribes are a disaster 
for India. If he were in a position to influence Indian foreign 
policy, I think he would support nonalignment but without its 
present pro-Soviet bias. 

Disunity is one reason for weakness in the Congress Right 
Wing. Patil, Desai, and other conservatives have long eyed 
one another suspiciously. It has been easy for Nehru to play 
off one against the other. There are also personality conflicts 
among the Right Wing leaders. Patil, for example, has no use 
for Desai's asceticism. He frankly seeks power and makes no 
secret of enjoying the good things of life. I remember asking 
him if he thought that he hurt his chances by failing to con- 
form to the Indian image of leadership. His answer was 


revealing. "Isn't the Indian image of leadership changing? 
It's true I'm not an ascetic. You can't reflect something you 
aren't. I want to serve the people, not just reflect asceticism. 
The people are very happy if their lot improves. That's the 
important thing to them. Eut if you mean by ascetic that a 
man must be religious and God-fearing, then I'm second to 
none in those things. But as for frugal living, avoiding motion 
pictures, wearing khaddi that kind of thing I don't practice 
and I don't ask any man to do that. Desai even turns off the 
ceiling fan when he goes to sleep. I can't live without air 
conditioning. He wears the dhoti. I don't because I don't be- 
lieve a dhoti is necessary in the modern world where in an 
hour's time I may be asked to go to London." 

Patil admits that he is "not exactly religious," but says that 
he has a "religious temperament and background." He thinks 
that Nehru makes a mistake by proclaiming his "paganism" 
and decrying all organized religion. He talks glibly about 
"rationalizing" religion, but it is clear that for him religion, 
like most other things, cannot be separated from its political 
context. He believes that being religious is good politics as 
long as most Indians are deeply influenced by religion. When 
I asked him about such drawbacks of latter-day Hinduism as 
the caste system, he replied bluntly, "There are positive dis- 
advantages to Hinduism. It would have been best for people 
who can think for themselves. But the masses can't think for 
themselves. So religion became associated with rituals and 

Patil has done little to combat one of the most pernicious 
distortions of Hinduism: the refusal to slaughter diseased and 
useless cattle. India now has more than 225 million cows, 
bullocks, and buffaloes one fourth of the entire world popula- 
tion. These animals resemble skeletons covered by tarpaulins. 
They compete directly with humans for India's limited food 
and Living space. The imbalance between man and animal is so 
glaring that an official report estimates that India's national 
income would rise by the equivalent of $140 million if only 
10 per cent of the unserviceable cattle were destroyed. Surplus 
livestock leads to overgrazing, with resultant soil erosion and 
further reduction of arable acreage. Stray cows wander through 

S. K. PATIL 237 

the streets of Delhi and other cities, blocking traffic and caus- 
ing accidents. They break into fields and destroy crops and 
irrigation ditches. Although Hindus profess to regard the cow 
as the "mother of humanity/ 1 nowhere else in the world is live- 
stock so neglected as in India. Devout Hindus often endow 
cow shelters, but the number of animals far exceeds such 
facilities. The vocal Gosamvardhan (literally, development of 
cow wealth) movement is more concerned with preventing the 
slaughter of cows and bulls than with improving livestock 
conditions. One result of their agitation has been to remove 
water buffalo "steak" from the menu of New Delhi's largest 
hotel, which caters largely to American and other meat-eating 

Patil admits in private that the agitation against cow 
slaughter is "wrongly connected with our religion." But in 
public he protests his devotion to the Gosamvardhan Council. 
He once told Parliament: "Honorable members know my 
views. So far as cow protection is concerned, I am one with 
them and I know what really the cow wealth can mean for 
us. Not only is it necessary that the cow must be protected; 
it must not be killed." 

When I pressed Patil to reconcile his statements, he finally 
retorted, "Everyone can't be Jesus Christ. You have to win 
elections. My deputy said something in favor of cow slaughter 
and almost lost his election. I had to rescue him. It's a very 
delicate matter and must be dealt with delicately. You can't 
offend against the sentiments of millions of people at once." 
I have always felt that few issues cast a more melancholy light 
on the workings of Indian democracy than the refusal to halt 
the livestock explosion. 

Political opportunism also threatens one of the most am- 
bitious programs ever launched to overcome India's peren- 
nial food crisis. The intensive agricultural-district program, 
commonly known as the package program, is a $ioo-million 
Indo-American effort to raise farm production in seven natu- 
rally favored districts covering six million acres in different 
parts of India. Fertilizer, hybrid seeds, improved farm im- 
plements, supervised credit, and trained extension workers 
are being poured into the seven areas in hopes of revolu- 


lionizing farm methods, obtaining at least two million more 
tons of grain, and setting a dramatic example for the rest of 
the country. The program is the outgrowth of a report called 
'India's Food Crisis and the Steps to Meet It," written in 
1 959 by an Indo- American team of specialists under Ford 
Foundation auspices. Despite the vagaries of an Indian printer 
who first published the report under the title "India's Ford 
Crisis and the Slips to Meet It/' the document had consider- 
able impact. It awakened Indian leaders for the first time to 
the gravity of their food situation. It gave Patil the op- 
portunity he needed to focus attention on the Food and 
Agriculture Ministry. He led the way in getting Indian gov- 
ernment approval for the team's proposals for urgent steps to 
increase food output. 

He warned that if the package program failed, the conse- 
quences would be "too terrible to contemplate." He told dis- 
trict workers engaged in the program that "any thought of 
defeatism cannot be tolerated and there is no room for dilatory 
or halfhearted measures." His zeal for the intensive district 
program did not deter him from making it extensive for po- 
litical purposes. Under pressure from state leaders, he agreed 
to add nine more "intensive" districts to the original seven 
selected by the Ford Foundation. To Parliament he explained 
lamely, "I thought that there will be unhealthy rivalry be- 
tween a state and a state if seven states get them and the 
other states do not get them. They would feel that their farm- 
ers could not go to the other states to see." The upshot has 
been the spread of an already inadequate staff even more 
thinly. The Ford Foundation is restricting its financial aid to 
the seven original districts, but has reluctantly agreed to pro- 
vide technical assistance to the other nine. Like the much- 
advertised Community Development program (launched in 
1952), the package plan is threatened with death by dilution. 
The temptation in India is always to stretch a good idea so 
far that it is indistinguishable from a bad one. 

A Ford Foundation executive who works closely with Patil 
remarks bitterly, "I see no evidence that Patil is personally 
and emotionally interested in what he does in the Food and 
Agriculture Ministry. He's in Bombay every weekend from 


Thursday or Friday until Monday. He's a politician. He feels 
he's done his job by ensuring that the country won't have any 
more famines. How has he done this? By P. L. 480. But that's 
no solution. Moreover, he's giving no leadership on the pack- 
age program. If you asked him, he probably wouldn't be able 
to tell you what the package program is. The good thing 
about Patil is that you can push and prod him and he doesn't 
get angry." 

Patil is more complacent about the package program today 
than he was in 1960 because two good grain harvests have 
given an appearance of abundance. The food-grain target of 
105 million tons annually has been scaled down to 100 million 
tons in line with his insistence that Indians already eat too 
much grain in relation to other food. More money is ear- 
marked for dairy schemes in the third five-year plan than in 
the first two five-year plans combined. There is also somewhat 
more emphasis on raising pigs and hatching fish. But an 
American authority says flatly, "India has made a bad show 
in agriculture outside food-grain production." 

The worst show has been in sugar, now suffering from a 
glut, and cotton, which is in critically short supply. Although 
India's domestic sugar consumption has been almost static 
since 1958, Patil raised the price of cane as an incentive to 
growers. He first termed the resultant 3oo,ooo-ton increase 
in sugar stocks "something very excellent indeed," but later 
admitted that it was anything but excellent. India is a high- 
cost, low-yield sugar producer. Patil exported some sugar to 
the United States and bartered 50,000 tons for urgently needed 
American cotton. The cotton shortage resulted largely from 
low yields per acre and low prices paid to growers. When 
cloth prices began rising ominously in the spring of 1962, 
the government finally consented to raise cotton prices. 

Sugar and cotton illustrate the extent of government inter- 
vention in India's agriculture and the problem of administer- 
ing complex controls under pressure from powerful lobbies. 
Despite his mistakes, Patil has shown far more skill than most 
Indian politicians in exploiting natural market forces for the 
country's benefit. 

He has also brought political oratory to a high degree of 


perfection. His gestures are almost as eloquent as the move- 
ments of a classical Indian dance. He exudes euphoria. Report- 
ing one of his speeches on sugar in Parliament, the Hindustan 
Times observed that he "allayed all fears, raised all hopes, for- 
gave the ignorant, complimented the knowledgeable, soothed 
the mills, consumers and cane-growers, and by the time he had 
finished he had managed to convince the house that there was 
not only no 'sugar problem' but that, if anything, India was 
on the top of the world as regards this commodity." 

Patil's humor is as pervasive as his euphoria. In telling 
Parliament about a rat invasion that damaged flowering 
bamboo trees in the eastern province of Assam, he intoned: 
"This is a wonderful phenomenon. This is a wonderful rat. 
. . . This rat has its visitation once in thirty years. When this 
particular bamboo flowers, it has got such an influence on 
these rats. The flower must be very tasty. But when the flower 
is destroyed, the rat also is destroyed. Where it goes nobody 
knows. It has no habit of traveling. Otherwise, I think, the 
Tourist Department would welcome it." 

Patil's exuberance and betel-nut-chewing informality have 
also endeared him to American officials accustomed to deal- 
ing with more sedate Indians. He visited the United States for 
the first time in 1948 as mayor of Bombay and studied munici- 
pal administration in forty American cities. In 1950 he dis- 
covered Hollywood in his capacity as chairman of the Indian 
government's Film Enquiry Board. He says that his job in- 
volved "the same type of work Eric Johnston did." He visited 
America for the sixth time in the summer of 1961 in search 
of a quota for Indian sugar. On the same trip he visited 
Russia and several eastern European satellites for the first time. 
He was unimpressed. 

His frequent forays abroad, especially during Delhi's hot 
season, have been criticized as "ministerial globe-trotting." His 
fondness for movie actresses, home-grown or foreign, is viewed 
less indulgently in traditionalist India than it would be in 
most Western countries. His most obvious weakness is his 
insatiable appetite for movies, preferably enjoyed in the air- 
conditioned comfort of a Bombay preview theater. Bridge is 
his principal outlet in Delhi. His rear porch is cluttered with 

S. K. PATIL 241 

bridge tables, to which he vainly tries to entice other cabinet 
ministers. I think they stay away because they fear they may 
be beaten and possibly because they feel Paul's star is waning. 
Patil knows this. But he is not prey to panic. He knows he , 
is still the most effective campaign manager in Congress and 
the potential architect of victory for the party's Right Wing. 
He may have no all-India following, and some politicians may 
shun him today, but his name still carries weight in the mari- 
gold-scented rooms where Indian party bosses take off their 
garlands and haggle over tickets. Over the years he has done 
enough favors for enough Congressmen and businessmen to 
ensure that he will not be forgotten if the Rightists divide 
the spoils. By the yardstick of Indian politics, he is compara- 
tively young. His energy is inexhaustible. His political wisdom 
is unmatched, although his political appeal may be deficient. 
Today he talks of "collective leadership" after Nehru. He says 
with apparently genuine confidence that he will figure in that 
leadership. He predicts a "great split" in Congress after its 
banyan tree is finally felled. "Nothing can prevent a split in 
Congress after Jawaharlal/' he says incisively. "It won't be a 
bad thing. It will be the genesis of a two-party system." But 
it will take as much as twenty-five years, according to him, 
before a real two-party setup has evolved in India. S. K. Patil 
cannot wait that long, but he will be around when Indian 
democracy faces its supreme test in the aftermath of Nehru. 
And the broad-faced man from Savantvadi intends to be heard 

Brij Mohan Raul 

THE BRAHMANS are supposed to be the highest caste. But there 
is in India today a supercaste a privileged, articulate, homo- 
geneous, and highly disciplined power elite that towers over 
all other castes like Everest over the Ganges plain. It is the 
officer corps of the Indian Army. 

The supercaste commands the largest army in Asia outside 
Communist China, and the fourth largest in the world. The 
Indian Army has doubled in size in the last five years and now 
numbers almost 600,000 men, all volunteers. They are de- 
ployed from Katanga to the Karakoram and from Gaza to the 
jungles of Assam. The traditions of the Indian Army go back 
seven generations. Once the guardian of the brightest jewel 
of the world's largest empire, the Indian soldier now serves 
one of the "new" countries that champions the cause of anti- 
imperialism. The Army is in India but not of it. It remains 
something apart from the main currents of Indian life and 

I am never so conscious of the British Empire as when I 
visit an Indian officers' mess. It is really the empire's last out- 



post. The mess will certainly be the last institution in India 
to be Indianized. It echoes with Sandhurst accents (real or 
acquired) and bristles with martial mustaches and polished 
swagger sticks. The talk runs to regimental cricket and the 
sporting thing to do on a tiger shoot. I always expect to find 
Kipling scribbling somewhere in the corner and Gunga Din 
serving up a tot of whisky. The officers' mess is in fact a mu- 
seum of Anglophilia. Its ethos has permeated every nook and 
cranny of the Indian Army. The Indian officer's Sandhurst 
accent is matched by his British weapons, British-style uniform, 
British drill manuals, and the British table of organization of 
his unit. Even the signs on an Indian Army base look as if 
they had been lettered in England. The regimental sports 
trophies have a musty English respectability. English is the 
language of command, and the Royal Military College the 
fountainhead of strategy. 

Colonel Blimp's Indian imitators are as clannish, suspicious 
of innovation, and goutily conservative as the old gentleman 
himself. Even the non-Blimps, the able officers who have saved 
the Indian Army from suffocating in its own professionalism, 
come from the same landed families as do the Blimps. The 
Army has been a closed corporation during most of its history, 
a fraternity of the privileged as much akin to the rest of India 
as the Union League Club is to America. When Mahatma 
Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru defied the British Raj, the 
Indian Army stood primly aloof or actually joined in sup- 
pressing the independence movement. When the flag of free- 
dom was hoisted by the insurgent Indian National Army 
during World War II, it was trampled in the dust with the 
help of Indian troops led by Indian officers under the Union 
Jack. When India gained independence in 1947, the flag 
became Indian but the Indian Army did not. The British 
officers quickly departed, but their mentality lingered on. In- 
dians, including army officers, found it inconceivable that the 
Army now belonged to them. The Congress party faithful 
regarded it with understandable resentment and suspicion. 
The Indian officers carried on as before. It took a trip to 
London, more than two years after independence, to convince 
General K. S. Thimayya, the future chief of staff, that the 


Army was, as he puts it, "no longer a private preserve of the 
British/' I have found many Indian officers who still do not 
really believe it. 

However crustily British the Indian Army may appear even 
today, subtle changes have taken place. There are now only 
nine Sandhurst-trained generals on active duty. The new offi- 
cers are graduates of the Indian Military Academy, Dehra 
Dun. Most of them have never served under an Englishman 
or seen Britain. They are a different breed from the old 
landed aristocracy that once monopolized the officer's uni- 
form. The young officers are poorer, more urban, more politi- 
cal, more bourgeois, and infinitely more Indian than their 
senior colleagues. They include many more non-Brahmans. 
They tend to be Indian-nationalists first and professional 
soldiers second. They have never played polo and have no 
estates to which they can retire at the age of fifty-five. The 
oldest members of the new breed were recruited from Indian 
universities during the desperate early years of the war. They 
are now majors and colonels, the Indian chassis of their coun- 
try's British-model military machine. They have the Sand- 
hurst accent and know the right things to say in the officers* 
mess, but their thoughts are tinged by ambitions and frustra- 
tions the old breed 'never knew. The new generation of In- 
dian officers is the first to realize that they have the power 
to change the course of Indian history with one blow. 

The archetype and exemplar of the new Indian Army is, 
ironically, a product of the old. Brij Mohan Kaul, the chief 
of the general staff at army headquarters, is a Kashmiri Brah- 
man, scion of a wealthy family, graduate of Sandhurst, open- 
ing bowler on the East Surrey regimental cricket team, colonel 
in chief of the Jat Regiment, and holder of the Vishisht Seva 
Medal (Class I) for distinguished service of the highest order. 
But such hallmarks of orthodoxy are no clue to the transcend- 
ent ambition and ability of the officer who more than any 
other controls the fate of the Indian Army today. Lieutenant 
General Kaul has no time for small talk in the mess; he is 
hurrying to keep an appointment with destiny. He is the only 
Indian general I have ever met who neither smokes nor drinks. 
All his habits are spartan. He moves like a cyclone from one 


end of India to the other. Sleep seems to be the only thing 
that tires him. His interests range from Himalayan cartography 
to Emily Dickinson's poetry. He is a lover of the theater, a 
mountain climber, and a student of military history. There 
is something self-consciously Napoleonic about the simple 
camp bed in his study. He is a twentieth-century soldier, but 
he has an Indian's respect for horoscopes, and his foretells 
that he will one day rule India. Being related by blood and 
marriage to Nehru (whose family name was originally Kaul) 
seemingly reinforces the augury of the stars. 

