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Rao Bahadur Vappala Pangunni Menon, CSI, CIE (30 September 1893 – 31 December 1965) was an Indian civil servant who served as Secretary to the Government of India in the Ministry of the States, under Sardar Patel. By appointment from Viceroy and Governor-General of India Wavell, he also served as Secretary to the Governor-General (Public) and later as Secretary to the Cabinet. He also was the Constitutional Adviser and Political Reforms Commissioner to the last three successive Viceroys (Linlithgow, Wavell and Mountbatten) during British rule in India. In May 1948, at the initiative of V. P. Menon, a meeting was held in Delhi between the Rajpramukhs of the princely unions and the States Department, at the end of which the Rajpramukhs signed new Instruments of Accession which gave the Government of India the power to pass laws in respect of all matters that fell within the seventh schedule of the Government of India Act 1935. He played a vital role in India's partition and political integration. Later in his life, he became a member of the free-market–oriented Swatantra Party.

Early life and career

The son of a school headmaster Chunangad Shankara Menon, in Kerala, Menon worked as a railway stoker, coal miner and Bangalore tobacco company clerk. Menon joined Provincial Civil Service (PCS) in 1914. He served as Assistant Secretary to Government of India in the Reforms Office from 1933 to 1934. He later served as Under Secretary from 1934 to 1935, Deputy Secretary from 1935 to 1940, Joint secretary to the Government of India from 1941 to 1942.By working assiduously, Menon rose through the ranks to become the highest serving Indian officer in British India. Menon served as Joint Secretary to the Simla Conference in June 1945. In 1946, he was appointed Political Reforms Commissioner to the British Viceroy. In Patrick French's ''India: A Portrait'', a biographical book on the Indian Subcontinent, it is mentioned that VP Menon moved in with his Keralite friends after his wife left him and returned to south India. The two friends, who were a couple, had arranged his marriage and helped raise his two sons – Pangunni Anantan Menon and Pangunni Shankaran Menon. When the husband died, Menon married his widow. Menon was given the title of ''Rao Bahadur'', appointed a CIE in the 1941 Birthday Honours and a CSI in the 1946 Birthday Honours.

Partition of India

Menon was the political advisor of the last Viceroy of India, Lord Louis Mountbatten. When the interim Government had collapsed due to the rivalry between the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League, Menon had proposed to Mountbatten, Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the Indian leaders, the Muslim League's plan to partition India into two independent nations - India and Pakistan. Menon's resourcefulness during this period caught the eye of Sardar Patel, who would become the Deputy Prime Minister of India in 1947. VP Menon was present at the meeting between Lord Mountbatten and Hanwant Singh, Maharaja of Jodhpur. It was at this meeting that Hanwant Singh signed the instrument of accession to India. After he had signed and the Viceroy Mountbatten left, only Menon was in the room with him. The Maharaja took out a .22 calibre pistol and pointed it at Menon and said 'I refuse to take your dictation'. Menon told him that he would be making a very serious mistake by threatening him and would not be able to get the accession abrogated in any case.

Integration of India

After the independence of India, Menon became the secretary of the Ministry of the States, headed by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, with whom he had developed a bond of trust. Patel respected Menon's political genius and work ethic, while Menon obtained the respect for his work that a civil servant needs from his political superior. Menon worked closely with Patel over the political integration of India,in which,over 565 princely states were merged into the union of India, managing the diplomacy between the States Ministry and the various Indian princes, acting as Patel's envoy and striking deals with reluctant princes and rulers. Patel respected Menon's ingenuity in diplomacy, and often did not question if Menon exceeded any instructions. Menon also worked with Patel over the military action against the hostile states of Junagadh and Hyderabad, as well as advising Nehru and Patel on relations with Pakistan and the Kashmir conflict. The Cabinet had dispatched Menon to obtain the accession of Kashmir into India in 1947.

Later years

After his stint as Secretary, he was Governor of Odisha (''Orissa then'') for a short period in 1951. He authored a book on the political integration of India, ''The Story of the Integration of Indian States'' and on the partition of India, ''Transfer of Power''. He later joined the Swatantra Party, but never contested in the elections. Menon died on 31 December 1965 at the age of 72.

In popular culture

Indian actor Ashish Vidyarthi portrayed Menon in the 1993 film ''Sardar'', based on the life of Indian statesman Vallabhbhai Patel. In 2020, his great granddaughter Narayani Basu wrote a biography on him named, ''V. P. Menon: The Unsung Architect of Modern India''.

Bibliography

* Menon, V.P (1956),
The Story of the Integration of the Indian States
', Orient Longman Ltd, Madras * Menon, V.P (1957), ''The Transfer of Power in India'', Orient Longman Ltd, Madras

References



Further reading

*''Patel: A Life'' by Rajmohan Gandhi *Basu, Narayani (2020), ''V.P. Menon: the unsung architect of modern India'', Simon & Schuster, London, xii+440p., {{DEFAULTSORT:Menon, V P Category:1893 births Category:1965 deaths Category:People from Ottapalam Category:Indian civil servants Category:Indian Civil Service (British India) officers Category:Governors of Odisha Category:Companions of the Order of the Indian Empire Category:Companions of the Order of the Star of India Category:Indian independence activists from Kerala Category:People of the 1947 Kashmir conflict