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Inder Kumar Gujral: 1919-2012

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NDTV notes the passing of a former prime minister of India:

Diplomat, philosopher, gentleman politician and prime minister by chance. That’s how Inder Kumar Gujral legacy will be remembered. He died today at the age of 93 of a lung infection that had been troubling him for some days. He was also on dialysis for over a year.

Bangladesh News reminds us of Gujral’s career:

Inder Kumar Gujral: 1919-2012

Gujral, who migrated from Pakistan after partition, rose to become the Prime Minister with a big slice of luck after he came up through the ranks – starting as vice president in NDMC in the ’50s to later become a union minister and then India’s Ambassador to the USSR.

He was Prime Minister for a year between 1996 and 1997, during a turbulent political time for the country.

He was best known for his Gujral Doctrine, which proposed closer ties between India and her neighbours. He also opened dialogue with Pakistan despite its prickly attitude towards India. Gujral was also Foreign Minister twice.

Actually, Gujral will probably be remembered for the complete lack of governance arising from having to manage a minority government with the outside support of a recalcitrant Congress party. NDTV reminds us of those days:

Still, even though he was prime minister for only a year, Mr Gujral was several times tested politically.

His first test was from within the United Front government. Lalu Yadav who was chief minister of Bihar was accused in the fodder scam and the CBI wanted to prosecute him. As PM, Mr Gujral kept publicly telling him to quit – which Mr Yadav ignored – without doing much to make him go. And when CBI director Joginder Singh was moved out, it was seen as a move to keep the Bihar chief minister safe.

Another controversial decision of Mr Gujral’s government was to recommend President’s Rule in Uttar Pradesh after unruly scenes in the state Assembly in October 1997. The recommendation was sent back by President KR Narayanan and the Allahabad High Court also ruled against it.

It was another feud with the Congress that sealed the fate of Mr Gujral’s government. In 1997, parts of the Jain Commission report on the conspiracy to assassinate Rajiv Gandhi were leaked. The leaks indicted the DMK for their tacit support of the LTTE and the Congress, then led by Sitaram Kesri demanded that DMK members in the United Front government be dropped. With Mr Gujral refusing, the Congress eventually withdrew support in November 1997. IK Gujral had been Prime Minister for just under one year.

Kuldip Nayar writing in HT reminds us that Gujral’s best days came before the fractious third front government he headed:

Not many people know that he had started business at Karachi nearly one year before India was partitioned. When Pakistan’s constituent assembly met, he helped his father, Avtar Narain Gujral, in framing Pakistan’s Constitution. Avtar Narain was a member of the assembly because all MLAs of undivided Punjab were automatically members of Pakistan’s constituent assembly.

In Delhi, he began his political career as a Congress member in the New Delhi Advisory Committee which helped the then territory’s top administrator.

Gujral remained in the Congress party for several decades and was considered a member of Mrs Indira Gandhi’s kitchen cabinet. He served as a minister of Information and Broadcasting. This was when he clashed with Sanjay Gandhi who tried to give him instructions on how to deal with the press during emergency. Gujral said he was his mother’s minister and not his errand boy. Gujral was shifted to the planning commission where PN Haksar was already hibernating.

Mrs Gandhi recognised Gujral’s merit and sent him to Moscow as India’s ambassador. It was credit to his outstanding work when the non-Congress Prime minister Morarji Desai requested him to continue in his position. He did not go back to the Congress when he returned from Moscow.

Those were the days when the Sikhs felt alienated. Gujral constituted a Punjab Group which was able to narrow the distance between the Congress government and the Akalis. The Punjab Group persuaded the Akalis to give up their anti-Centre stance but the Congress was far from convinced. Gujral was the most dejected person but he did not give up his work towards conciliation. The effort was frustrating but rewarding as it was from Gujral’s heart. The Sikhs would miss him the most.

ET adds:

After his stint in Moscow, Gujral returned to India. Leaving Congress in mid-1980s, he re-entered power politics by joining Janata Dal.

In the 1989 elections, Gujral was elected from Jalandhar parliamentary constituency in Punjab.

He became Minister of External Affairs in the V P Singh-led National Front government in 1989. As the External Affairs Minister he handled the fallout of the Kuwait crisis following Iraqi invasion that displaced thousands of Indians.

Gujral had a second stint as External Affairs Minister in the United Front government under H D Deve Gowda, whom he later replaced as Prime Minister after the Congress withdrew support in the summer of 1997.

He emerged as the consensus candidate after serious differences developed among the UF leaders including Lalu Prasad Yadav, Mulayam Singh and others as to who will become the Prime Minister.

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Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

November 30, 2012 at 2:07 pm

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