It is fashionable in Delhi to belittle Kaul as a military 
"house-builder" who lacks combat experience and does not 
come from one of India's traditional martial castes like the 
Sikhs or the Marathas. He is dismissed as a stooge of Krishna 
Menon, a dupe of the Chinese Communists, and a flashy self- 
seeker. "Comrade Kaul," the pundits sneer, could not even 
lead a mutiny of the Quartermaster Corps, where he achieved 
his highest distinction before reaching his present position. 
After he fell ill soon after taking command of a new corps 
on the northeast frontier with Tibet in October 1962, Kaul's 
enemies spread the rumor that he was malingering for fear 
of being at his post when the Chinese attacked. 

The first time I went to see Kaul, I expected a bemedaled 
dandy who would fit his cocktail-circuit epithet of "Stopgap." 
The man who rose quickly from behind a sea of files to greet 
me in his office was no dandy. Even in a lounge suit (which he 
wears frequently on duty), Kaul looks military. High-voltage 
energy ripples through every fiber of his shorter-than-average 
frame. He seems to find repose unbearable. His clean-shaven 
face, with its strong features and steady gaze, is a study in 

I began with what I thought was a fairly innocuous question. 
"Could you tell me something about your program for forming 
units composed of men from different castes?" I asked. General 
Kaul was off before I had finished speaking. He began by 
deprecating the idea of eliminating the old one-caste regiments. 
Then he turned to a lightning review of the history of the 
Indian Army. He swiveled in his chair, half rose to emphasize 
a point, brought his fist down hard on the desk. It was as if 


he were arguing to save his troops from annihilation. For half 
an hour he discoursed persuasively, often eloquently. His voice 
rose to peaks of fervor as he recalled old campaigns. But he 
was no old soldier recounting musty exploits. His reminis- 
cences were carefully chosen to support his conclusion. 

"The British called us loyal, devoted, good chaps/' he said, 
giving a contemptuous ring to the last two words. "But our 
compatriots told us we were the tools of foreign oppressors. 
This created doubts in the minds of the soldiers/' But never, 
I soon realized, in the mind of General Kaul, who has always 
known what he wants. 

"After independence," he went on, "was the first time no 
one tried to detract from the Indian soldier. He's no longer 
suspect. The soldier now feels he's redeemed." 

India remains to be redeemed. "Individually," Kaul says, 
"India has some of the greatest painters, poets, administrators, 
and soldiers, but collectively well, it doesn't work. Look at 
the universities. Individually, we have some brilliant students, 
but the universities are in a mess." 

Collective action, he believes, must be disciplined if it is to 
be effective. The armed forces are the only valid example of 
collective discipline in India today. The conclusion is evident. 
Kaul is no nonviolent Gandhian. He makes no secret of his 
sympathy with what the military has done in Pakistan and 
Burma. He thinks the Army is mistaken to leave power in 
civilian hands in Indonesia. 

At the height of the Hindu-Moslem-Sikh communal slaugh- 
ter in 1947, Kaul suggested privately to Jayaprakash Narayan 
that a "strong" government was needed to prevent India from 
drowning in blood. Narayan interpreted this as a suggestion 
for army rule and he rejected it. Kaul might find more sym- 
pathetic listeners if India were again plunged into chaos. He 
has made clear in private talks recently that the Army should 
not hesitate to seize power if the civil government were in- 
capable of ruling or India were about to fall prey to Com- 
munists, foreign or domestic. He is not worried about doing 
something without a popular mandate, which he regards as 
largely fictitious in an underdeveloped and illiterate country. 

"Biji" Kaul (the nickname craze is as strong in the Indian 


Army as in the American) is unlike any other person in this 
book or in India today. A Western military attach^ in Delhi 
says that he is the most un-Indian Indian he has ever met. Kaul 
has something of Menon's brilliance, Nehru's guile, Desai's 
asceticism, and Chavan's charm. He is ruthless but intensely 
human. He inspires loyalty. He has an un-Indian abhorrence 
of red tape. Delay and timidity infuriate him. He is proud 
and profane in the best Indian Army tradition, but he spurns 
the garrulous small talk so dear to the old breed of officers. 
When the right side of his face was temporarily paralyzed a 
few years ago, he felt a rare impulse to pray. But he disdained 
praying to be spared and muttered simply, "Lord, give me 
strength to bear whatever is being inflicted on me/' 

One affliction from which he has never suffered is lack of 
self-confidence. His aplomb is nearly unshakable. There is no 
task that he will not undertake. To handle the mass of work 
that comes his way, he toils sixteen to eighteen hours a day. 
He works harder than any other man in the Indian Army, 
sees dozens of callers every day, and disposes of official files 
at night. He has none of the Indian officer's traditional dis- 
taste for politics. He is political to the end of his swagger 
stick. He is the new kind of Indian officer, who wears his 
patriotism as well as his rank on his shoulder. He is not in- 
clined to hide either. Selfless anonymity is not his notion of 
what he is destined to achieve. He delights in conflict and 
controversy. No bugler need announce General Raul's regal 
entrances. Like many another would-be man of destiny, he 
may feel Bonaparte's bicorn hat on his head and the imperial 
mace in his hand so vividly that he forgets his actual accouter- 
ments. But at least if destiny does keep its appointment with 
General Kaul, he will not be tardy. 

The remarkable thing about him is that his most knowl- 
edgeable enemies concede his importance. The custom in India 
is to belittle an antagonist as if he were a crawling infant or 
an institutionalized lunatic. Only those who have never met 
Kaul are really contemptuous of him. General Thimayya, who 
professes contempt for his erstwhile deputy, told me that he 
actually thinks Kaul is "smarter and more dangerous" than 
Menon and may be using the former Defense Minister. Other 


officers, including Western military attaches in Delhi, now 
credit Kaul with having infused new drive and efficiency into 
the Army. No one doubts that it is he who runs the Indian 
Army rather than General Pran Nath Thapar, the amiable 
figurehead who succeeded Thimayya as chief o staff in May 
1961. There is also general agreement that KauFs gifts qualify 
him for bigger things. An old schoolmate, now a well-in- 
formed Delhi editor, says that Kaul "probably thinks he 
could be prime minister of India." A Western officer who 
knows him well says, "Kaul's ambitions certainly don't stop 
short of being defense minister, probably prime minister." 

Like many generals, the Chief of the General Staff (CGS) 
of the Indian Army likes to dramatize himself. "I must have 
been born," he told me once, "under some star that's never 
given me the normal run of things/' He has a gambler's rever- 
ence for signs and portents. "My whole life has been built 
around gestures," he observes. 

When Brij Mohan Kaul went on active duty in this life on 
May i, 1912, he already ranked high in Indian society. The 
Kauls were prosperous Kashmiri Brahmans who had estab- 
lished themselves near Lahore, in what is now West Pakistan, 
the breeding ground of Indian generals. But Kaul takes little 
account of his actual birthplace. "The first thing," he says 
emphatically, "is that I come from Kashmir. That is an im- 
portant biological fact." His father, a civil servant, owned 
land and other property. In his first ten years of schooling, 
young Kaul attended a Christian missionary school, where he 
says he learned the Bible "by heart," a Moslem school, where 
he studied the Koran, a Sikh school, where he read the Sikh 
scriptures, a Hindu school, where he learned the Veda, and, 
finally, a secular government school. He says that this early 
exposure to different faiths has imbued him with respect for 
all India's diverse religions. Later, when he was commanding 
troops in the Punjab, he copied the mogul emperor Akbar 
and built a Hall of All Religions, where Hindu, Moslem, 
Sikh, and Christian religious services were held. 

His mother died when Kaul was six. His elder sister suc- 
cumbed to tuberculosis five years later. And his father died 
when he was sixteen. Soon afterward, Kaul turned over the 


family estate to his stepmother and her three children and 
began "struggling with life." 

His struggles with the British had already started, according 
to his account. At fifteen, he had had his first taste of the 
independence movement. He had joined student demonstra- 
tions in 1928 against Sir John Simon's all-British commission, 
which came to investigate India's political grievances. He had 
escaped unscathed from several police firings. He says that he 
happened to be sitting in the visitors* gallery of the Central 
Assembly in New Delhi on April 8, 1928, when two young 
terrorists hurled homemade bombs at the Government front 
bench during debate on a bill providing for detention without 
trial. The bombs caused no fatalities, but their echo was heard 
throughout India. Kaul was arrested and questioned along 
with many others in the gallery, but was released. Later he 
stood outside the Lahore district jail when one of the terrorists 
who had been convicted in the famous Lahore conspiracy case 
of murdering a British police officer was hanged and his body 
cut in four pieces. "That had the most tremendous effect on 
me," he says. 

Kaul engaged in some minor underground activities of his 
own. He pasted up nationalist posters and helped deliver ex- 
plosives that were used to dynamite the Viceroy's train (the 
Viceroy and his staff escaped unhurt). But military life at- 
tracted him more than the underground did. His nationalist 
record would have kept him out of Sandhurst if he had not 
been related to some prominent local officials. When a British 
deputy commissioner told him that his views were "all wrong" 
and asked why he wanted to join the Indian Army, Kaul 
retorted with typical spunk, "Naturally I want to join the 
Indian Army because it's my country's army. Would I want 
to join the French or German Army?" 

Kaul says that he disliked the British before he went to 
Sandhurst, but found them a "sterling race" at the Royal 
Military College. Cricket and track appealed to him. Drinking 
and smoking repelled him. When other Indian cadets told him 
that he could never "get on" unless he knew how to down his 
whisky, the young Kashmiri -exploded, "Who are you pygmies 
to tell me how to run my life?" When thousands of men stood 


up in the academy banquet hall to toast the King in port or 
sherry, Kaul would drink a glass of soda. 

After Sandhurst, Kaul joined the East Surrey regiment, 
where he learned cross-country running (he had been a quarter- 
miler at Sandhurst) and achieved the distinction of being 
opening bowler on the regimental cricket team. 

He saw action for the first time against Pathan tribesmen 
in the Northwest Frontier Province of India. One of his com- 
manding officers in the early days was an eccentric and con- 
troversial British soldier, Major (later Major General) T. W. 
(Pete) Rees, whom he calls "the biggest architect of my mili- 
tary career." Rees clashed with General Montgomery and 
other British commanders in North Africa in World War II 
and finally retired under a cloud after the border force he 
commanded in the Punjab failed to stop communal pogroms 
in 1947. Kaul, whose own career has been as stormy, says he 
will always uphold his old commander against charges of 
being pro-Pakistani. 

Raul's role in the Burma campaign against the Japanese is 
a matter of dispute. The Japanese had overrun Burma in 
1942 and had entered Kohima, in eastern India. They were 
threatening a full-scale invasion of India. Thimayya, one of 
only three Indian officers to command a brigade under the 
British during the war, says that Kaul never saw combat in 
the Burma-India theater. "In fact/' Thimayya says, "he was 
CO of an Army Service Corps regiment that was supplying us 
rations from one hundred miles behind the fighting line/' He 
says that Kaul had switched from the infantry to the ASC 
because "even then" he could not get along with his command- 
ing officer. Kaul insists that he saw front-line action in the 
Buthidaung-Maungdaw area of the Arakan front with the 
ggrd Corps, part of General (now Viscount) William Slim's 
Fourteenth Army. No matter where Kaul actually spent most 
of his time, it is likely that he saw a fair amount of action. 
The Burma-India theater was not designed for comfort or 
safety, even for rear-echelon troops. 

Indian troops were fighting on both sides in the Burma 
campaign. The Bengali nationalist leader, Subhas Chandra 
Bose, fled from India early in the war and lent his support to 


the so-called Indian National Army (INA) organized by the 
Japanese. INA troops advanced with the Japanese into Burma. 
Their loud-speakers blared propaganda across the front line 
to Indian troops fighting with the British. Kaul says that 
"quite a number" of Indian troops responded to INA appeals 
to desert. General Joseph W. ("Vinegar Joe") Stilwell, the 
American commander in the theater, angered the British by 
saying in effect that Indian officers under their command were 
so demoralized that Indian forces could not fight properly. 
When Thimayya's battalion captured an important hill at the 
beginning of the British-Indian counterattack, Lord Louis 
Mountbatten held him up as an example of high Indian 
morale. Raul's own feelings were mixed. He felt that it was 
wrong to call members of the INA traitors. He respected Bose 
as a man who had "done a lot for my country," but opposed 
his movement because it would have meant exchanging Brit- 
ish overlords for Japanese. 

Kaul remained with the Fourteenth Army until July 1945. 
After a short tour of duty at army headquarters in New 
Delhi, he was picked by his newly powerful relative Jawahar- 
lal Nehru to go to Washington as free India's first military at- 
tach^. "America took me by storm," Kaul exclaims. "There 
were so many things happening there. Temperamentally that 
suits me." Kaul now goes to elaborate pains to repress the 
notion that he is or ever was anti-American. Whatever his 
motives for now giving vent to his admiration for things Amer- 
ican, I have always felt there was something genuine in the 
enthusiasm that creeps into his voice when he talks about the 
United States. In many ways he reminds me of General Max- 
well Taylor (whom he greatly admires) or any of the other 
more intellectual American generals. He himself takes pride 
in such affinities. 

The young Kashmiri colonel worked with demonic energy 
in Washington. "We've been bellyaching for a thousand years 
about being slaves," he told an overworked secretary in the 
Indian Embassy, "so I can't go home in the evening. I must 
sweat blood." He did. But not all the blood was his. He be- 
came the enfant terrible of the military attach^ corps in Wash- 
ington. He demandedand eventually received permission to 


spend more than the single day usually allowed foreign at- 
tach^s at West Point, where, he says, "everything impressed 
me." He did not conceal his resentment at Lieutenant General 
John W. ("Iron Mike") O'Daniel's highhanded treatment of 
foreign military attaches on a visit to Fort Benning, Georgia, 
but he says that he later got on well with the tough old soldier. 

Kaul traded on a wartime meeting in India with Louis 
Johnson (then acting as President Franklin D. Roosevelt's per- 
sonal representative) to ask for bombers in January 1948, 
when Johnson was Secretary of Defense. The Kashmir fighting 
had broken out, and the Indian Air Force was sorely in need 
of planes. 

"We've got into a scrap with Pakistan," Kaul told Johnson. 
"We need bombers/' 

"How many do you want?" Johnson is said to have replied. 

Kaul named a figure. Johnson made a long-distance call, 
then turned, according to Kaul, and said, "That's okay. It's 
a deal." 

But it was not. The State Department objected strongly 
when it heard of the scheme. At the time, Kaul had been 
detailed by Nehru to serve as military adviser to the Indian 
delegation during the U.N. Security Council debate on Kash- 
mir. Warren Austin, the chief American delegate, called the 
young Indian officer in to explain to him why the bomber 
deal could not go through. Kaul was indignant. Austin asked 
him to appreciate the reasons for America's reluctance to ap- 
pear to take sides in Kashmir. Kaul was unmollified. 

"We're mad," he blurted. "We're fighting a war. I can't 
help being bitter about it." 

Despite the bomber fiasco, Kaul says, "Psychologically, I was 
very well treated in America. I was extremely open with them. 
It went like a house on fire." He was given a double promotion 
six months after going to Washington, and he put his elder 
daughter in school there and started giving lectures on the 
development of the Indian Army. He asked to return to India 
in October 1947 when word came that the officer originally 
destined to have his post as military attach^ became the first 
Indian casualty in the Kashmir fighting. "When this news 


came over the ticker, I fell off my chair," he says. He told 
Asaf Ali, the Indian ambassador, "I can't justify my conscience. 
If he had come here, he wouldn't be dead now. I have to go 
back." This is the kind of story Kaul delights in telling about 

Whatever the circumstances, he did not get home until 
March 1948, when he was assigned to organize a guerrilla 
force to fight along with the Indian Army in Kashmir. He 
raised 10,000 irregulars in record time and "led them every- 
where," according to his account, until he had "some differ- 
ences" with Sheik Abdullah, the Indian-backed premier of 

Kaul had already become a quasi-political figure in the 
Army. And he was to become even more deeply implicated in 
politics five years later, when Nehru sent him back to Kashmir 
to oversee the midnight arrest of Sheik Abdullah, who had 
alarmed the Indians by toying with the idea of an independent 
Kashmir. Kaul's account of his role in the affair strikes me as 
completely disingenuous. He told me the story as we sat one 
evening in his study surrounded by seven model planes and 
dozens of books. "Nehru sent me in my personal capacity," he 
said, "to assess what was going on. I found Abdullah preparing 
to declare Kashmir independent." The Sheik's pro-Indian 
lieutenants (including the present prime minister of Kashmir) 
then arrested him on their own initiative. "I sensed it coming," 
Kaul confided, "but didn't interfere. Nehru had told me the 
situation was very delicate." 

