V. P. Menon

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V.P. Menon
V. P. Menon.jpg
Acting Governor of Odisha
In office
6 May 1951 – 17 July 1951
Preceded byAsaf Ali
Succeeded byAsaf Ali
Secretary to the Government of India in the Ministry of the States
In office
Constitutional Adviser and Political Reforms Commissioner to Viceroy of India
In office
Preceded byHarry Hodson
Succeeded byAbolished
Personal details
Vappala Pangunni Menon

(1893-09-30)30 September 1893
Ottapalam, Malabar District, Madras Presidency, British Raj (Present day Palakkad district,Kerala)
Died31 December 1965(1965-12-31) (aged 72), Cooke Town, Bangalore
OccupationCivil servant

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[1][2] 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.[3] Later in his life, he became a member of the free-market–oriented Swatantra Party.

Early life and career[edit]

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 the Provincial Civil Service (PCS)[4] in 1914. He served as Assistant Secretary to the Government of India in the Reforms Office from 1933 to 1934.[4] 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.[4] By working assiduously, Menon rose through the ranks to become the highest serving Indian officer in British India.

Lord Mountbatten, N. Gopalaswami Aiyangar and VP Menon discussing the Hyderabad question at a party on 30 May 1948.

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.[5]

Menon was given the title of Rao Bahadur, appointed a CIE in the 1941 Birthday Honours [6] and a CSI in the 1946 Birthday Honours.[7] He was offered a knighthood as a Knight Commander of the Order of the Star of India (KCSI) in a final imperial honours list in 1948,[8] but refused. In a formal statement to the outgoing British authorities, Menon declined the knighthood, stating that with Indian independence, he had entered the service of the new Indian government.[8] According to his grandson, however, Menon later privately told his daughter-in-law he could not accept a knighthood for having caused the partition of his country.[9]

Partition of India[edit]

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.[10]

On 25 October, V.P Menon arrived at Srinagar to assess the situation of Kashmir and advised Maharaja Hari Singh to proceed to Jammu as invaders were very close to Srinagar. Maharaja Hari Singh left from Srinagar to Jammu on the same night. V.P Menon along with Mehr Chand Mahajan (Prime Minister J&K) left for New Delhi by air on the morning of 26th October. On arriving at New Delhi, Lord Mountbatten assured militarily intervention in J&K only after instrument of accession were signed. V.P Menon then left from New Delhi to Jammu by air on the afternoon of 26th October, secured signature on the legal documents, returning that evening by air to New Delhi. Next day, on 27th October Lord Mountbatten accepted the accession of the Princely State of Jammu & Kashmir to India and Indian Army landed on Srinagar airport on the same day.[11]

Integration of India[edit]

VP Menon conferring with the rulers of A class States in Orissa.

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.

VP Menon signing the Patiala and East Punjab States Union covenant.

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[edit]

After his stint as Secretary, he was Governor of Odisha (Orissa then) for a short period in 1951.[12] 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 the elections.[13] Menon died on 31 December 1965 at the age of 72.

In popular culture[edit]

Indian actor Ashish Vidyarthi portrayed Menon in the 1993 film Sardar, based on the life of Indian statesman Vallabhbhai Patel.[14]

In 2020, his great granddaughter Narayani Basu wrote a biography on him named, V. P. Menon: The Unsung Architect of Modern India.[15]


Further reading[edit]

  • Gandhi, Rajmohan (1990). Patel: A Life. Ahmedabad: Navajivan.
  • Basu, Narayani (2020). V. P. Menon: The Unsung Architect of Modern India. Simon & Schuster India. ISBN 9789386797681.


  1. ^ "V P Menon – The Forgotten Architect of Modern India" (PDF). Forgotten Raj. 13 April 2011. Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 July 2011. Retrieved 13 April 2011.
  2. ^ "V P Menon – The Forgotten Architect of Modern India". Retrieved 18 September 2014.
  3. ^ "How Vallabhbhai Patel, V P Menon and Mountbatten unified India". 31 October 2017.
  4. ^ a b c Copland, Ian (2002). The Princes of India in the Endgame of Empire, 1917-1947. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521894364.
  5. ^ India - a portrait by Patrick French - page 13
  6. ^ London Gazette, 6 June 1941
  7. ^ London Gazette, 13 June 1946
  8. ^ a b Pothen, Nayantara (2012). Glittering Decades: New Delhi in Love and War. Viking. ISBN 9788184756012.
  9. ^ Ramaswamy, Chitra (7 August 2022). "India 1947: Partition in Colour review – a heartbreaking, rage-inspiring history of Britain's colonial legacy". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 August 2022.
  10. ^ India - a portrait by Patrick French (page 10)
  11. ^ Pakistan Invasion http://www.earlytimes.in/newsdet.aspx?q=248744 Early Times date=26 October 2018
  12. ^ "Communique". Grant of three months' leave of absence to His Excellency Mr. M. Asaf Ali, Governor of Orissa, and appointment of Sri V.P. Menon as Acting Governor. New Delhi: Government House. 1951. p. 36. Retrieved 13 September 2022 – via National Archives of India.
  13. ^ Raju, S. V. "Masani and Swatantra Party".
  14. ^ Sardar (1993) - IMDb, retrieved 6 January 2021
  15. ^ Mukherjee, Rudrangshu (28 March 2020). "'V.P. Menon: The Unsung Architect of Modern India' review: Adviser to the powerful". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 6 January 2021.