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Armyman MP

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The Henpecked Husbands Association of India is a four-member set-up, which Congress’s Kamakhya Prasad Singh Deo claims to have founded. It is "vibrant and popular", he asserts, saying that the members are all from his wife’s family.

Deo was married when he was still in college. Savitri, then barely 15 years, was Krishnapriya till her wedding eve. His own, of course, sounds ponderous: Kamakhya Prasad Singh Deo Mahendra Bahadur Dev, AVSM. He is among those who have used the anti-aircraft Bofors gun during the 1971 war.

Had the Viceroy accepted his father’s petition to adopt a male child, KP Singh Deo may not have been the ruler’s heir. His mother, Ratnaprabha, unable to bear a child, would urge Deo’s father to remarry. A trip to Shillong coincided with the festival of barren women taking a holy dip near the Kamakhya temple. Deo’s mother did. Within a year, 'KP.' was born.

Deo earned the AVSM title in the army. Impressed with his knowledge of defence, Sardar Swaran Singh, Defence Minister, asked Deo, then a young MP in 1971, to join the army: "I am the only politician to have fought a war as an MP."

On his first day in the army, he was summoned by the commandant who, having learnt that he was an MP, offered him tea. This was a relief for Deo who was expecting to be reprimanded. He had, the previous night, escaped the barracks to see Jabalpur’s famous marble rocks.

Army training helped him cope with “unexpected situations” including his stint as Information and Broadcasting Minister. Not familiar with newspapers or television, the ministry was as alien to him as the territorial army when he joined it. Today, he has retired from both: active politics and army after spending 40 and 36 years respectively: "I retired as a Brigadier," Deo says proudly.

As Defence Minister, while the Army Chief addressed him as “Sir”, Deo followed it by saluting him: "I was Defence Minister but also an army officer. Not saluting the Army Chief would attract disciplinary action,” he quips.

Email Kumkum Chadha: kumkum@hindustantimes.com