In fact, Kaul appears to have been the initiator of the most 
unpopular thing India has ever done in Kashmir. Abdullah 
was released briefly in 1958, then rearrested. He and fourteen 
codefendants are still being tried on charges of plotting with 
Pakistan to take Kashmir out of the Indian Union. Abdullah 
will soon have passed more than a decade in prison. 

The real turning point in Raul's career came when he was 
assigned to be chief of staff of the U.N. Neutral Nations Re- 
patriation Commission, which handled the ticklish problem of 
170,000 Chinese and North Korean prisoners of war, a third 
of whom refused to go home after the Korean war. The chair- 


man of the commission was Thimayya, who had just been 
promoted to lieutenant general. Kaul clashed repeatedly with 
him during what he calls a "tough, perplexing time/' 

Americans who knew both men in Korea say that Kaul was 
frightened of Thimayya. Kaul denies this and says that Thi- 
mayya actually apologized to him for showing classified tele- 
grams to the Americans. On the major problem, Kaul admits 
that he "could not believe" that thousands of prisoners from 
China and North Korea did not want to be repatriated, while 
Thimayya, though he bent over backward to show impartial- 
ity, had no trouble believing it. The latter mixed socially with 
American officers, got on well with them, and had little but 
formal official contact with the Chinese and North Koreans. 
Kaul, on the other hand, was courted by the Chinese, who 
sent him chickens and eggs when he was hospitalized in Korea 
and invited him to make an official visit to China. 

On this visit he was impressed by the People's Liberation 
Army and the guerrilla-warfare tactics devised by Mao Tse- 
tung. He was also struck by the new regime's drive and the 
discipline of the Chinese people. But he insists that he did not 
go to China because he was sympathetic to Communism. He 
says that he was ordered to accept Peking's invitation by 
Nehru, who thought it would be impolitic to refuse. His 
answers to reporters' questions on his return from China were 
misinterpreted, he contends. "I didn't say I liked the bloody 
Mao system or Communism," he growls. "But Thimayya told 
the Americans I had been brainwashed by the Chinese. They 
made a complete cuckoo out of me on this. On this bloody 
thing all my difficulties arose." 

Thimayya's version is different. "Kaul came back from 
China singing their praises," he says. "That's when I sacked 
him. He offered me his resignation. I refused and urged him 
to take a long leave in India. We were all under pretty heavy 
strain in those days. The other officers thought I was a fool 
not to have accepted Kaul's resignation. Now I'm inclined to 
think they were right." 

When he left Korea, Kaul was named commander of the 
Fourth Division, the famous "Fighting Fourth/' on the Indo- 


Pakistani frontier in the Punjab. He held this command for 
three years. 

He might never have risen above the rank of division com- 
mander had it not been for the appointment on April 17, 
1957, of Krishna Menon to be defense minister. The new min- 
ister was deeply suspicious of the old-line Indian generals. He 
wanted to bring up younger men, who would be more respon- 
sive to his wishes, especially in demonstrating the economic 
capabilities of the defense establishment. His eye lighted on 
Kaul, then chafing in enforced anonymity in the Punjab. He 
was impressed by the military housing colony of Jawanabad, 
which was built during off-duty hours in five months in 1949 
by Raul's troops of the nth Infantry Brigade. Kaul says that 
his aim was to provide shelter for men who had lost their 
homes in the partition riots. Later, as commander of the 
Fighting Fourth, Kaul built Amar, another showpiece military 
housing project. The ruthless efficiency that went into these 
accomplishments appealed to Menon, who was also intrigued 
by Raul's record in Korea and may have assumed from it that 
the young general was far to the left of other high-ranking 
Indian officers. Kaul did nothing to disabuse his minister. On 
the contrary, he seems to have shrewdly exploited Menon's 
susceptibility to flattery. 

Menon waited for the right moment to have Kaul promoted. 
The opportunity came in 1959, when Thimayya proposed that 
a third star be awarded to Major General P. S. Gyani, an 
outstanding artillery officer who had become the first Asian 
commander of the U.N. Emergency Force in Gaza, which had 
a large Indian contingent. Menon demanded that Kaul should 
"come up" at the same time. Thimayya balked. Menon in- 
sisted. The matter went to Nehru, who, as usual, upheld 

Kaul was promoted to lieutenant general in June 1959. At 
the same time, he was named quartermaster general and put 
in charge of a crash program to build thousands of miles of 
roads in Himalayan border areas threatened by the Chinese. 
The program was actually the basis of India's whole defense 
effort on the northern frontier, because without roads the out- 


numbered Indian troops could never hope to counter the 
Chinese. Kaul tackled the job with his customary frenzy, but 
the Chinese offensive in October 1962 came long before the 
road network was due to be completed. 

Relations between Menon and Thimayya worsened steadily 
after Raul's promotion. In August 1959 Timmy, as Delhi 
knows him, submitted his resignation to Nehru in protest 
against the Defense Minister's interference. Thimayya told 
friends, "This whole thing between me and that man [Menon] 
is about Kaul." Nehru talked him out of resigning and de- 
fended Menon against the bitter criticism in Parliament after 
the story was leaked to the press. The Prime Minister ascribed 
Thimayya's resignation to "temperamental differences" with 
Menon, dismissed his charges of interference as "rather trivial 
and of no consequence," and reproached him for wanting to 
quit in the midst of the Sino-Indian border crisis. The Menon- 
Thimayya feud was papered over but, as Thimayya said, 
"Things were very bad after that." 

On May 8, 1961, Thimayya retired at the end of his two- 
year tour as chief of staff, the highest uniformed position in 
the Indian defense services. He was succeeded by Lieutenant 
General (now General) P. N. Thapar, then in charge of India's 
Western Area Command. Kaul had already moved up to the 
position of chief of the general staff at Army Headquarters in 
Delhi. He superseded at least half a dozen more senior gen- 
erals. Menon's object in promoting Kaul seemed to be to pave 
the way for him to succeed Thapar as chief of staff, either 
directly or after one intervening term had been served by 
Lieutenant General Joyanto Nath Choudhri, who ranks next 
to Thapar in seniority. This suspicion was voiced in an anony- 
mous letter to Nehru in the spring of 1961 from a group of 
army officers who accused Menon of practicing "black magic 
over the mind of the prime minister." 

The juggling of generals provoked an anguished outcry in 
the Indian Parliament. Menon was accused of undermining 
the country's defenses at a critical moment by playing favorites 
in the officer corps and disregarding recommendations of the 
promotion boards. Again Nehru came to Menon's rescue and 
assumed personal responsibility for every major appointment 


in the services. Rebutting charges that Kaul was nothing but 
an Army Service Corps "house-builder" without combat ex- 
perience, Nehru told Parliament that he was "an officer who 
has been in the infantry for twenty-five years out of his twenty- 
eight years of service," adding, "I say with complete confidence 
and knowledge that he is one of our brightest and best officers 
in the army." For his part, Menon recalled that Kaul had 
been commissioned in the East Surrey regiment, an infantry 
unit, and that, "His period in the Army Service Corps during 
British times amounts to somewhere around eight or ten years 
out of twenty-eight years of service." 

The discrepancy arises from the fact that Kaul has held a 
variety of staff jobs that cannot precisely be assigned to the 
infantry or the Service Corps. He says that he spent only 
three years with the Service Corps as such. Many observers 
were misled by Menon's defense of Kaul into assuming that 
the CGS was simply a stooge of the Defense Minister. This is 

My information indicates that Kaul opposed Menon on the 
purchase of Soviet AN- 12 turboprop transports for use on the 
northern frontier. I understand he also urged Menon to con- 
sider American and French supersonic fighters before conclud- 
ing the MiG deal with Moscow. Infuriated at Raul's interest 
in American weapons, Menon once exploded, "Why don't 
you take out American citizenship?" 

Kaul insists that he did not know Menon well before he 
was promoted to be CGS. Early in 1962 he told me testily, 
"I stand up to Menon ten times a day. It can be difficult." I 
know from other sources that Menon and Kaul were increas- 
ingly at odds before Menon resigned as defense minister in 
October 1962. My impression is that the Menon-Kaul alli- 
ance was a temporary marriage of convenience that could be 
broken off or renewed at any time, depending on circum- 
stances. I can hardly think of two more dissimilar men in 
temperament and political outlook. 

One significant issue on which I know Kaul outmaneuvered 
Menon is the "forward" strategy adopted by the Indian Army 
in the summer of 1962 against the Chinese in Ladakh and 
on the northeast frontier. Kaul went to Nehru and persuaded 


him to let the Army establish advance check posts to outflank 
Chinese posts set up on Indian territory. "The Army has to 
have self-respect/' Kaul insisted. Menon was hamstrung. He 
could not openly oppose a policy aimed at reclaiming lost 
Indian territory. Menon's long-standing orders that Indian 
patrols should not engage the Chinese under any circum- 
stances were revoked. Indian troops were told to hold their 
ground and open fire if the Chinese sought to dislodge them 
from any position on Indian soil. 

Raul's "forward" strategy evoked a violent Chinese re- 
sponse that culminated in the general attacks launched at 
both ends of the frontier on October 20, 1962. Inevitably, his 
enemies in the Army and outside accused Kaul of having 
heedlessly jeopardized Indian defenses for the illusory gain 
of some desolate mountain tracts, but Nehru, who had per- 
sonally approved the new tactics, refused to disown him. 

If Kaul depended exclusively on Nehru, he would be little 
better than a military counterpart of Menon. But the CGS 
is not content to rely on the patronage of his powerful relative. 
For many years he has cultivated a larger circle of friends 
outside the service than has any other Indian officer. His one- 
story pillared home on New Delhi's shady Motilal Nehru Marg 
(formerly York Road) is frequented at all hours by a motley 
collection of friends, hangers-on, favor-seekers, job-hunters, and 
the simply curious. "I make it a practice," Kaul told me 
proudly, "to see everyone .who comes here and help everyone 
I can. Widows, orphans, saints, murderers, thieves, policemen 
all come here every day. I never say no to anyone in trou- 

I know that Kaul personally borrowed heavily to start a 
charity store for servicemen's dependents. He went out of his 
way to persuade the American Embassy to hire orphaned chil- 
dren of servicemen as guides in the American pavilion at 
the 1961 Industries Fair in New Delhi. One military attach^ 
in Delhi says, "This is the politician in Kaul, But he also has 
a genuinely human side." For example, he made elaborate 
but unpublicized arrangements to send an ailing Indian gen- 
eral to America for medical treatment. Another example is the 
story that en route one day to a meeting of the cabinet's 


Defense Committee, Kaul noticed a man who had collapsed 
in the road. He ordered his driver to stop and alighted to find 
out what was wrong. The man was suffering from tuberculosis 
of the bone. He had been forced to sell his tiny stall shop 
and was now penniless. "By that evening/' Kaul says, "I had 
collected 2,000 rupees [about $400] for his treatment. He even- 
tually made a full recovery. I paid another 2,000 rupees to 
get his shop back for him. I've never seen him again." 

At another time Kaul says he harbored a murderer in his 
home until arrangements could be made to rehabilitate the 
man. When the son of a Defense Ministry messenger died of 
a broken back, Kaul paid for a dignified Hindu cremation. 
My impression is that such acts of benevolence give Kaul 
genuine satisfaction as well as enhance his reputation in Delhi. 
He constantly borrows money to lend to the needy and 
rarely seems to worry about repayment. 

It would be naive, however, to regard Kaul as a kind of 
uniformed angel of mercy. He is ruthless toward anyone he 
suspects of opposing him. The attempted plot to accuse 
Major General S.H.F.J. (Sam) Manekshaw, former com- 
mandant of the Defense Services Staff College, of impugn- 
ing constituted authority, was ordered by Menon with Kaul's 
connivance. Several officers were persuaded to bring trumped- 
up accusations against Manekshaw after his third star had 
been announced but not yet conferred. The actual reason for 
trying to get rid of this brilliant Parsi officer was his out- 
spoken opposition to Menon. Manekshaw was ready to resign, 
but Thimayya persuaded him to call his accusers' bluff. In 
the end, a three-man inquiry board dismissed the charges 
against Manekshaw and recommended that some of his ac- 
cusers be made to answer for their conduct. 

Kaul's family ties with Nehru gave him an early taste of 
politics on a high level. He met most of the important Indian 
politicians and government officials long before he would have 
done so in line of duty. When his younger daughter was mar- 
ried in May 1962, he invited 2,000 of Delhi's elite to a lavish 
wedding feast in his garden, replete with Indian orchestral 
accompaniment and long tables laden with delicacies. I re- 
member Kaul furiously striding around that rainy night in a 


loosely wound maroon turban, cream-colored achkan, and 
knee breeches, shouting orders at what seemed to be half the 
Indian Army. The General was irked because the rain had 
disrupted the elaborate strings of colored lights that festooned 
his house and the wedding shamiana, or tent. The Kaul wed- 
ding was as big a social event in Delhi as the inaugural ball 
is in Washington. 

From the time he was in Korea until early in 1961, Kaul 
shunned Americans in Delhi. Then about February he began 
showing marked cordiality to them. He never missed a dinner 
invitation from the American Ambassador, John Kenneth 
Galbraith, and began visiting other American homes in Delhi. 
He suddenly became accessible to American correspondents. 
He explained that he wanted to show that he was not anti- 
American and had been misrepresented. When Menon chided 
him for accepting Galbraith's invitation without being equally 
convivial with the Russians, Kaul is reputed to have answered, 
"I know the British and Americans. They speak my language. 
They're my friends. I don't know these other people." 

When General Herbert Powell, then commander of the 
continental U.S. Army, and several other senior American 
military men passed through Delhi at various times in 1961 
and 1962, Kaul was usually present when they called on Gen- 
eral Thapar. He asked for private meetings with them and 
urged the United States to allow India to buy American mili- 
tary equipment on a deferred-payment basis or on other terms 
that would meet Menon's objections to spending scarce for- 
eign exchange on arms. At several of these meetings he com- 
plained bitterly against Menon and asked the Americans to 
do everything possible to maintain Western links with the 
Indian Army. As one Western attach^ says, "Kaul definitely 
does want to buy American, but he's a nationalist and if he 
can't get the equipment he needs from the West, he'd turn 
to the East bloc without a moment's hesitation." I have had 
indications that Kaul has dissuaded Menon from buying more 
Communist-bloc military equipment despite the attractive pay- 
ment conditions offered by those countries. 

When the Chinese attacked in October 1962 Kaul helped 
persuade Nehru to request American and other Western arms 


on an emergency basis despite Menon's last-ditch objections. 
Kaul submitted a tentative list of Indian military needs to 
Galbraith even before Nehru had taken the decision to turn 
to the West in India's hour of peril. 

Kaul says that he knew nothing of the impending MiG deal 
until he happened to hear that Air Vice Marshal Ranjan 
Dutt, head of the state-owned Hindustan Aircraft, Limited, 
was going to Moscow in the spring of 1962. When Kaul in- 
sisted that American and French fighters should also be con- 
sidered, Menon told him, "You know nothing about this." 
Kaul had earlier told Galbraith that only Nehru and Presi- 
dent Kennedy could work out arrangements for India to pur- 
chase supersonic Western fighters. He also raised the subject 
with Chester Bowles, a former American ambassador to India 
and an old friend. 

While he awaits the day when he will be the acknowledged 
military chief of the Indian Army, Kaul is quietly moving 
his backers into key positions at headquarters. Brigadier D. K. 
Palit, Kaul's hand-picked director of military operations, is an 
extremely competent infantry officer, author of a number of 
books on tactics, and prime architect of Operation Vijay, the 
seizure of Go a. The director of military intelligence is another 
Kaul prot^g^. 

"Every sepoy in the army/' according to Thimayya, "knows 
Kaul has never been a combat soldier. You can't hide that 
sort of thing in the Army. The officers don't respect Kaul." 
Less partisan observers question this view. A Western military 
attach^ with considerable experience in India reports that 
many Indian officers who were hostile to Kaul before he be- 
came CGS, and who are still opposed to Menon, now say 
that Kaul is brilliant and extremely able. Their regard for 
Kaul appears to be genuine. Under his direction, the Army 
was expanded by about one fifth in the first eighteen months 
after he became CGS. Efficiency has certainly not declined, 
and may well have improved. Opportunities for promotion 
have increased something bound to benefit Kaul in the eyes 
of his juniors. His vainglory and flamboyance may evoke 
smiles in Delhi, but they add zest to barracks life on the 
outer fringes of the Indian empire. My own feeling is that 


Kaul reflects the impatient nationalism and many of the other 
strivings of India's younger officers. 

