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Advani's been misled, now he's misleading us

I've spotted two embarrassing errors in LK Advani's blog. Yet, with only a little effort Mr Advani would have known what he was presenting as fact was pure fiction. Karan Thapar writes.

columns Updated: Nov 17, 2013 02:06 IST

"Beware of blogs", Pertie warned a long time ago. "They're often misleading."

What I didn't realise is that's sometimes also true of those maintained by former deputy prime ministers. Recently, I've spotted two embarrassing errors in LK Advani's. Yet, with only a little effort Mr Advani would have known what he was presenting as fact was pure fiction.

In a blog dated November 5 called 'When VP Menon cornered a British General', Advani presents extracts from former IAS officer MKK Nair's book The story of an era told without ill will. Unfortunately, Nair is either making things up or reporting unverified loose talk which Advani has gullibly accepted as truth.

First, Nair claims that at a Cabinet meeting in 1948 Nehru called Patel "a total communalist". Nair's account suggests he was present and witnessed the incident.

The facts of Nair's life disprove this. His son, Gopinath Krishnan, has told my colleague, Arvind Kumar, that Nair was born in 1920 and joined the IAS in 1949. This means in 1948 he was just 28 and not in service.

So he could not have been present at a Cabinet meeting to hear this conversation. Nair has either made it up or is passing on someone else's untrue story. Incidentally, Patel's best-known biographer, Rajmohan Gandhi, doesn't believe this tale.

Second, Nair claims General Sir Roy Bucher, then India's army chief, was caught tipping off the Pakistani army chief (another Englishman) in French about India's decision to send troops into Hyderabad.

VP Menon, Nair says, used this to force Bucher's resignation. It allegedly happened in September '48, a day before the Hyderabad operation.

Again, facts disprove this story. Bucher served as army chief till January 15, 1949 when KM Cariappa took over. If he had been caught informing Pakistanis and his resignation obtained in writing how come he continued in office, for four more months?

Also, if VP Menon pulled off such a dramatic operation how come he never wrote about it or told his family? Neither of his two books mentions this and his daughter-in-law and grandchildren (my masi and cousins) know nothing of it. In fact, isn't it odd that no one other than Nair has heard of this?

However, Nair presents the alleged Menon-Bucher conversation in quotations. That means this is precisely what they said to each other. Yet, it transpired behind closed doors where he definitely wasn't present!

Finally, Bucher didn't speak French. How do I know? He was my guardian when I was at Stowe. Whilst struggling over a French translation, a requirement of the Cambridge entrance exam, I asked for help.

He answered (from memory): "I can help you with Hindi, old boy, but I don't know that wretched language!" Incidentally, even in '72, nearly 25 years after leaving India, Bucher spoke good Hindi!

Once again, Nair has either made it all up or is relying on an apocryphal story.

For his part, Advani has been inexplicably credulous and far too willing to believe the worst of Nehru and Bucher, men he never knew. Also, knowingly or unwittingly, he's misleading his readers.

One other point. Advani's blog of November 7, this time relying on his own research, claims Bucher was army chief from 1946 to '48. Wrong. Field Marshal Auchinleck was chief till August 15, 1947.

Gen Rob Lokhart succeeded him and served till December 1947 (when, some say, he was sacked but that's another story). Bucher took over in December 1947 and lasted till January 1949.

Pertie, it seems, was spot on.

Views expressed by the author are personal