Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Pandits, Nairs, Advisers


While reading Guha's "India After
Gandhi", it was interesting to know about the influence wielded by Kashmiri Pandits during Indira Gandhi's tenure. Collectively known as the 'Pancha Pandavas', these five 'hero's' were -
  1. P.N. Haskar - LSE graduate, a student of mathematics, keenly interested in history (diplomatic & military); Indian ambassador to Austria, first High Commisioner to Nigeria, Dy. High Commisioner to UK (1967) before being called by Indira Gandhi to become her Principal Secretary.
  2. T.N. Kaul - politician turned diplomat
  3. D.P. Dhar - politician turned diplomat
  4. P.N. Dhar - economist turned mandarin
  5. R.N. Kao - policeman turned security analyst; founding Director of RAW

Equally fascinating was the description of V.P. Menon's role - first, before Independence as reforms commissioner and constitutional adviser to successive viceroys (including Lord Mountbatten), and his key role in drafting the Indian Independence Bill. And then his subsequent role in the integration of Indian states, as Secretary to India's first Home Minister, Sardar Patel. He was, according to Guha -

"...a small, alert and ferociously intelligent Malayali from Malabar. Unusually for a man in his position, Menon had come from the ranks. Far from being a member of the elite Indian Civil Service - as other secretaries to the government were - he had joined the government as a clerk and steadily worked his way up...His peers in the ICS derisively called him 'babu Menon', in reference to his lowly origins."


Times, it seems, have changed. Yesterday, the Indian Express came up with a piece under its Monday column, Delhi Confidential, titled, "The More Things Change..." referring to the number Nairs who occupy sensitive positions in the present administration:

  • M.K. Narayanan - former national security adviser (NSA), now governor of West Bengal
  • Shivshankar Menon - MKN's protege; former foreign secretary, present NSA
  • Nirupama Rao - Foreign Secretary
  • G.K Pillai - Home Secretary
  • T.K.A. Nair- Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister
  • (J.N. Dixit - the first NSA was born a Nair before taking his stepfather's surname)

The only name missing in the Express list was Shashi Tharoor. But then, he is neither an advisor nor a bureaucrat. He India's just India's irrepressible twitter-in-chief disguised the Minister of State for External Affairs, committed to unraveling the cocoon of myths & yarns of hypocrisy in the Indian political discourse... :)

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Links / Reference:

Guha, Ramachandra (2007), India After Gandhi [Picador India pp.40-41, 434-435]

"The More Things Change...", Indian Express - Delhi Confidential - 26 Jan 2010 http://www.indianexpress.com/news/the-more-things-change.../571181/

"Manmohan - The Mallu Connection", T.V.R Shenoy, Rediff.com - 2 June 2004



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