He may have seen much less combat than Thimayya and 
other senior officers did, but he has proved on more than one 
occasion that he possesses unquestionable personal courage. 
In November 1955, when forty soldiers whom he had sent for 
winter training on the Tibetan border (against the advice of 
experts) were caught in the snowbound Rohtang Pass, Kaul 
set out on foot with an aide to rescue them. Buffeted by 100- 
mile-an-hour gales on the way up the pass, they lost practically 
all their kit, including food. Their porters vanished. Two 
hundred feet from the top of the pass the exhausted climbers 
collapsed in ten-foot snowdrifts. "After a little while/' Kaul 
says, "we felt as if life were oozing out of us. We wrote a 
message in hopes that it would be found on our bodies the 
next morning. It was addressed to the stranded men and said 
simply, 'We did our best to reach and rescue you but, sorry, 
death is cheating us/ " 

This flourish proved premature. Shortly after midnight, two 
of their porters returned with some tea which they managed 
to heat over a kerosene burner. Kaul says that he gave the 
first cup to the porters, although it was "bloody difficult" not 
to drink it himself. The four men managed to live through 
the night. When morning came, the storm abated and the 
skies cleared. By this time, two other porters originally at- 
tached to Kaul had reached the forty soldiers stranded farther 
up the pass and told them their would-be rescuers had frozen 
to death. Two members of the stranded group went in search 
of the bodies. When they ran into Kaul (who was wearing no 
insignia), one of them asked, "Have you seen two army chaps 
who died coming up here?" Kaul feigned ignorance for a 
time, then finally identified himself. At that point, he says, 
they all started laughing hysterically and ended by weeping. 
The next step was to lead everyone to safety. Only ten soldiers 
out of the original forty were fit to walk. The others were 
suffering from frostbite, pneumonia, or exhaustion. Kaul made 
each able-bodied man responsible for three others. For the 
next fifteen hours they worked their way down the pass, lashed 
by angry winds as they plodded through the snow. When they 


reached the bottom, Kaul noticed that one man was missing. 
He asked for volunteers to accompany him back up the moun- 
tain. One benumbed figure tottered forward to offer his serv- 
ices. He and Kaul started climbing back up. Fortunately, they 
had gone only a short distance when they found the missing 
soldier unconscious under a tree. 

Four years later, when the Chinese Communists occupied 
the tiny Indian border settlement of Longju, in the east, Kaul 
trekked hundreds of miles on foot to the nearest Indian post. 
He wanted to see the situation for himself. 

Such episodes may not always reflect credit on KauFs judg- 
ment, but they help endear him to the Indian jawan, or com- 
mon soldier, who loves nothing better than a legend of hero- 

On December 2, 1960, when Kaul was quartermaster gen- 
eral, he figured in an escapade that had international reper- 
cussions. He flew with a Soviet pilot and two Indian airmen 
in one of India's newly acquired Russian MI-4 helicopters to 
a point near the Karakoram Pass, in extreme northern Ladakh. 
The MI-4 is reputed to be able to climb to 21,000 feet, but 
American authorities doubt that it has ever flown higher than 
16,500 feet. Kaul says that Menon insisted there was no need 
to test the Soviet machines because they had already been 
tested in Russia. While Menon was attending a U.N. meeting 
in New York, Kaul overrode the objections of Russian tech- 
nicians and pilots and ordered the MI-4 to *ty north through 
the fog-shrouded mountains. When they neared the Karakoram 
Pass, more than 18,000 feet above sea level, Kaul told the 
Russian pilot to land. The pilot objected that there was no 
level ground and that he might never be able to take off 
again. "If you people say you can land on the moon," Kaul 
exploded, "you can bloody well land on that spot down there. 
If not, it means you can't land anywhere." The Russian 
landed. Then Kaul told him that they were a twenty-one-day 
march from the nearest post. "If we can't take off," he threat- 
ened, "we'll all freeze into nice ice cream for someone." With 
such a fate in prospect, the Russian got the machine off the 
frozen ground and headed back. Thirty minutes out of Leh, 
the Ladakhi capital, the pilot announced that he had fuel for 


only seven minutes more. They set down in a snowdrift be- 
side a stream bed. Kaul climbed out and hiked to the nearest 
hilltop, where a half-frozen Sikh lookout was startled to meet 
the Quartermaster General of the Indian Army. Kaul and the 
others were later picked up by a Dakota, which managed to 
land on the glassy streambed. The helicopter was abandoned 
to the Himalayan winter. Kaul says that Menon later "ticked 
me off" for flying the MI-4, but in Parliament the next spring 
Menon defended Raul's action and said that he was the only 
person who had volunteered to test-fly the machine. 

Kaul came under fire on the northeastern frontier on Oc- 
tober 10, 1962, when the Chinese launched their largest prob- 
ing attack preparatory to the October 20 offensive against 
Indian positions in several sectors of the frontier. He was at 
an advance company headquarters at the time, having trekked 
over most of the area in the previous week. Early in October 
he had been named to command a new corps on the north- 
eastern border with the specific assignment of ejecting Chinese 
troops that had entered this sector the previous month. He 
escaped unhurt from the Chinese fire but later contracted 
pneumonia as a result of his exertions at altitudes up to 
14,500 feet. 

Such examples of bravura have given Kaul the reputation 
of being a flashy operator. I think it would be a mistake, never- 
theless, to write him off as an Indian edition of General Custer. 
He has a Kashmiri's native guile, which conditions his im- 
pulsive nature. Moreover, Kaul has frequently demonstrated 
his administrative ability and his sagacity in things political. 
Even his detractors have difficulty finding fault with his per- 
formance as quartermaster general and as coordinator of the 
Border Roads Commission, set up after Chinese incursions 
threatened the whole Himalayan frontier. 

The bane of Kaul's existence is the global dispersion of his 
army. A reinforced brigade is committed to the U.N. force 
in the Congo. Smaller but still sizable units are serving in 
Gaza. The equivalent of a full division has been tied down 
in Nagaland since 1954 fighting underground insurgents who 
want a separate Naga nation. Most hurtful of all, from 50 to 
60 per cent of the Indian Army is committed along the Kash- 


mir cease-fire line and other parts of India's 2,8oo-mile frontier 
with Pakistan. This leaves Kaul with the logistic capacity to 
support the equivalent of only three brigades in Ladakh. "We 
could take care of the Chinese," he laments, "if it weren't for 
the need to watch the Pakistanis." 

Kaul fears that Pakistan will launch an Algeria-style guer- 
rilla war in Indian-held Kashmir. He suspects that Pakistani 
troops may be disguised as tribesmen and sent into Indian 
territory with arms furnished by Communist China. Such mis- 
givings reflect no deep hostility on KauFs part to Pakistan 
or its military leaders. On the contrary, he knows and likes 
many members of the present Pakistani regime. He says, 'Tm 
constantly trying to bring these two countries [India and 
Pakistan] together. The army people in Pakistan understand 
me. They agree, but the others don't." With what sounded 
like real regret in his voice, he told me once that he thought 
India could have been "really great, first-class, if we hadn't 
fallen victim to our own disunity." 

He is enthusiastic about his men. He loves giving them 
rousing pep talks. Indian troops, he tells them, are "the best 
damned soldiers in the world." Addressing a group of his Jats 
bound for Ladakh in the spring of 1962, he reminded them 
that one of their number had been decorated for knocking 
out a German machine-gun post in World War II. "The Ger- 
mans are a hell of a lot better fighters than the Chinese," he 
shouted at the top of his lungs, "but we beat the Germans. 
So don't listen to anyone up there in Ladakh who tells you 
how tough things are going to be. Unless you come back in 
a couple of years with two or three VC's [Victoria Crosses] 
among you, I don't want to see you. In that case you can just 
bugger off." This typically profane peroration was greeted 
with cheers and arm-waving by the impressionable Jats. 

Kaul's faith in Indian troops is more than bravado. He is 
really convinced that they are better trained (despite the cut 
in basic training from forty-eight to thirty-two weeks), better 
motivated, and in better physical condition than their more 
numerous adversaries across the Himalayas. He discounts the 
common notion that the Chinese have an easier supply prob- 
lem because they have to climb only 3,000 to 4,000 feet from 


the Tibetan plateau, whereas the Indians start 6,000 to 7,000 
feet below the Himalayan passes. "The Chinese," he insists, 
"have twenty times the difficulty we have in resupplying then 
troops. Their supply line may not be so steep as ours, but it'& 
a lot longer." 

Despite these difficulties, the Chinese were able to concen- 
trate large masses of troops and equipment at both ends of 
the frontier for their offensive in the fall of 1962. Their per- 
formance surprised Western military authorities as well as the 

Given adequate equipment and supplies, Kaul believes his 
men are more than a match for the Chinese. India's forces are 
all volunteer. China's is a conscript army. Indian troops get 
mail from home air-dropped with their supplies. They also 
get regular leave, even in Ladakh, and they are periodically 
rotated to more hospitable billets. The Chinese told Kaul 
in Korea that their men never got leave. Their troops receive 
mail infrequently and after long delays. Other military ob- 
servers generally confirm Kaul's estimate of the two armies 
despite reports of a minor mutiny among Indian Gurkha 
troops in Ladakh in the summer of 1960. 

The Indians' most serious deficiency in Ladakh is motor 
transport. They have to climb steep hillsides, while the Chi- 
nese move in trucks over a network of military roads and 
feeder tracks they have built across Aksai Chin's barren soda 
plains. The Chinese have at least eighteen major military sup- 
ply dumps in Tibet, and seven of the fourteen airfields they 
plan for Tibet are already completed. The Chinese are able 
to reinforce more quickly than the Indians. 

Kaul moved two extra battalions 1,800 men into Ladakh 
as part of the Indian build-up in the spring of 1962. Roads 
leading north were clogged with military vehicles. Kaul kept 
as many as twenty-four C-ng's (acquired on easy terms from 
the United States in 1959) in the air at a time, ferrying supplies 
to forward posts. Nehru said later that this movement had 
enabled Indian troops to secure possession of 2,500 square 
miles in Ladakh that were previously considered under Chi- 
nese control. Unfortunately, their gains were short-lived. 

India's real weakness in facing the Chinese is not the nu- 


merical inferiority of its forces, but the equipment muddle 
caused by Menon's obsession with producing arms domestically 
or buying them from the East bloc in preference to India's 
traditional Western suppliers. When the Chinese attacked in 
October 1962, the Indian Army still lacked a good rifle. 
Indian infantrymen used a ponderous local version of the 
World War I bolt-action .303 British Enfield, which has 
a strong recoil. Indian-made automatic rifles almost invari- 
ably develop a malfunction after three or four rounds in 
test demonstrations. The locally produced 4.2-millimeter mor- 
tar has a range of only 4,700 yards, compared with 7,900 yards 
for a U.S. weapon. The much-advertised Indian-made turbo- 
prop transport, the Avro-748, is the butt of ridicule because 
of repeated delays in its production and the plane's very low 
payload. Production of the HT-2 trainer was discontinued at 
the Hindustan Aircraft plant at Bangalore after only 160 
planes had been made. 

Menon boasted in 1961 that India was perfecting an air- 
to-air missile, but he later admitted that by the time anything 
of the sort could be supplied to the Air Force, it would be 
hopelessly outdated. The fiasco of the HF-24, touted as the 
first supersonic plane made in Asia, led directly to the quest 
for MiGs. 

When Indian troops overran Goa in December 1961, many 
marched in canvas shoes because a contract for boots had 
been switched from the Bata company to a small Indian firm, 
which failed to deliver. 

While the old Ishapore rifle factory near Calcutta is still 
unable to make a modern rifle, it did turn out, between 1958 
and 1960, a total of fifteen espresso coffee machines at a cost 
of 4,500 rupees (about $900) apiece. None of these not-so- 
violent weapons could be sold to the public, but one was 
given away to the late Dr. B. C. Roy, then chief minister of 
West Bengal and a confirmed tea drinker. 

Armed with espresso coffee machines and canvas shoes, even 
the finest Indian troops are ill-equipped to guard the country's 
8,200 miles of land frontier (including some of the most dif- 
ficult terrain on earth) and 3,500 miles of sea frontier. The 
Army consists of ten regular divisions, including one armored 


division with an independent armored brigade and several 
independent infantry brigades. The armored units must get 
along with British Centurions, American Shermans, and 
French AMX light tanks. Sometime in the future, the first 
Indian-assembled tanks will roll out of the Avadi plant near 
Madras. They will be produced under license from the British 
Vickers-Armstrongs firm. 

These ground forces are aided by a small Air Force equipped 
with a mixture of British, American, French, and Russian 
planes. There is no effective ground radar net. The Indian 
Navy acquired a refitted British aircraft carrier in 1961 to 
team with its two Ajax-class light cruisers and destroyer flo- 
tilla. The Navy's first antisubmarine reconnaissance squadron, 
equipped with French Alize aircraft, was commissioned in 
March 1961. The appointment of Rear Admiral B. S. Soman, 
a sailor with little sea experience for the last eleven years, as 
chief of the naval staff in April 1962 caused almost as loud 
a furor as the supersessions in the Army. Rear Admiral Aji- 
tendu Chakraverti, then the Navy's senior directing staff of- 
ficer at the National Defense College in New Delhi, resigned 
because his seniority and longer sea experience had been dis- 

Despite their relative newness in the military picture, both 
the Navy and Air Force are much more homogeneous than 
the Indian Army is. Diversity in the enlisted ranks is the 
Army's worst handicap next to its inadequate equipment. In 
British days the Army was a caste organization, with units 
organized on strict caste lines. Infantry regiments were re- 
cruited separately from the so-called martial classes Jats, Raj- 
puts, Punjabis, Dogras, Garhwalis, Gurkhas, and Marathas. 
South Indian Madrasis, adept with their hands, provided 
most of the sappers. Sikhs predominated among noncommis- 
sioned officers. There were vegetarian and nonvegetarian 
messes and other concessions to religious feeling. The officers 
were relatively homogeneous. They all communicated easily 
in English. Noncoms used a kind of basic Hindustani or the 
regional language of their unit. 

To get away from caste divisions, the Nehru government 
has repeatedly brought pressure on the generals to create 


mixed units. Enlisted ranks are now open to all comers, re- 
gardless of caste or region, but in practice the old martial 
castes still predominate. The best fighting formations are still 
close-knit one-caste outfits. Kaul insists that nothing can ever 
replace the martial spirit and centuries-old traditions of the 
one-class regiments. 

In another effort to promote "integration," the government 
is trying to popularize Hindi as the lingua franca of the armed 
forces. Officers are now supposed to pass an examination in 
Hindi. But the enlisted men's newspaper, Sainik Samachar., 
is still published in nine languages. A truly national army does 
not yet exist at the enlisted level in India. 

The fragmentation of India's military establishment (pri- 
marily the Army) is often cited by those who insist that a 
military coup is impossible in India. They contend that Sikhs, 
Jats, Dogras, Gurkhas, and others in Indian uniform can never 
be welded into a coherent force willing or able to sustain an 
officers' junta in power. I have never been able to accept this 
comfortable view. Everything I have seen of the Indian Army 
indicates that its officer corps is the most homogeneous and 
well-integrated all-India group in the country. The jawans 
take their cue from the officers, not from the politicians back 
home. Military discipline and tradition, as Selig Harrison 
rightly points out, help insulate the Army from regional and 
communal pressures. The Indian Army is an oasis of order in 
a national desert of indiscipline. The Army boasts an esprit 
de corps unknown in any other Indian institution, including 
the Congress party and the present Civil Service. 

I therefore think it naive to assume that the Army will 
necessarily be paralyzed in a crisis by its own diversity, which 
is not the same thing as disunity. If the civil power collapses, 
the Army is not likely to stand aside passively while India 
disintegrates. It is true that the Army has traditionally been 
a nonpolitical force on the British model. But the professional 
character of the British Indian Army applied as much to its 
Moslem officers, men like Ayub Khan, as to the non-Moslems. 
Yet Ayub and his fellow Pakistani officers did not hesitate to 
seize power in October 1958 when Pakistan's civilian poli- 
ticians had demonstrated their incapacity. The same thing 


could happen in India if Congress shows itself incapable of 
ruling without Nehru. The Indian officers are as conscious of 
their own power as the Pakistani officers were. I do not expect 
for a moment that the Indian Army will try to overthrow a 
functioning and reasonably efficient civilian regime even after 
Nehru goes. The Congress and Civil Service tradition is too 
deeply imbedded in Indian life to be uprooted by the caprice 
of the officer corps. But what could well happen is that the 
Army will come to regard itself as the only source of redress 
in a period of national calamity. 

