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Modi Bloopers Continue; General Thimmaya Latest Victim

PMO should be able to afford a fact-checker, says Yogendra Yadav.

Ahead of the May 12 Karnataka Assembly elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi invoked the Nehru-General Thimmaya debate— a controversial episode in Indian politics—at an election rally in Kalaburgi. The Prime Minister, however, faced criticism from many corners for presenting the wrong facts.  

In his speech, Modi said Congress idol and India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had insulted Army chief Thimmaya in 1948 after the Indo-Pak war. Opposition parties called out the Prime Minister for his blatant misrepresentation of facts and poor knowledge of history as Thimmaya was not the Army chief in 1948. Thimmaya was chief from 1957 to 1961. 

“Karnataka is synonymous with valour,” Modi said. “But, how did the Congress Govts treat Field Marshall Cariappa and General Thimayya? History is proof of that. In 1948 after defeating Pakistan, General Thimayya was insulted by PM Nehru and Defence Minister Krishna Menon.” 

The PM was citing two eminent names in Karnataka history, Cariappa and Thimmaya, but without knowing the historical context to what had transpired. 

“From Field Marshal Cariappa and General Thimayya to the Army Chief, the Congress party has a long history of disrespecting defence forces and their leaders. Due to the repetitive insult from the then PM Nehru and Defence Minister, General Thimayya had to resign from his post,” the Prime Minister added. 

Modi Gets Corrected

Correcting the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader, Yogendra Yadav, founder of Swaraj Abhiyan, tweeted, “No sir, Krishna Menon was Defence Minister from April 1957 to October 1962. General Thimmayya was Army Chief from May 1957 to May 1961. Sir can’t the PMO afford a fact-checker? It’s so embarrassing!”

Congress leader Randeep Surjewala also asked Modi to brush up his history. “Modi ji, Better start reading from a paper to brush up your knowledge of history. Gen Thimayya became Army Chief only on 8th May 1957 and not 1947 as you alleged. V K Krishna Menon was ambassador to UK between 1947-52 & not Defence Minister as you alleged,” he tweeted.

Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi also pointed out that Modi cannot change facts according to his whims. “Another Fact Check for India’s new history teacher. Gen Thimayya became Army Chief only on 8th May 1957 not 1947 & V K Krishna Menon was High Comm to UK between 1947-52 & not DefMin,” she tweeted. 

Congress leader Pawan Khera pointed out that Gen Thimayya was sent as commander of United Nations Peacekeeping Forces (UNPKF) in Korea and then made Army Chief. Gen Cariappa was appointed HC to Australia and New Zealand. He said for those who selectively quote Wikileaks, there’s a CIA declassified document that talks about an alleged RSS plot to kill General Cariappa. 

Former Army colonel and defence expert Ajai Shukla wrote, “As an ex-soldier, I am disgusted, but not surprised, by @narendramodi’s distortion of facts relating to Field Marshal Cariappa and General Thimayya in election speeches in Karnataka. When will faujis (soldiers) realise how Modi has, and continues to, use them as convenient fools?”

Similarly, historian Srinath Raghavan pointed out, “Far from insulting Thimayya in 1948 or after, Nehru appointed him as Chief of Army Staff superseding officers senior to him at the time. The PM can ask the Raksha Mantri to show him the relevant files.”

Karnataka Minister Priyank Kharge noted, “I wonder which history books has the PM read. He should go through Defense Ministry archives. Pt. Nehru appointed Gen Thimayya as Chief of Army Staff superseding officers senior to him.”

“PM’s references confused – Suggested Thimayya commanded India to victory in 47-48. The Commander in Chief in 47 was Gen Sir Roy Bucher, a British General. References to Cariappa in 62 equally confused. Cariappa had retired several years earlier,” journalist Vishnu Som tweeted. 

This isn’t the first time

Modi has been called out several times for his misrepresentation of facts. He once changed Mahatma Gandhi’s name from Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi to Mohanlal Karamchand Gandhi. 

In an earlier speech, the Prime Minister also manipulated India’s population figure which is 132.5 crore saying it was 600 crore. Modi had said India’s 600 crore people have given him a full majority vote. 

The history

The clash Modi spoke about is well known in history. Nehru had an issue with Cariappa in 1951 over his views on political matters and in 1959 he had a tiff with Thimmaya when the latter wanted to resign following several disagreements with Menon on how the Army should function. 

An Indian Express report on Nehru’s approach towards Thimayya sheds light on the rewards he was bestowed for his work. When Thimmaya led the surprise attack on Zoji La in November 1, 1948, where he was successful in driving out tribal raiders and Pakistan Army regulars from Kashmir, he was appointed as the head of the United Nations’ Neutral Nations Repatriation Commission in Korea. 

Thimayya, as a Lt General in 1954 was awarded the Padma Bhushan for civil service at the recommendation of the Congress government, said the Express report.

Why Modi’s allegation against Congress is wrong

In 1957, Nehru selected Thimayya as Army chief, superseding two officers senior to him. He served as Army chief until he retired in 1961. After retirement, in July 1964, he was appointed Commander of UN Forces in Cyprus, he died in December 1965.

Cariappa was appointed by Nehru as the first Indian Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army in 1953. After his retirement, he was appointed as the High Commissioner to Australia and New Zealand. He was also conferred the rank of Field Marshal by the Rajiv Gandhi government.

Modi’s claim that Congress is against the Army falls short as the Party president Rahul Gandhi has condemned statements made against the Indian Army by his partymen. Last year, when former Congress MP Sandeep Dikshit said the Indian Army chief was acting like a ‘gunda’, Rahul Gandhi rebuked him. 

Dikshit had said, “Pakistan ek hi cheez kar sakta hai ki is tarah ki ool-julool cheezein karey, bayanbazi kare. Kharab tab lagta hai jab humare Army chief sadak ke gunde ki tarah bayan dete hain. Pakistan ko dene hain to dein, woh to hain hi aise (Pakistan can do only one thing… it gives such ridiculous statements. But we feel bad when our Army chief uses the language of a street goon. Pakistan can give whatever statement it wants to, they are like that only).” He later apologised for his statement.

Disapproving Dikshit’s remarks, Rahul Gandhi had said: “Ye bilkul galat hai, Army chief ke baare mein rajnitik logon ko comment karne ki zaroorat nahi hai (This is totally wrong. There is no need for politicians to comment on the Army chief),” Indian Express report said.

In 2016, Rahul Gandhi was detained twice by Delhi Police when he was protesting for Army jawan Ram Kishan Grewal, who had committed suicide over the One Rank One Pension scheme. 

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