Some 46 years ago China defeated us in a month-long war. I am reconstructing the story of Defence Minister Krishna Menon's exit in November 1962. It is important because he was a non-Congressman - a leftist in the Congress government. The anger of MPs and of people was rising because the Indian forces were abjectly retreating in face of a well-prepared, massive Chinese attack. All were asking for Menon's blood. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was doing his best to defend him. Both were close friends since the days they were together in London during their studies. Nehru could also see that the anger against Menon was really directed against him. Still Nehru dragged his feet. He changed Menon's portfolio from Defence to Defence Production. It was obvious that such a change would not lessen the anger because it was only on paper. Home Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri - I was his information officer -wished that if Panditji had given Menon some portfolio other than Defence Production, the disquiet in the Congress would have subsided. The storm against Menon did not lessen. He was blamed not only for the reverses at the front but also purposely keeping India unprepared for benefiting the Communist China. Some senior Congress MPs requested Menon to quit the Cabinet on his own. The argument advanced was that since India was getting arms from the West, the person in charge of Defence should have been the one who had "faith in the West and of the West." Menon was his own enemy. He was telling all and sundry that the transfer of the Defence portfolio to the prime minister had not made any difference. He was functioning in the same old way. Nehru, who had taken over the Defence, passed no order without consulting him. Whatever be the truth, the report upset MPs even more. On top of it, Menon had the Defence Ministry's spokesman announce: "No separate Ministry of Defence Production was being set-up or contemplated. The Defence Ministry, of which Defence Production was a part, continued. Krishna Menon was in charge of Defence Production." This statement was untimely because the people were already convinced that Menon was still in charge of Defence and all that had happened was that Nehru had modified the procedure without touching the substance. The personnel of the National Defence Council, meant to advice on military matters, was changed and it had now retired generals like Thimmaya and Thorat as its members. Nehru's endeavour was to convince members that no important decision could be taken without consulting the council. This was not true because Menon was appointed minister for defence production without bringing the council into the picture. Morarji Desai reportedly met Nehru to ask him to drop Menon immediately. Shastri, Nehru's Man Friday, told him that the party was in a nasty mood. Menon was still not willing to quit. Ultimately, Aruna Asaf Ali, leftist like Menon, prevailed upon him to submit his resignation to "strengthen Nehru's hands." The mood of the party was such that it was impossible to retain Menon. Still Nehru tried his best. At a meeting of the executive of the Congress Parliamentary Party, Nehru vacated his chair to argue that he was as much to blame as Menon and that he too must go. But neither the executive of the Congress Parliamentary Party nor its general body - both met on the same day - withdrew the demand for Menon's resignation, telling Nehru at his face that he had put his faith in the wrong person. Nehru realised that by retaining Menon he would be keeping the controversy alive and thus diverting the nation's attention from the real problem of standing united against the Chinese aggression. For once the Congress Party had its way. While announcing the acceptance of Menon's resignation, Nehru praised him to the skies and paid tribute to his "great ability and energy." Menon's letter was released; one of the sentences disliked by senior ministers was: "No one other than you (Nehru) could garner help to maintain that (people's) resoluteness to the fullness of its purpose and without deterioration." When I asked Shastri about successor, he said: "Morarji Bhai would like to be one but Panditji would never make him. Probably, he will have Y B Chavan." Many years later, when I came to know Krishna Menon intimately, I tried to get his version. He just would not talk on India-China war. After many attempts he relented. But all that he said was: "If I were to open my mouth, I would have to blame Nehru. I do not want to do that." I have not found any statement or anything in writing by Menon to criticise Nehru on hostilities against China. Menon proved to be a better friend of Nehru than the defence minister. The writer is a former member of the Indian Parliament and senior journalist E-mail: knayar@nation.com.pk