If such evils do befall India, I think it would be impossible 
to overlook Brij Mohan Kaul. He far outranks other Indian 
generals in knowledge of the nonmilitary world, especially 
of foreign affairs. His experience in Washington and Korea 
and at the U.N. has given him an insight into international 
politics possessed by no other Indian officer. He is a man of 
bottomless self-confidence. He has the added advantages of 
youth, good health, and extremely influential family con- 
nections. If he fails, it is likely to be owing to what Metternich 
called an "excess of zeal/' He could as well turn out to be a 
Boulanger as a Bonaparte. 

The key question is whether Kaul could command the sup- 
port of enough of the Indian Army (and possibly elements of 
the Air Force and Navy) to dominate the country in a period 
of upheaval. A Delhi editor who professes to know says flatly, 
"Kaul is a house-builder, not a military man. He couldn't pull 
a coup because the Army wouldn't follow him." This is prob- 
ably true today and for the next year or two. Kaul would 
have no chance before he became chief of staff. But after that, 
his position, already good, would be enormously strengthened. 

General Choudhri, who now heads the Southern Command, 
with headquarters at Poona, might be named chief of staff if 
Thapar retires in 1963, but he is not likely to prove any last- 
ing impediment to Kaul. He is a stickler for British-style pro- 
tocol and an opportunist who would probably back the top 
man in Delhi. Moreover, he has a heart condition that may 
prevent him from serving even one term as chief of staff. 

The most powerful and important man in the Indian Army 
today outside Delhi is Lieutenant General Lionel Protip 


("Bogey") Sen, now in charge of the Eastern Command, which 
includes the Nagas and the long frontier with Tibet. He is 
a Sandhurst product and a holder of the Distinguished Service 
Order. He commanded the 10th Baluch Regiment in the 
famous "all-Indian brigade" that smashed the Japanese at 
Kangaw in World War II, and led the attack in Kashmir in 
November 1947. He is widely regarded as a Thimayya man, 
essentially nonpolitical, but anti-Menon and probably anti- 

Before the Chinese offensive, the Menon-Kaul strategy 
seemed to be to move Sen into the job of deputy chief of the 
army staff, then held by Lieutenant General Mohinder Singh 
Wadalia, a beardless Sikh who has wanted to retire for years, 
and is due to leave early in 1963. This would be a comedown 
for Sen, but if he refused, he could then be forcibly retired 
and eliminated from the picture. In either case Kaul would 
take over the Eastern Command. I have heard talk that Sen 
might try to pull off a coup of his own before his position is 
eroded. Although his present post carries more weight than 
Raul's, the CGS is closer to the levers of power in Delhi, in- 
cluding the Prime Minister and the Defense Minister. Kaul 
has exploited his central position to extend his control over 
every branch of the Army in a way that Sen would find dif- 

So the long finger of history always seems to swing back to 
Kaul when the Indian Army is discussed. He strikes me as 
being one of those tormented figures committed by his own 
inner compulsions to dominate or disappear. No middle 
ground or compromise is broad enough to contain his soaring 

Napoleon said that he found the crown of France lying in 
the gutter and picked it up with his sword. Kaul may find that 
the crown of India will crumble when he reaches for it. The 
disciple of discipline could become the harbinger of dissolu- 
tion. The supreme blow to preserve Indian unity could shatter 
the object of its desire. India could disintegrate like a crown 
of sand. 

A successful army coup, on the other hand, might prove 
more stultifying than one that failed. India, like the mythical 


phoenix, may always rise from the ashes of its own dismember- 
ment, but it may never rise if it is uprooted from its past by 
a military despot with alien ideas of order. A certain amount 
of chaos is endemic in India; military rule is not. Chaos after 
Nehru would not necessarily spell the final extinction of 
India's democratic experiment; military rule probably would. 
The dissolution of India, however catastrophic in the short 
run, may be remediable in the long run. Modern totalitarian- 
ism often proves irreversible. 

Military rule could be imposed on India while Kaul stayed 
discreetly in the background. He could be a Nasser to Thapar's 
Naguib or some other venerable facade. But such an arrange- 
ment would not change the real power in an Indian military 
regime. Moreover, Kaul would not be an unattractive military 
ruler. He could rationalize the demise of Indian democracy 
as skillfully as he does his relations with Menon. His perform- 
ance would certainly have more drive and polish than does 
the faltering Indian democracy in the second half of a cyclonic 
century of change. Kaul would do many things that now 
remain undone for want of courage. He would probably make 
a real attack on the awesome glut of people and animals in 
the Indian countryside. He would dynamite some of the musty 
catacombs of superstition and ignorance that still imprison 
the mind of India. He might well succeed in streamlining the 
clay-footed Indian bureaucracy and building armed forces 
capable of effectively protecting the country. He would cer-, 
tainly be acclaimed in Washington and London, and possibly 
also in Moscow. He could be the idol of all lovers of order. 

But all the skill and subterfuge of this galvanic figure could 
not create an orderly pattern of succession. The right of public 
dissent would have disappeared from its last major foothold 
on the mainland of Asia. As the rest of Asia knows, there are 
few turnings from the road to dictatorship. General Kaul or 
any man on horseback might soon find himself mounted on 
an Indian tiger that could only follow the footsteps of the Chi- 
nese dragon. 


THIS GALLERY is complete. One can agree with Schopenhauer 
that the hall of fame is a mixed company, and nowhere more 
than in India, the largest national museum of human diversity 
the world has ever seen. 

The seven men and one woman sketched' here mirror many 
of the contradictions of their country. At one end of the spec- 
trum is Jayaprakash Narayan, agonizing at the sight of a lizard 
trapped in his bookcase; at the other extreme, Brij Mohan 
Kaul, dreaming of hurling his legions at the Chinese hordes. 
Or consider the contrast between the archpriest of arrogance, 
Krishna Menon, and the apostle of self-effacement, Lai Ba- 
hadur Shastri. Morarji Desai, fasting on his pallet in an airless 
room, and S. K. Patil, luxuriating in an air-conditioned pre- 
view theater, may share a common political outlook, but 
hardly a way of life. Yeshwantrao Chavan's illiterate peasant 
mother and Indira Gandhi's highly literate aristocratic father 
both contrived to educate their offspring, but by different 
means and with different results. 

With the exception of Kaul, these persons have donned the 


loose cloak of socialism in their search for a role. No ideological 
raiment ever concealed more fundamental differences. Senator 
Barry Goldwater could cheerfully acquiesce in Patil's "social- 
ism" and might even find Desai's to his liking. Menon's social- 
ism is not the Soviet ideal, but Nikita Khrushchev could 
coexist happily with it. Socialism for Narayan is the shriveled 
husk of a doctrine whose contents have evaporated in the heat 
of reality. Shastri calls himself a Gandhian socialist, demon- 
strating thereby the Indian gift for reconciling the irrecon- 

Notwithstanding their differences, these eight have certain 
(albeit negative) things in common. None has established him- 
self as a dominant national figure. None can lay claim to the 
succession as a matter of right. Each suffers from past errors 
and present shortcomings. All except Menon and Kaul went 
to jail during the freedom struggle, but none except Narayan 
played a major role in the movement in India. All except Kaul 
are or have been members of the Congress party, but all except 
Patil were late-starters. None of the eight except perhaps Na- 
rayan has surrounded himself with the same aura of patriot- 
ism and self-sacrifice that distinguished the old-line freedom 
fighters like Nehru and Pandit Pant. 

It is a truism to say that none of Nehru's possible successors 
will inherit his vast power and prestige. At least in the begin- 
ning, none will possess his emotional rapport with the Indian 
masses. Foreign policy will no longer be the almost exclusive 
prerogative of the prime minister. For the first time, India 
may have a reasonable facsimile of cabinet government, with 
collective leadership at the top. Geographic and communal 
"balance" in the Union cabinet and the state governments will 
be increasingly necessary. The Congress parliamentary party 
and Parliament as a whole may become something more than 
a rubber stamp for the prime minister. Such prospects have 
led many Indians to conclude that all Nehru's possible heirs 
are political second-raters devoid of real ability. As I indicated 
in the beginning, I regard this view as dangerously mistaken. 
India is blessed with many capable leaders and some outstand- 
ing ones. To reproach them for not attaining giant dimensions 


under the Nehru banyan is to ignore political realities in 
independent India. 

Perhaps a final word about Nehru himself is in order. No 
one who compares India with the rest of non-Communist Asia 
can disparage the service he has rendered his country. Nehru 
has maintained unity and continuity in the face of appalling 
obstacles and has resisted the temptation to abridge civil rights 
or the tortuous processes of representative government. He has 
given India an intellectual impetus that most other former 
colonial countries lack. Although I have always felt that he 
could have done more to combat caste and communal bigotry, 
he has at least refused to condone them. He has championed 
a secular India and befriended Moslems, Sikhs, Christians, and 
other minorities. In view of his real achievements, the Nehru 
cult, in which so many Indians and some foreigners engage, 
is the greatest possible disservice to him and to India. It ignores 
Nehru's warm human qualities, his admitted fallibility, and 
his hatred of idolatry. I consider Nehru's most serious faults 
his naivet6 about Communism, his irrational fear of Indian 
and foreign private capital, his aristocratic distrust of public 
opinion on such a paramount issue as the struggle with China, 
and his egotistic refusal to prepare younger leaders for high- 
level responsibilities. 

Nehru's long history of self-deception about the aims and 
methods of world Communism needs no elaboration. His pro- 
claimed devotion to parliamentary institutions is less impres- 
sive in the light of his refusal to take Parliament into his con- 
fidence for more than four years after he knew Chinese ex- 
pansionism had become a serious threat to India. His un- 
willingness to give free rein to the dynamic forces of Indian 
and foreign private capital has obliged India to rely on an 
overburdened, paper-bound, and partially corrupt bureaucracy 
to provide the primary stimulus for progress. 

Nehru's passing may in fact release creative new forces 
stifled by the dead hand of a tired administration committed 
to outmoded Fabian economics. Not that I expect Nehru's suc- 
cessors to solve the problems that have baffled him, but a new 
approach may be helpful. The quality of those under the 


Nehru banyan is better than the deep shadows would lead 
one to believe, although it will take time before they can 
provide shade of their own for the country. As practitioners 
of the art of the impossible, Indian politicians can really be 
compared only for their inadequacies. None, including Nehru, 
has yet found a way to translate his individual capacity into 
the collective competence that India needs so desperately. 

There is something typically Indian in the fact that Lai 
Bahadur Shastri, who insists that he could never fill the prime 
minister's shoes, will probably be the first person asked to do 
so. India and Congress are ready for a respite from giants. 
But I doubt that Shastri has the physical or political endur- 
ance to ride the Indian tiger for long. The impasse between 
the Left and Right Wing factions in Congress that would be 
the condition for his being named prime minister would not 
last forever. As soon as one faction got the upper hand, 
Shastri's days would be numbered, unless he had meanwhile 
built a national following of his own. To do that he must 
demonstrate a Truman-like gift for projecting himself as the 
champion of the common man. 

I am inclined to agree with those who contend that the 
vital question in India is not "After Nehru, who?" but, "After 
Nehru's successor, who?" Nehru's removal from the political 
scene, either by death or incapacity, will send a shock through 
Congress comparable to that which the Soviet leadership felt 
when Stalin died. Of course Nehru has conducted no blood 
purges, but his passing will raise the same fears about the fu- 
ture of the Indian republic as Stalin's demise posed for the 
Soviet state. 

The first step will be a converging of party leaders on Delhi 
to attend Nehru's funeral or hover solicitously by his bedside 
if he is disabled. Little caucuses of state and group leaders 
will assemble all over the capital. Amid public tributes to 
Nehru's service, top civil servants like V. Viswanathan, in the 
Home Ministry, and military leaders like Kaul will be con- 
sulted on the security situation and their own views on the 
succession. The Congress Right Wing will take counsel with 
its big-business allies. The Leftist faction in Congress will 
sound out the Communists, hoping to learn their intentions. 


On every hand (except perhaps among Menon's followers and 
a section of the Army) there will be strong pressure for Con- 
gress unity and maintenance of an effective central govern- 
ment. This pressure will be particularly pronounced if Hindu- 
Moslem strife erupts in the aftermath of Nehru's removal from 
power. The Congress Working Committee will convene to 
choose a new chief, who will then be dutifully elected by the 
Congress parliamentary party as its leader and the party's 
nominee for prime minister. At this point India's chief of 
state, President Radhakrishnan, could upset the plans of the 
Congress bosses. He could refuse to appoint the first man 
proposed by the party and insist on another round of consulta- 
tions. But I think such a conflict is unlikely in the immediate 
post-Nehru period. Powerful forces in Congress and the coun- 
try will be working to close the leadership gap as quickly as 
possible. To avoid a prolonged factional struggle, Shastri 
might well be given the nod, especially because such powerful 
figures as Chavan and Kamaraj would have nothing to fear 
from him. 

The situation will be entirely different when Shastri or 
whoever succeeds Nehru leaves the scene (probably not long 
after Nehru's passing) and a new prime minister must be 
chosen. This will be the supreme test for Indian democracy. 
Congress is almost certain to have split openly and officially 
by that time. At best it will be a two-way division on Left-Right 
factional lines. Otherwise the party may disintegrate into a 
galaxy of petty state-based groups trafficking in caste, lin- 
guistic, or regional politics for the benefit of ambitious local 
leaders. My own hunch is that Congress will not fragment 
when it splits. Each of the two principal wings is likely to 
pick up strength from outside Congress when the break comes. 

Under Nehru the Congress party has shown a capacity for 
assimilation second only to Hinduism. The dilution of Con- 
gress doctrine has been almost as far-reaching. The parties 
that emerge from the breakup of the present Congress may 
begin life with a cleaner ideological slate, but their propensity 
for accretion will be no less. Indeed, the impulse will be 
stronger, because it will arise from necessity rather than from 
habit. Once each Congress offshoot has amalgamated whatever 


democratic splinters are in its orbit, further additions can 
come only from the extremists of Left or Right. 

The Congress Right Wing will probably merge with the 
Swatantra party and may possibly steal the Jan Sangh's com- 
munal thunder. The Congress Leftists may coalesce with the 
remnants of Indian socialism, including the Praja Socialist 
and the Socialist parties. The question is not whether the 
Congress as presently stitched together can be kept from rip- 
ping apart, but whether the products of a split can save them- 
selves from their potential allies on the far left and far right. 
If the party formed by the Congress Rightists is conservative 
without being communal, it will fill an urgently felt need 
in Indian politics. If, on the other hand, it becomes the tool 
of religious fanaticism and caste reaction, the effect would be 
to polarize the political field. Congress moderates would be 
driven to the left, and the Left would be more inclined to 
compromise for Communist support. The democratic alterna- 
tive would have evaporated like the first monsoon shower. 

Such a denouement is by no means inevitable if capable 
leadership is forthcoming. The Right has yet to rally around 
a single leader, but it is by no means leaderless. Morarji Desai 
commands the widest support and promises to be most ef- 
fective in office. Even he, however, would have to function, at 
least in the early months of a conservative government, as the 
first among equals. The Right Wing leadership would include 
S. K. Patil as campaign manager and tactician-in-chief at the 
local level, assisted by two promising younger leaders, Dr. Ram 
Subhag Singh, now Paul's deputy in the Food Ministry, and 
C. Subramaniam, the able minister of steel and heavy indus- 
tries. Patil is not likely to lead the Right unless Desai dis- 
appears before one of the younger leaders is ready to step in. 

Among the Congress Left, Krishna Menon and Indira 
Gandhi are the only leaders who can claim any following. 
Each has depended on Nehru's patronage and protection. 
Menon is a political solipsist with an anarchist's hatred of 
authority. His fiery brilliance is always visible, but his charm 
registers infrequently. Except for the fact that he is not Jew- 
ish, Menon is a caricature of the "rootless cosmopolitan" that 
Stalinist propagandists lampooned after the war. India is a 


rather unwelcome port of call on his restless voyage of intel- 
lectual discovery and disillusion. My guess is that he will cast 
off his lines and sail away after Nehru goes unless he can 
somehow quench his thirst for power in India. 

Indira Gandhi is neither rootless nor anarchic. She lacks 
her father's political finesse, but has infinitely more tact and 
decorum than Menon has. She cannot be ignored, especially 
if the Right Wing is forestalled in its first bid for supremacy 
after Nehru. In that event the Congress conservatives and 
moderates would certainly prefer Mrs. Gandhi to any other 
Leftist in the party. The Leftists themselves would gladly 
back her. I think she is a strong possibility in case of a dead- 
lock between the rival factions either immediately after her 
father or after one successor has been discarded. If she did 
become prime minister, I would discount her staying power, 
because the magic will soon fade from the Nehru name. 

