INDIA: The Favorite

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Six months ago sharp-tongued, devious V. K. Krishna Menon was probably the most widely disliked man in India. Even his colleagues considered him insufferably arrogant, and too clever by far. When Jawaharlal Nehru decided to make him a Minister without Portfolio, some of India's top politicians fought a bitter rearguard action against the appointment. When Menon voted against a U.N. resolution calling for withdrawal of Soviet troops from Hungary, India rang with demands for his expulsion from public life. But last week, when Krishna Menon was sworn in as India's Minister of Defense-a job previously held by Nehru himself—not a voice was raised against him.

Krishna Menon owes his rise to power primarily to the friendship of Jawaharlal Nehru, who stubbornly rejects all criticism of his protege as "mere jealousy," describes him as "the best U.N. diplomat since Andrei Vishinsky." But even Nehru's affection could not have transformed the cantankerous Menon into a major force in Indian politics had it not been for the U.N. debates on Kashmir, during which Menon staged the longest filibuster (seven hours and 48 minutes) in U.N. history, wound up by collapsing dramatically on the floor of the Security Council.

In his unblushing defense of India's annexation of most of Kashmir, 59-year-old Krishna Menon severely damaged India's cherished reputation for morality in international affairs. But he won an asset he had previously^ lacked — popularity with his countrymen. The Indian press promptly dubbed him "The Hero of Kashmir," and movies of his dramatic collapse played to packed houses all over India. In his subsequent campaign for a seat in the House of the People—his first try for elective office in India—Menon won a handsome majority. By last week Indian politicians who once publicly scorned Menon were holding their tongues. Despite its democratic aspirations, Nehru's government still has some of the characteristics of an Oriental court. In such a court, wise men do not lightly offend a potential successor to the throne who is beloved both by the prince and the people.