Former Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral passes away at 92
Govt declares 7-day national mourning Prez, PM, top leaders express grief
NEW DELHI (TIP): Former Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral, who headed a Congress-supported coalition government in 1997-98, died at a hospital in Gurgaon November 30 afternoon following a brief illness. He was 92.
Gujral was hospitalized on November 19 after a lung infection. He had been put on ventilator as his condition had deteriorated. He had been on dialysis for a year.
Gujral is survived by his sons, Naresh, an Akali Dal MP in Rajya Sabha, and Vishal, two grand-daughters and a grandson. His brother is noted artist Satish Gujral and he has three sisters. His wife Shiela had died last year.
Gujral’s body was taken from hospital to his official residence, 5 Janpath, where it will be kept for the public to pay their respects till noon. The Government has declared a seven-day state mourning throughout India and cancelled all functions till December 6.
Gujral was born to Avtar Narain and Pushpa Gujral at Jhelum in undivided Punjab on December 4, 1919. He belonged to a family of freedom fighters and participated in the freedom struggle. Educated at DAV College, Hailey College of Commerce and Forman Christian College, Lahore (Pakistan), Gujral was sworn in as the 12th Prime Minister of India on April 21, 1997.
Known for his Left-leaning yet liberal ways, Gujral was very close to Indira Gandhi at one point of time. He became a member of the Rajya Sabha in April 1964 and was part of the “powerful coterie” around Indira that helped her become Prime Minister in 1966 following Lal Bahadur Shastri’s death.
He became the Information and Broadcasting Minister in 1975 during the time of permit-quota raj when the I&B Minister could virtually control the supply of newsprint. Television, other than Doordarshan, was non-existent. Gujral was tasked to manage the much-criticized job of press censorship during Emergency.
Before becoming PM, Gujral was External Affairs and Water Resources Minister. He also served as India’s Ambassador to the USSR. He was a Rajya Sabha member twice between 1964 and 1976 and a member of the Lok Sabha from 1989 to 1991. With Lalu Prasad’s help, he became a member of Rajya Sabha in 1992 after his election from Patna Lok Sabha constituency was countermanded.
He was re-elected to the Lok Sabha in 1998 from Jalandhar as an Independent with Akali Dal’s help. The equation between the Gujral family and Akalis changed forever. PS Badal was so happy at the militancy-period loan waiver given by Gujral as PM that it blossomed into a personal friendship.
During his tenure as PM, Gujral recommended President’s Rule in UP in 1997, which the then President KR Narayanan refused to sign. He propounded the “Gujral Doctrine” of five principles for maintaining good relations with the neighboring countries. That became the hallmark of his policy with countries in South Asia, especially Pakistan.
I personally have lost a friend of long standing, whose wisdom, idealism and deep concern for social equity left a great impression on me and whose counsel and opinion I often sought and valued greatly.
— Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister
Ability, sagacity and deep understanding of national and international affairs coupled with genuine warmth made him widely admired and respected.
— Sonia Gandhi, Congress president
Gujral was a versatile politician and a thinker who served the nation in various capacities with utmost dedication and sincerity.
— Nitin Gadkari, BJP president
Gujral was a good administrator who strove for the uplift of the poor. My heartfelt sympathies to his family members.
— Shivraj V Patil, UT Administrator
Gujral was a seasoned parliamentarian. My heartfelt sympathies to the members of the bereaved family.
— Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Haryana CM
Gujral was an eminent statesman, a distinguished parliamentarian and above all, a great human being.
— Farooq Abdullah, Union Minister for Renewable Energy
Gujral’s demise is a great loss for the country. The void created by his death will be difficult to fill.
— Vijay Bahuguna, Uttarakhand CM
He was a nice human being, a gentleman to the core and a good friend. He was the PM when I was given peerage in 1996.
He called me up to congratulate me and suggested that I be called ‘Lord Paul of Jalandhar’ as he knew I was born in Jalandhar.
— Lord Swraj Paul
Gujral was a real statesman who took active part in the Indian Freedom Struggle and was imprisoned for taking part in the Quit India Movement. His contribution as PM and External Affairs Minister will always be remembered.
— PK Dhumal, Himachal Pradesh CM
He was a veteran statesman who served the nation with distinction as Ambassador to the USSR, as a Union Minister and finally as the Prime Minister.
— Pawan Kumar Bansal, Union Minister of Railways
Gujral was a true son of the soil as he was instrumental in waiving the long-pending debt of Punjab during his stint as Prime Minister. He had deep regard and passion for Punjabi culture, language and literature. He was a true votary of Punjab, Punjabi and Punjabiat.