Apart from Menon and Mrs. Gandhi, the Congress Left has 
no leaders worthy of the name. K. D. Malaviya, the oil min- 
ister, has made a reputation by jousting successfully with the 
Western oil companies and bringing Russian petroleum prod- 
ucts to India, but his political following is nil. He has no- 
where to go but left. Bijoyananda Patnaik, the youthful mil- 
lionaire businessman who retrieved Congress fortunes in 
Orissa, is a more sinister figure. He could embrace extremism 
of Left or Right with equal fervor. For tactical reasons he 
has opted for Menon's socialism, but principles will never 
interfere with his political mobility. In the summer of 1962 
Desai was saying privately that he enjoyed Patnaik's support, 
which must feel like the support provided by the hangman's 
noose. Patnaik still lacks national stature, but he is danger- 
ous because he combines political cunning and a certain 
demagogic appeal with Menon-like drive and ambition. He 
is unscrupulous and autocratic without needlessly alienating 
his followers, as Menon does. He has the added advantages 
of youth and good health. His most serious liabilities are his 
reputation for shady business deals and his dependence on 
primitive Orissa as a political base. Nevertheless, Patnaik is 
a man to watch. 

Jayaprakash Narayan enjoys wide popularity in parts of 


India, but, as one British diplomat has observed, he is a man 
who likes to accumulate vast power in his hands in order to 
do nothing with it. I regard him as a candidate of last resort, 
to whom the Congress bosses would turn only if a succession 
of party-line premiers had brought India to the brink of ruin. 
Narayan still has the taste for power, but I doubt if he could 
absorb the shocks of office at his age and in his present state 
of disenchantment. No compass shows where he stands today 
in relation to any known political landmark. Narayan, the 
man whom Nehru once considered his most likely successor, 
has come so nearly full circle that he could say by 1962 that 
he agreed on "almost everything" with the Swatantra party, 
Nehru's bete noire. Indian revolutionaries or prime ministers 
must be made of sterner stuff than Narayan is. 

A few Indians believe the stuff might be found in Ashoke 
Mehta, the scholarly young chairman of the Praja Socialist 
party and the only one of the party's four founders who still 
clings to it. Mehta and practically the entire PSP leadership 
were defeated for re-election to Parliament in 1962. The 
party's socialist platform has been pre-empted by the Com- 
munists on one side and Congress on the other, especially 
since 1955, when Congress became formally committed to a 
"socialist pattern of society." Mehta provides badly needed 
intellectual leavening for Indian politics, but he has shown 
little talent for organization and even less popular appeal. He 
spends much of his time abroad on lecture tours and other 
subsidized travel, which the West lavishes on articulate 
Indians. He may rejoin Congress in hopes of leading the Left 
Wing if Menon and Indira Gandhi are eliminated. But if he 
sticks with the moribund PSP, I think this dour and querulous 
figure can safely be consigned to ivy-covered lecture halls. 

The most promising prime-ministerial timber I have seen 
in India grows in Bombay. Yeshwantrao Chavan, who, in No- 
vember 1962, went to New Delhi as defense minister, is young 
(by the standards of Indian politics), intelligent, tireless, and 
infinitely adaptable. I think he is likely to prove India's most 
durable prime minister after Nehru and the one who 
most nearly approaches Nehru's stature. Chavan may not be 


ready to bid for the premiership before the mid-sixties at the 
earliest. Then I expect his political star to rise with phe- 
nomenal speed. He has the advantage of not being publicly 
identified with either the Desai or the Menon faction. Even- 
tually, of course, he will have to define his position. 

An army coup in India is unlikely to my way of thinking 
unless Congress dissolves after Nehru and allows the country 
to plunge into chaos. But if it were to happen, I am sure that 
Lieutenant General Brij Mohan Kaul, the most politically 
astute officer serving under Indian colors today, will be ready 
to step into the breach. 

As I said at the beginning, the eight Indians I have dealt 
with are important not only because of their own political 
prospects, but because each represents, in my opinion, some- 
thing enduring in contemporary India. They are, of course, 
not alone. There are many others party bosses, dark horses, 
and ambitious members of the Congress rank and file who 
may shoulder their way to the center of the stage or manipu- 
late the players from the wings after Nehru, 

One potential kingmaker is K. Kamaraj Nadar, a rough- 
hewn member of the toddy-tapping subcaste of Madras who 
has been that state's chief minister since 1954. Kamaraj, 
beetle-browed, taciturn, and impassive, looks like the captain 
of a pirate ship. He is generally considered the ablest chief 
minister in the business. A bachelor, he spends most of his 
time touring his state and talking with large numbers of its 
thirty-five million inhabitants. If he thinks a petitioner is 
wasting his time, Kamaraj simply murmurs the familiar Tamil 
phrase, "Akaddum partpom" meaning "Let it be" or "Well 
see," and moves on. But if he thinks something should be 
done, he acts at once. And more often than not, his orders are 
carried out, which cannot be said for most other state leaders 
in India. Madras is probably the best-administered state in 
India. Kamaraj keeps his cabinet small (unlike many other 
chief ministers, who try to accommodate all factions in their 
official family). His traveling retinue is held to a bare mini- 
mum. He is as unpretentious and direct as Chavan is. He 
cleaned up factionalism in the Madras Congress soon after he 


came to power. His position is now so secure that he can defy 
New Delhi on important matters and extract development 
money from the Planning Commission with more success than 
most state leaders. But he does not have to wage a running war 
with the central government, as the late Dr. B. C. Roy used 
to when he was chief minister of West Bengal. Kamaraj runs 
a taut ship at home without resorting to the strong-arm tactics 
that S. P. S. Kairon uses in the Punjab. A long-time foreign 
resident of India told me, "No future government will be 
able to operate in India without Kamaraj's approval, although 
he could never be an all-India figure himself." This opinion 
is well founded on all counts. Kamaraj could not come to 
the Center with any hope of success because he speaks almost 
no Hindi and little English. He is studying Hindi and under- 
stands a good deal of English, but has a command of neither. 
Even if he spoke both languages fluently, it would be difficult 
for a Tamil to win support in north India. Moreover, as his 
former protg Subramaniam told me once, Kamaraj is the 
kind of politician who prefers to stay close to the soil of his 
native province and away from the pomp and protocol of 
capitals. Tamil patriotism is unquenchable, and Kamaraj 
knows where his political strength lies. In Delhi he would be 
just another once-powerful state leader adrift in unfamiliar 
waters. But as a member of the Congress Working Committee 
and party boss of the most important south Indian state, his 
role in choosing Nehru's successor will be comparable to that 
of Governor David Lawrence, of Pennsylvania, at the 1960 
Democratic National Convention. 

The only threat to Congress in Madras today comes from 
the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), or Dravidian * 
Progressive Federation, a regional extremist party that is the 
main opposition in the state legislature. The DMK exploits 
south India's historic anti-Brahmanism and advocates secession 
from the north. The party's bogy is "Hindi imperialism" 
meaning the attempt to impose Hindi, a north Indian tongue, 
as the only official national language. Because Desai is a Hindi 
proponent who has also said some needlessly tactless things 

* The Dravidians are reputed to have been the original inhabitants of 
south India. 


about Kamaraj, the Chief Minister of Madras is likely to 
throw his support to Shastri in the immediate post-Nehru 
maneuvering. Shastri also favors the use of Hindi, but his 
approach and methods are far less autocratic than Desai's. The 
south feels it could live with Shastri; it is not so sure about 

There are only three south Indians now conceded any chance 
of becoming prime minister. Menon is a maverick who might 
as well have been born on the moon as far as most south In- 
dians are concerned. T. T. Krishnamachari, of Madras, former 
Union finance minister who is now in charge of economic 
and defense co-ordination in Nehru's cabinet, is a professed 
socialist and champion of state-owned industry. His record 
has not been free of scandal, and he suffers from the handi- 
cap (in south Indian eyes) of being a Brahman. TTK is a 
very long shot for the premiership, but he does have a cer- 
tain Tamil agility of mind that would make him useful to 
a Left Wing Congress government. Subramaniam, who came 
to the Center for the first time in 1962, is another upper-caste 
south Indian, but he has a more attractive personality than 
either TTK or Menon has. He has executive ability of a high 
order. Everyone agrees that he is a rising figure, but he will 
have to establish a reputation in Delhi before he could pos- 
sibly be considered for prime minister. 

Kamaraj is known to dislike Menon. He has little use for 
TTK and is probably jealous of Chavan. I have a feeling that 
he would go along with Indira Gandhi if Shastri proved 

India's sixty-five million untouchables have not yet ac- 
quired the political power of American Negroes, but they 
can no longer be ignored by caste Hindus. Many of the out- 
castes are swayed by the two members of their community 
who have attained most prominence in Congress: Jagjivan 
Ram, the rotund, Left-leaning minister of transport and 
communications, who has served longer in the Union cabinet 
than anyone except Nehru, and Damodaram Sanjivayya, who 
at forty-one became the first untouchable elected president 
of Congress. Ram's record as railways minister, before he was 
switched to his present post in April 1962, was marred by 


scandals and a series of fatal accidents. He is retained in ac- 
cordance with the principle of communal "balance," which 
will become even more important in Delhi cabinet-making 
after Nehru. Anyone who knows how New York City slates 
are drawn up to include at least one Jew, one Irish Catholic, 
and one Italian can understand why Jagjivan Ram is still in 
Delhi. Sanjivayya was not particularly effective as chief min- 
ister of the south Indian state of Andhra, but he began to show 
promise after his election in June 1962 to the Congress 

Neither Jagjivan Ram nor Sanjivayya can deliver the entire 
untouchable vote, because both the Communists and the Re- 
publican party (founded by former untouchables who have 
embraced Buddhism) have sizable support among the out- 
castes. Nevertheless, the two leading Congress untouchables 
will have a say when Nehru's successor is nominated. Jagjivan 
Ram may throw in his lot with Menon or Indira Gandhi. San- 
jivayya's preferences are not widely known, but I think he 
might back Mrs. Gandhi or Shastri. 

By rights, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, with some 
seventy-four million people in his state (the most populous 
in India), should exert strong influence in the selection of the 
next prime minister. In fact, the UP Congress party has been 
so riddled with factionalism and "groupism" that C. B. Gupta, 
the chief minister, will need several years to consolidate his 
own position before he can speak with authority in party 
councils. Whatever power he wields, his choice of a successor 
will be purely opportunistic, based on the tactical situation 
at the moment. 

Bihar, India's second-most-populous state, with almost 
forty-seven million inhabitants, produced many leaders dur- 
ing the independence movement, but today its chief minister 
is a nonentity and the state Congress is a shambles. Bihar's 
most illustrious son, former President Rajendra Prasad, re- 
tired at the age of seventy-seven in May 1962 after a pro- 
longed illness. Although his conservative Gandhian views still 
carry weight with many Congressmen, Rajendra Babu (as 
he is affectionately known in India) is obviously a declining 
force in national politics. Bihar's only other contributions 


are Narayan, Subhag Singh, and the Jan Sangh leader, A. B. 

West Bengal, whose capital is Calcutta, has a more sophis- 
ticated electorate than any other Indian state has. Historically 
Bengal has played a prominent role in India's cultural and 
political life. Tagore was from Bengal. Now, however, the 
temperamental Bengalis have virtually withdrawn from the 
scramble for power in Delhi. They take a kind of perverse 
satisfaction in their economic misery, which they blame en- 
tirely on the Center. West Bengal (whose predominantly 
Moslem eastern half now forms East Pakistan) regards itself 
as the Cinderella of India. It has produced no national 
leaders of importance since independence. The death on 
July i, 1962, of Dr. B. C. Roy, the state's venerable chief 
minister, threatened to plunge the local Congress into the 
same factional turmoil as in Madhya Pradesh, Raj as than, and 
other states where the party is divided. The only Bengali 
Congressman who seems to have any hope for rising in na- 
tional politics is Ashoke K. Sen, the youthful Union law 
minister, who defeated a strong Communist bid to unseat 
him in the 1962 election. 

India has three elder statesmen whose voices are still heard 
on the national scene. The founder of the Swatantra party, 
Chakravarti Rajagopalachari, is eighty-three and almost 
toothless. Although he is still mentally alert and occasionally 
astringent in his attacks on Congress, his importance seems 
to be dwindling. Acharya J. B. Kripalani, the Gandhian ex- 
president of Congress, now seventy-four, went into semi- 
retirement after failing to unseat Krishna Menon in the 
much-publicized North Bombay election in 1962. He had 
quit the PSP even before the election, and now appears 
headed for a political comeback if he can regain his seat in 
Parliament in a by-election. The third member of this aged 
trinity is Acharya Vinoba Bhave, Gandhi's so-called "spiritual 
heir" and apostle of the Bhoodan land-gift movement. Bhave 
is now sixty-seven and in indifferent health. He has succeeded 
to a large extent in keeping himself and Bhoodan out of 
party politics, although many of the things he says are im- 
plied criticisms of the bureaucratism that has overtaken 


Congress. Vinobaji, as he is called, will probably play no 
political role after Nehru unless his confederate Narayan is 
summoned to take the helm. His orthodox Gandhism seems 
to be a waning attraction. 

One elder statesman who will figure significantly in the 
political process after Nehru is India's President, Sarvepalli 
Radhakrishnan, who succeeded Rajendra Prasad in May 
1962 for a five-year term. Radhakrishnan, who is seventy-four, 
is a scholar and Kantian philosopher of world renown who 
clearly intends to exercise much more of the executive au- 
thority vested in the president than his predecessor ever did. 
Under the Constitution, all executive power, including su- 
preme command of the armed forces, is vested in the presi- 
dent. He appoints the prime minister, summons and dis- 
solves Parliament, and issues executive ordinances when 
Parliament is not in session. The chief of state is also em- 
powered to proclaim a state of emergency and to take over 
the administration of any state. Nehru's dominance reduced 
Prasad largely to figurehead status. After Nehru, the presi- 
dent will have proportionately more prestige because Nehru's 
successors will have less. Radhakrishnan has the added ad- 
vantage of having been in Delhi's limelight as vice-president 
from 1952 to 1962. As Frank Moraes says, "With Nehru's 
withdrawal from the political scene and the growing pressure 
of non-Congress groups in various states, the fulcrum of 
power would tend to be identified with the president rather 
than the prime minister, since in theory all executive power 
of the Union of India is vested in the former, and the likeli- 
hood of his exercising it more assertively will increase in the 
changed circumstances." 

In the event of a deadlock in the Congress hierarchy over 
the succession, Radhakrishnan's stand could be decisive. If 
the party leaders' nominee for the premiership did not suit 
him, he could withhold his consent and force them to re- 
consider. Such pressure might well tilt the balance in favor 
of Radhakrishnan's choice. Whomever he supports, the 
President is expected to uphold constitutional procedure. He 
is articulate, democratically minded, and suspicious of Menon 
and the other Congress Left Wingers. His preference would 


probably be for a successor from either the moderate or the 
Rightist group in the party. 

Personalities and political ideas have dominated this book. 
In India personalities are tremendously important. It would 
be a mistake, however, to conclude without a reminder that 
the forces shaping India today and destined to shape it in 
the decade after Nehru are not primarily generated by leaders 
or the ideology they profess. These elemental impulses spring 
from the ancient soil of India. The will to worship-gods or 
men is stronger than the most secular democrat in India. 
Caste will outlive every leader discussed here. A bicycle or a 
metal-tipped plow is probably a more powerful engine of 
change than the platforms of all the political parties in the 
country. The most important changes are often unnoticed 
by-products of the much-advertised "reforms" enacted by 
Parliament and promulgated by the president. For example, 
land reform has generally failed to achieve the goals set by its 
proponents, but by prompting a city-ward migration of 
Brahmans, it has profoundly altered the social and political 
structure of the Indian countryside. The reason is that land 
reform has expropriated absentee landlords, many of whom 
were Brahmans, but has not affected resident landowners* 
(mostly of lower castes), who have been able to evade the law 
by making a paper division of their holdings among members 
of their family. The upshot is that in Maharashtra and sev- 
eral other states non-Brahmans now control village pancha- 
yats for the first time. The caste complexion of panchayats 
is infinitely more important than are their party affiliations. 
Such changes in the countryside have not yet stimulated any 
wide upsurge of initiative or prosperity, but they may 
eventually produce an entirely new breed of political leaders, 
who will supplant the upper-caste hierarchy that now assumes 
it will continue ruling India after Nehru. The new class of 
lower-caste politicians may be more egalitarian; it may also 
be more corrupt and less inclined to temporize with the 
vagaries of democracy. 

Whenever I think about India's future, I am reminded of 
a tiny Siva temple on a hilltop in Kashmir that I visited 
once. I could hear the worshipers performing their devotions, 


but in the semidarkness I could not make them out clearly. 
I was conscious of motion, a kind of intensity of feeling, and 
the overpowering smell of incense, yet it was impossible to 
say who was leading the prayers, or, indeed, if there was a 
leader at all. So it is, too, with that most inscrutable riddle, 


acharya: literally, "teacher"; an honorific title given elder 
statesmen and others supposed to possess wisdom 

achkan: a long coat buttoned up to the neck 

ahimsa: noninjury to animal life or nonviolence regarded 
as a religious principle 

AICC: the All-India Congress Committee, the national 
committee of the Congress party, which meets twice 
yearly. Its membership now exceeds 500, based on a ratio 
of one member to every 100,000 of the population. 

Anavil: literally, "without blemish." It refers to a caste 
in Gujarat whose members are Brahmans by birth but 
traditionally farmers by occupation. 

anna: a coin equal to one sixteenth of a rupee; about four 
fifths of a cent at current exchange rates. The Indian 
government has legally replaced the anna with a rupee 
consisting of one hundred naye paise. 

Ayur-Veda: the book of the ancient, indigenous Hindu 
, system of medicine 

Azad Dasta: literally, "the Freedom Brigade"; guerrilla 



fighters equipped and trained in Nepal during World 
War II by the Indian underground for use against the 
British in India 

bania: a member of the Vaisya or merchant-trader caste. 
Banias are often petty storekeepers. The term has as- 
sumed a derogatory connotation when used by non- 

Bharatiya Jan Sangh (usually referred to simply as Jan 
Sangh): the Indian People's partythe traditionalist, 
Right Wing Hindu party 

bhoodan: literally, "land gift"; the movement started by 
Acharya Vinoba Bhave to collect voluntary land dona- 
tions for distribution among landless laborers in the 

bidi: a cheap Indian cigarette in which the tobacco is 
rolled in leaves instead of paper. It is smoked mostly by 
the poor. 

Center: the term used in Indian politics to denote the 
central government in New Delhi 

charkha: a hand-operated, one-spindle spinning wheel 
which became the Congress party symbol after Gandhi 
launched his campaign to replace imported, machine- 
made cloth with homespun 

chief minister: the highest elected official of any constitu- 
ent state of the Indian republic; roughly equivalent in 
power to the governor of an American state 

chiuda: parboiled, hand-pounded rice 

communalism: the general term used in India to cover 
religious and caste differences, especially when exploited 
for political purposes. The word sometimes refers to any 
caste, linguistic, or regional division, but most often it 
is used in connection with Hindu-Moslem or Hindu- 
Sikh relations. 

Community Development: the name of the village im- 
provement program launched in India in 1951. It has 
now been widely extended throughout the country, with 
varying effectiveness. 

Congress Working Committee: the twenty-one-member 
supreme executive body of the Congress party 


darshana: literally, a "glimpse." It usually refers to spirit- 
ual communion with a god or some eminent figure. 

dhoti: the diaper-like white cotton garment that many In- 
dian men wear in place of trousers 

Dravidian: the term used to describe the original in- 
habitants of south India before the Aryan influx from 
the north. It also denotes any of the indigenous lan- 
guages spoken in south India today. 

gosamvardhana: literally, "the development of cow 
wealth"; the slogan taken up by Hindu traditionalists 
who oppose cow slaughter on religious grounds 

gram sab ha: the assembly of all adults in a village which 
is supposed to oversee the functioning of the village 
panchayat, or council 

gramdan: literally, "village gift"; a movement associated 
with bhoodan in which private ownership of all land is 
relinquished in favor of collective village ownership 

gumashta: a revenue clerk or agent appointed by a land- 
lord to administer a village controlled by him 

Gurkha: one of the class of Nepalese mountain people 
who have long served with distinction as mercenaries in 
the British and Indian armies 

Harijans: literally, "children of God," the name Gandhi 
bestowed on untouchables 

hartal: a stoppage of all activity, usually used to exert 
economic or political pressure 

Hindi: the most widely spoken Indian language, and 
mother tongue of about 40 per cent of the population. 
Hindi is the official language of India, but English has 
retained its associate status under pressure from non- 
Hindi-speaking areas, principally south India 

ICS: the Indian Civil Service, a mixed British and In- 
dian administrative corps that attained the status of a 
governing elite during British rule. The initials after 
an official's name are still a badge of respectability in 
government circles. 

Jain: an adherent of Jainism, a sect of Hinduism founded 
about the sixth century B.C. in which the principle of 
nonviolence and preservation of all living creatures is 
carried to its most extreme lengths 


jaw an: a common soldier, the Indian equivalent of GI 

jeevandan: dedication of one's life to a cause, usually to 
Bhoodan in current usage 

Karma: the Hindu doctrine that holds that every deed, 
good or bad, entails certain consequences that may ap- 
pear during successive incarnations of the soul. It is 
often called the doctrine of retribution. 

Kashi Vidyapeeth: the so-called National University 
founded at Banaras as a result of Gandhi's campaign 
against British-supported educational institutions. 

Kayastha: an intermediate caste originally composed of 
scribes and petty government officials who served the 
Moguls at a time when the Brahmans boycotted the 
Moslem conquerors. Kayasthas are now widely dispersed 
over north India. 

khaddar or khadi: hand-spun and hand-woven cloth 
popularized by Gandhi during his campaign against im- 
ported machine-made cloth. Khaddar has long been the 
symbol of allegiance to the Congress party. 

kucheri: the place where a magistrate or other local official 
conducts judicial and administrative affairs in a town 
or larger village. The word originally referred to a court, 
but has come to mean any place where administration is 
conducted in a smaller locality. 

lathi: a long metal-tipped stave used by Indian police to 
disperse crowds 

Lok Sabha: House of the People, the lower house of 
India's central Parliament in New Delhi 

mantra: a Hindu hymn or psalm 

Maratha: the martial Hindu caste concentrated in what 
is now the state of Maharashtra, in western India. The 
most famous Maratha leader, Sivaji, established an em- 
pire in the seventeenth century, remnants of which sur- 
vived into the early part of the nineteenth. The Marathas 
are primarily farmers and soldiers. Their language is 

maund: a measure of weight equivalent to between 25 
and 82.28 Ibs. depending on the district 


Moslem League: the principal Moslem political party 
during the British period. The League's leader, the late 
Mohammed Ali Jinnah, is regarded as the father of 
Pakistan. In parts of India where the Moslem minority 
is politically important, the Moslem League is still 
active, although it disavows any links with Pakistan. 

Nair: a member of the powerful administrative caste that 
has historically controlled government and politics in 
what is now the state of Kerala. The Menons are a sub- 
caste of the Nairs. 

neem: an evergreen tree believed by many Hindus to have 
sacred significance 

padayatra: a walking tour, usually undertaken by politi- 
cal campaigners 

panchayat: an Indian village council originally supposed 
to consist of five elders 

panchayat-i-raj: a system of local government under which 
authority is decentralized to democratically elected 
bodies at the village, block, and district levels 

panchayat samiti: a statutory representative body elected 
by a number of panchayats grouped in a development 

Panch Sheel or panch shila: the so-called "Five Principles 
of Coexistence" first enunciated in the preamble to the 
Sino-Indian treaty of 1954 on trade with Tibet. The 
principles are mutual respect for each other's territorial 
integrity and sovereignty; nonaggression; noninterfer- 
ence in each other's internal affairs; equality and mutual 
advantage, and peaceful coexistence and economic co- 
operation. The 1954 treaty has now lapsed. 

Parsi: a descendant of Zoroastrian Persians who migrated 
to India as religious refugees after the Arab invasion of 
Persia in the eighth century A.D. The Parsis are now con- 
centrated in Bombay and are engaged mainly in com- 
merce and the professions. 

Patri Sarkar: the movement to establish a "parallel" or 
insurgent government in the Satara district, southeast of 
Bombay, during World War II. Although the movement 


succeeded in challenging British authority in many parts 
o the district, no "parallel government" was ever es- 

raj: literally, kingdom or empire; used in such expres- 
sions as the "British raj" 

Rajput: a member of the high martial caste that long 
held sway in the arid fastnesses of what is today the state 
of Rajasthan. Rajputs are now found in many parts of 
northern India. 

Rajya Sabha: the House of the Nation, the upper house 
of India's central Parliament 

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS): the so-called Na- 
tional Volunteer Association, a militant organization of 
Hindu extremists often involved in conflict with Indian 

sadhu: a holy man, usually a mendicant 

sampattidan: the gift of one's wealth for community 
projects or village betterment 

sarvodaya: literally, "the uplift of all"; the Gandhian 
ideal of the good life based on social uplift, with strong 
emphasis on village life and traditional Hindu values. 
The sarvodaya ideal is now propagated by a loosely or- 
ganized movement of Gandhi's disciples and followers. 

satyagraha: literally, "force of truth" or "soul force"; 
nonviolent civil disobedience originally used by Gandhi 
as a weapon against the British, now often employed for 
political and economic causes 

Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes: the names used 
in the Indian Constitution to describe untouchables and 
members of backward tribes who have retained their 
tribal identity. These groups are guaranteed special pro- 
tection under the Constitution, including reserved places 
in legislative bodies, educational institutions, and gov- 
ernment offices. 

sepoy: the old term for a soldier 

Shanti Sena: the so-called Peace Brigade, a private volun- 
tary organization set up to promote communal harmony 
and to intervene if necessary in Hindu-Moslem out- 


Shastri: literally, a "learned man" or "one versed in 
knowledge"; the honorific surname given to graduates of 
the so-called Shastri course at the Gandhi-sponsored 
Kashi Vidyapeeth (National University) at Banaras dur- 
ing the British period. 

shramdan: voluntary donation of one's labor, usually for 
a community project 

Sikh: literally, a "disciple"; a member o the martial re- 
ligious community that grew up in the Punjab in the 
time of Moslem rule as a reformist monotheistic sect. 
The founders of Sikhism borrowed heavily from both 
Islam and Hinduism. Sikhs are now found in all parts 
of India and many foreign countries. 

Siva (pronounced shee-va): one of the supreme Hindu 
deities, thought to embody the powers of destruction as 
well as reproductive or restoring power. Siva worshipers 
are one of the most numerous Hindu sects. 

swaraj: independence 

Tamil: a member of the largest linguistic group in south 
India. Tamils are also found in Ceylon, Burma, and 
Singapore as well as in all parts of India. The word also 
denotes their language, the oldest and most highly de- 
veloped of the south Indian Dravidian tongues. 

toddy: an intoxicating drink made in south India from 
the flower of the coconut palm. Toddy-tappers are a caste 
whose members collect the palm liquor. 

Urdu: the most widely spoken north Indian language 
after Hindi. Urdu developed as a lingua franca in army 
camps in Moslem times. It is now the official language 
of West Pakistan and one of the fourteen languages rec- 
ognized for official use by the Indian Constitution. 

zamindar: a hereditary revenue collector under British 
rule who became the de facto landlord of areas under 
his jurisdiction, often including entire villages 

zila parishad: an elected council set up by law at the dis- 
trict level in rural areas and usually charged with ad- 
ministration and development 


Abdullah, Sheik, 253 

Abel, Jane, x, 148 

Advise and Consent, 148 

Agriculture, 225-228, 236-238, 
239; livestock problem, 236-237 

Ahimsa, 132 

Akbar, 115, 248 

Ali, Aruna Asaf, 198, 201 

Ali, Asaf, 253 

Ali, Sadiq, x, 144 

All-India Students' Federation, 
17-18, 167 

All-India Trade Union Congress, 

Alva, Violet, x, 95, 178 

Army, 22, 24, 242-244, 246, 268; 
political posture, 49; equip- 
ment, 102-103, 266-268 

Assignment in Utopia, 195 

Association of Voluntary Agen- 
cies for Rural Development, 

Atlantic Charter, 202 

Austin, Warren, 252 

Azad, Maulana Abul Kalam, 11, 

Bahadur, Lai, see Shastri, Lai 


Baliga, A. V., 96, 157 
Bandaranaike, Srimavo, 179 
Bandung Conference, 83 
Barve, S. G., 151 
Bata company, 267 
Bavdekar, R. S., 154-156 
Besant, Annie, 67 
Beveridge, William H., 68 

Bevin, Ernest, 166 

Bhandare, R. D., 146 

Bharatiya Jan Sangh, see Jan 

Bhave, Acharya Vinoba, 206-208, 


Bhoodan, 206-208 
Birla, G. D., x, 32, 109 
Birth control, 22, 50; see also 


Blossoms in the Dust, 26 
Border Roads Commission, 264 
Bose, Subhas Chandra, 250, 251 
Boulanger, G.E.J.M., 270 
Bowles, Chester, 261 
Bromfield, Louis, 221 

Caste system, 8, 13, 152, 209-210, 


Central Reserve Police, 115 
Chakraverti, Ajitendu, 268 
Chavan, Dnyanoba, 135 
Chavan, Ganpatrao, 135 
Chavan, Venutai, 130, 138 
Chavan, Yeshwantrao Balwan- 
trao, 150-158; 41, 53, 99, 179, 
231, 247, 273, 277, 283; ap- 
pointment as defense minister, 
131, 132, 280; prospects of suc- 
cession, 47, 128, 132, 156, 158, 
233, 234, 280-281; domestic 
popularity, 133, 140, 143, 144, 
145-147, 157; as seen by non- 
Indians, 139, 148, 156, 157; 
political philosophy, 132, 133, 

i34> 136* 187' i3& iSQ-i^ 14 1 * 
146-147, 149, 153* i57-*58; pro- 


298 INDEX 

fessional, political background, 
130, 131, 133, 134, 135, i3 6 
138-140, 141, 144, 151, 156, 
274; personal data, 130, 131- 

132, 135' i3 6 > i3 8 > 142-143' HS- 

China, border dispute with, 17, 
22, 57-58, 85-86, 126, 176-177, 
187, 254-256, 257-258, 260, 264- 
265; U.S. aid during, 24; politi- 
cal reactions to, 16, 17, 82-83, 

Chou En-lai, 83, 84, 113, 170 

Choudhri, Joyanto Nath, 256, 

Churchill, Winston, 148 

Citizens Committee for Menon, 

Commonwealth of India League, 


Communism in India, 15-19, 41, 
96-7, 100, 141, 175, 194-195* 
206; number of Communists, 
17; Communist resolution on 
Chinese aggression, 17 

Community Development, 238 

Congress party, 10, 12, 13-15, 21- 
22, 124-125, 127; forecast for 
its future, 15, 99, 274; first ses- 
sion held, 36 

Corruption, 123-124, 139, 152, 

Cripps, Stafford, 30, 69, 136 

Cripps, Lady, 169 

Cromwell, Oliver, 30 

Curzon, George Nathaniel, 38 

Custer, George Armstrong, 264 

Dalai Lama, 176, 215 

Dange, Shripad Amrit, 17, 96 

Das, Bhagwan, 1 1 1 

Deane, Philip, 9, 69, 105 

Desai, Morarji Ranchhodji, 29- 
60; 20, 133, 139, 140, 141-142, 
146, 178, 179, 218, 235, 247, 
273; prospects of succession, 

32, 45, 47-48, 54, 57-59, 128, 
156, 278; domestic popularity, 
30-31, 47-48, 54, 59-60, 145, 
147, 157, 282-283; as seen by 
non-Indians, 31, 43-44, 46-48, 
58; political philosophy, 14, 31- 
32, 37, 40, 41, 42, 45> 5i-53> 55- 
56, 58, 274; professional, politi- 
cal background, 36-39, 41, 274; 
personal data, 29-30, 32-34, 35- 
36, 39-40, 43-44, 49-51, 53, 131, 
143, 187, 188, 222, 236 

Deshmukh, C. D., x, 156, 233 

Devi, Lalita, 1 1 2 

Dewey, John, 195 

Dey, S. K., 152, 218 

Dhebar, Uchhrangrai Navalshan- 
ker, x, 172 

Dravidian Progressive Federation 
(DMK), 282 

Dulles, John Foster, 78, 82 

Dutt, Ranjan, 261 

Edwardes, Michael, x, 54, 103 
Eisenhower, Dwight David, 10, 

83, 225 
Elizabeth II, coronation of, 171 

Film Enquiry Board, 240 
Ford Foundation, 238 
Freedom party, see Swatantra 

Galbraith, John Kenneth, x, 102- 

103, 260, 261 

Gandhi, Feroze, 167, 168, 171-172 
Gandhi, Indira, 159-184; 12, 14, 
45, 66, 107, 125, 273, 280, 283; 
prospects of succession, 178- 
179, 183-184, 278-279; domestic 
popularity, 20, 160, 161, 173, 
176, 178; as seen by non- 
Indians, 160, 167, 170, 180, 183; 
political philosophy, 161, 162, 
174-176, 177, 180-183; profes- 
sional, political background, 
156, 161, 162-163, 164, 168, 170, 



171, 172, 173, 274; relationship 
to Krishna Menon, 69, 101, 

166, 179; personal data, 101, 
128-129, 159, 160-161, 163-166, 

167, 172, 179, 180 

Gandhi, Mohandas Karamchand, 
ix, 10, 31, 35, 44, 95, in, 133, 

*35 *37 146* 148* !49> 161, 
162, 169, 170, 174, 183, 185, 
186, 189, 201, 204, 207, 213, 
214, 217, 229, 230, 243; in jail, 
38; see also Quit India Move- 

Gandhi, Rajiv, 169, 172 

Gandhi, Sanjay, 169, 172 

"Ginger group/' 172 

Glimpses of World History, 166 

Goa crisis, 57, 90-94, 145, 177, 
217, 235, 261 

Goldwater, Barry, 274 

Gomez, Manuel, 191 

Gosamvardhan, 237 

Gramdan, 207-208 

Grimes, Paul, x, 167 

Gupta, C. B., 113, 284 

Gyani, P. S., 255 

Hall of All Religions, 248 
Hammarskjold, Dag, 80, 83 
Handoo, G. K., 90 
Harijans, status of, 13 
Harrison, Selig, 9, 269 
Higginbotham, Sam, 165 
Hindustan Aircraft Ltd., 261, 


Holmes, Oliver Wendell, 115 
Home Ministry, description of, 

115-117, 126 

Home Rule Movement, 67 
Hugo, Victor, xi 
Hume, Allan Octavian, 172 
Hungary, 78-82, 187, 214-215 

India: administrative problems, 
116, 122-124; agriculture, 225- 
228, 236-238, 239; livestock 

problem, 236-237; American 
aid to, 24-25, 225; Army, 22, 
24, 242-244, 246, 268; political 
posture of, 49; birth control, 

22, 50; caste system, 8, 13, 152, 
209-210, 287; corruption, 123- 
124, 139, 152, 232; employ- 
ment, 23; income per capita, 

23, 24; Japanese incursions 
against, 39, 250; language divi- 
sions, 7, 41, 119-122, 141-142; 
population, 5-6, 27; power 
politics in, 54; progress, 3; size, 
6; tribalism, 8 

India League, 68, 69, 166 

Indian Administrative Service, 

Indian Civil Service, 116 

Indian Council for Child Wel- 
fare, 163 

Indian Institute of Public Opin- 
ion, 128, 218, 233 

Indian National Congress, see 
Congress party 

Indian Police Service, 116 

Indian Statistical Institute, 23 

Indo-Soviet Cultural Society, 96 

Industries Fair, 258 

Intelligence Bureau, 115 

International Council for Child 
Welfare, 163 

International Monetary Fund, 

44-45* 47 
Ishapore rifle factory, 267 

Jacobsson, Per, 44 
Jagjivan Ram, see Ram, Jagjivan 
Jain, Ajit Prasad, 223-224 
Jaipur, Maharani of, 21, 53 
Jan Sangh (Bharatiya Jan 

Sangh), 19-21, 54, 95 12 4 278, 


Jefferson, Thomas, 148 
Jinnah, Mohammed Ali, 183 
Joan of Arc, 164 



Johnson, Louis, 252 
Johnston, Eric, 240 

Kabir, Humayun, 99 

Kairon, Sardar Pratap Singh, 99- 
100, 282 

Kamaraj, see Nadar, Kamaraj K. 

Karma, Law of, 3, 52 

Kashmir, 93, 97, 216, 252-253 

Kaul, Brij Mohan, 242-272; 273, 
276; prospects of succession, 
104, 247, 270-272, 281; domes- 
tic popularity, 245, 247-248, 
257, 271; as seen by non- 
Indians, 248, 261, 272; politi- 
cal philosophy, 246, 251, 254, 
260-261; personal data, 244- 
245, 247, 248-249, 252, 259-260, 

Kaur, Rajkumari Amrit, x, 174 

Kennedy, John F., 47, 56, 87, 88, 
147, 160, 261 

Kennedy, Jacqueline, 53, 182-183 

Khan, Ayub, 217, 269 

Khayyam, Omar, 219 

Khrushchev, Nikita S., 274 

Kipling, Rudyard, 243 

Kripalani, Acharya Jiwatram 
Bhagwandas, 61, 95, 97, in, 

*34> 28 5 
Krishna Menon, Vengalil Krish- 

nan, 61-105; 14, 18, 30, 43, 45, 
46, 47, 48, 57, 126, 171, 172, 
177, 178, 235, 245, 247, 259, 
260, 264, 267, 273, 280, 284, 
285, 286; prospects of succes- 
sion, 101, 105, 128, 179, 278- 
279; Congress party backing, 
97-98, 10 1; domestic popular- 
ity, 56, 62, 63, 64, 75, 94, 95-96, 
97-98, 187, 214, 271, 283; as 
seen by non-Indians, 64-66, 
261; dependence upon Nehru 
for support, 56, 62, 64, 70, 71, 

74 77> 79 94-9 6 101 255-256, 
258; years in England, 62, 67, 

69, 75, 166-167; education, 67- 
68; as High Commissioner to 
Court of St. James's, 74, 75-76; 
as U.N. delegate, 77-80, 97; on 
troika plan, 88-89; as defense 
minister, 101-103; removal 
from Defense Ministry, 100- 
101, 103; removal from cabi- 
net, 83, 101, 105; in Congress 
party affairs, 69, 234, 274; po- 
litical philosophy, 64, 65-66, 
71, 72-74, 78, 82, 94-95, 96-97, 
100, 261, 263, 274; on disarma- 
ment, 88-89; on nuclear- test 
ban, 87-89; professional, politi- 
cal background, 67, 70, 72, 94- 
97, 101-103; personal data, 64, 
66, 67-68, 70, 75, 98-99, 131, 
212; response to criticism, 65, 

Krishnamachari, T. T., 46, 99, 
105, 114, 171, 283 

Ku Klux Klan, 74 

Lall, Arthur, 89 

Lamb, Helen B., xi, 232 

Landy, Avrom, 190, 191 

Lane, Alan, 70 

Laski, Harold, 53, 68, 69, 70, 230 

Laski, Mrs. Harold, x, 63, 68, 70, 

Lawrence, David, 282 

Lazarsky, Barbara, 169 

Leadership and Political Institu- 
tions in India, xi, 232 

Lenin, Nicolai, 105, 136, 174, 193 

Leninism, effect on Narayan, 

Lincoln, Abraham, 148 

Lodge, Henry Cabot, 78 

Lohia, Ram Manohar, 19, 198, 

London School of Economics, 68, 
167, 230 

Long, Huey, 100 



Loves tone, Jay, 191 
Lumley, F. E., 192 

Macbeth, 109, 205 

Madhok, Balraj, 20 

Mahalonobis, P. C., 23 

Mahasabha, 54 

Malaviya, K. D., 99, 100, 178, 

i79' *79 

Manekshaw, S.H.F.J., 259 
Mao Tse-tung, 105, 174, 206, 254 
Marshall Plan, 225 
Marx, Karl, 7, 53 
Marxism: effect on Menon, 68; 

on Chavan, 136, 147; on Nara- 

yan, 185, 186, 189-195 
Masani, Minoo R., x, 71, 74, 167, 

Mehta, Ashoke, 280 

Menon, K.P.S., 80 

Menon, V.K.K., see Krishna Me- 
non, Vengalil Krishnan 

Metternich, Klemens W. von, 

Miserables, Les, xi 

Mody, Homi, 221 

Mohammed, Bakshi Ghulam, 99, 


Mohr, Charles, 83 
Mone, N. T., 155 
Montgomery, Bernard Law, 250 
Moraes, Frank, x, 65, 82, 101, 

156, 183, 286 
Moslem League, 174 
Mountbatten, Louis, 251 

NATO, 217 

Nadar, Kamaraj K., 13, 47, 99, 
143, 179, 218, 277, 281-282, 283 
Naik, V. A., 155 
Nair, Kusum, x, 26-27, 208 
Namboodripad, E.M.S., 16-17, 

Napoleon Bonaparte, 104, 245, 

247, 270, 271 

Narayan, Jayaprakash, 185-219; 
157, 246, 273, 285, 286; pros- 
pects of succession, 22, 128, 
185, 218-219, 279-280; popu- 
larity, 201, 213, 217-218; as 
seen by non-Indians, 192, 203; 
political philosophy, 19, 186, 
189, 190, 191, 192-194, iQ5> 
203, 205, 209-211, 213, 274; 
professional, political back- 
ground, 22, 193, 195, 196, 200- 
203, 204, 213-214, 218, 274; 
personal data, 185-188, 189- 
*93> 196-202, 210, 212 
National Defense College, 268 
National Integration Committee, 


National Press Club (U.S.A.), 47 
National Volunteer Association, 


Nazism, 137 

Nehru, Jawaharlal, 6, 9-16, 22, 
25, 28, 30, 32, 40, 41, 43, 44, 45, 
47, 104-105, no, 111, 112, 113, 
120-121, 125, 129, 141, 142, 
146, 162, 171, i72ft, 178, 180, 

193, 201, 204, 211, 212, 213, 
214, 217, 222, 231, 235, 243, 
247, 251, 252, 26l, 274, 275- 

276; age, 8; present titles and 
duties, 10, 12; political philos- 
ophy, 12, 13-15, 46, 52, 66, 93, 
124, 126, 132, 157, 187, 216; 
family, 159, 164-166, 168, 169, 
183; in Congress party affairs, 
11, 12, 114, 127; and Krishna 
Menon, 56, 71, 74, 77, 83, 94- 
95, 100-101, 105, 256; gratitude 
toward Menon, 70; defense, of 
Menon, 62, 64, 77, 79, 95-96, 
255-256, 258; as seen by others, 
vii-viii, 9, 59, 133, 157 
Nehru, Kamla, 164-166, 167 
Nehru, Motilal, 111, 164, 167, 

Nehru, Rajan, x, 178 


Neutral National Repatriation 
Commission (of the U.N.), 253 
Nightingale, Florence, 177 

O'Daniel, John W., 252 
"On Compromise," 136 
Operation Vijay, see Goa crisis 

Pakistan, 19, 216, 252-253 

Palit, D. K., 261 

PanchSheel, 11,83 

Pandit, Vijaya Lakshmi, x, 77, 
180, 182, 183 

Panikkar, K. M., x, 47, 64, 86 

Panshet Dam disaster, 153-156 

Pant, Pandit Govind Ballabh, 1 1, 
48, 111, 113-114, 115, 118, 120, 
129, 169-170, 274 

Paramahamsa, Ramkrishna, 52 

Patel, Sardar Vallabhbha, 11, 35, 
37> 75' 10 9> "3 l8 3> 204, 223, 

Patil, Sadashiv Kanoji, 220-241; 
32, 41, 107, 109, 146, 179, 218, 
273, 278; prospects of succes- 
sion, 47, 128, 233, 241; domes- 
tic popularity, 222, 232-234, 
240; as seen by non-Indians, 
239; political philosophy, 217, 
235, 239, 240, 274; professional, 
political background, 125, 223- 
226, 230-231, 234, 235, 241, 
274; personal data, 222, 226, 
229-230, 236 

Patnaik, Bijoyananda, 47, 100, 
178, 279 

Physiocrats, 192 

Picture of Dorian Gray, The, 104 

Plato, 159 

Population, 5-6, 27; see also 
Birth control 

Portuguese Colonialism, Seminar 
on, 145 

Powell, Herbert, 260 

Praja (People's) Socialist party, 
19, 95, 146, 153, 175, 199, 205, 
207, 213, 218, 278, 280, 285 

Prakasa, Sri, 112 

Prasad, Rajendra, 162, 174, 191, 
284, 286 

Preventive Detention Act, 127 

Quit India Movement, 39, 73, 
111, 137, 231 

Radhakrishnan, Sarvepalli, vii, 
277, 286 

Radziwill, Princess Lee, 53 

Rajagopalachari, Chakravarti, 21, 

Ram, Jagjivan, 45-46, 99, 125, 
178, 179, 283-284 

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, 
see National Volunteer Associ- 

Reddy, Sanjiva, 125 

Rees, T. W., 250 

Rehman, M. A., 80 

Rosen thai, A. M., 77 

Roy, B. C., 267, 282, 285 

Roy, M. N., 136-137, 190 

Russell, Bertrand, 69, 136, 230 

Sampattidan, 207 

Sampurnanand, Dr., 112 

Sanjivayya, Damodaram, 12, 179, 

Sarathy, R. P., 76 

Sarvodaya, 132, 207, 209, 211, 213 

Satyagraha, 212 

Schlesinger, Arthur, Jr., 157 

Schopenhauer, Arthur, 273 

Scott, Rev. Michael, 211 

Seminar on Portuguese Colonial- 
ism, 145 

Sen, Ashoke K., 76, 99, 285 

Sen, Lionel Protip, 270-271 

Shanti Sena, 211-212, 217, 218 

Sharma, Hari, 117 

Shastri, Lai Bahadur, 106-129; 



12, 41, 101, 157, 177, 178, 2l8, 

273, 284; prospects of succes- 
sion, 47, 107, no, 128-129, 276, 
277; domestic popularity, 59, 
107, no, 114, 118, 127-128, 
283; as seen by non-Indians, 
128; political philosophy, 109- 
110, 116, 124, 125-126, 274; 
professional, political back- 
ground, 37, 106-107, 112, 113- 
117, 162, 274; the "Shastri for- 
mula/' 119-122; personal data, 
59, 107-112, 117-118, 128, 129, 
165, 189 

Sheehan, Vincent, 71, 187 

Shramdan, 207 

Shroff, A. D., 134, 147 

Simon, John, 113, 249 

Singh, L. P., x, 117, 118 

Singh, Master Tara, 121-122 

Singh, Ram Subhag, x, 218, 278, 

Singh, Suraj Narayan, 199 

Sivaji, 135, 143, 149 

Slim, William, 250 

Socialist party, 19, 194, 278 

Soman, B. S., 268 

Sorensen, Reginald, x, 70, 76,- 

Special Police Establishment, 115 

Stalin, Josef, 104, 193, 203, 276 

States Reorganization Act, 141 

Stein, Gertrude, 3 

Stilwell, Joseph W., 251 

Subramaniam, C., 179, 278, 282, 

Sukhadia, Mohanlal, 178 

Suslov, Mikhail A., 15 

Swatantra (Freedom) party, 21, 
95, 124, 134, 186, 232, 278, 280, 

Tandon, Purshottamdas, 127 

Tariq, A. M., 95, 99 

Tatas, 235 

Taylor, Maxwell, 251 

Thant, U, 89 

Thapar, Pran Nath, 65, 248, 256, 


Theosophical Institute, 67 
Thimayya, K. S., x, 76, 101, 103, 

104, 243, 247, 250-251, 254, 

255, 256, 259, 261, 262, 271 
Tibet, 83-84, 162, 176, 187, 215- 


Tilak, Lokmanya, 38, 135 
Trikumdas, Purshottam, x, 71, 

73> 76, 77* !?6 
Trotsky, Leon, 190, 195 

UNESCO, 163 

Union League Club, 243 

United Nations, 202, 217; 
Krishna Menon as delegate, 
77-80, 97; troika proposal, 88- 


Vajpayee, A. B., 20, 285 
Viswanathan, V., x, 116-117, 276 
Vyshinsky, Andrei, 78 

Wadalia, Mohinder Singh, 271 
Ward, Barbara, 25 
Weiner, Myron, ix, x 
Weiss, Albert P., 192 
Wells, H. G., 230 
Wilkinson, Ellen, 166 
Women's National Press Club 

(U.S.A.), 178 
World Bank, 47 
World Peace Brigade, 211-212 

Tagore, Rabindranath, 8, 28, Zakaria, Rafik, x, 134 
166, 285 Zeno, 192 

\ RAN 


P A K / 5 



Welles Hangen wfib born in New York in 
1930 and was educated at the University of 
Virginia, Brown University, and Columbia 
Univeisity He was a newspaper reporter 
from 1948 until 1956, for the Ptais Herald 
and The New York Tunes Since 1956 he 
has served the National Broadcasting Com- 
pany as a correspondent in die Middle East 
and in India He is now chief of their South 
Asia News Bureau 

750 Third Ave,Naw York 17, NY