Former Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral who headed a brief Janata Dal-led United Front coalition Government in 1997-98, passed away on Friday.
Gujral, 93, was admitted to a private hospital in Gurgaon on November 19, with an acute lung infection. He is survived by two sons, one of whom is an Akali Dal MP, and his brother, the well-known painter, Satish Gujral.
Born in Jhelum, Pakistan, Gujral’s family migrated to India after the Partition in 1947. He was active in the struggle for India’s independence from British rule and was jailed during the Quit India Movement in 1942.
An avid lover of Urdu poetry and literature, Gujral graduated from DAV College, Haily College of Commerce and Forman Christian College, Lahore (now in Pakistan). He first entered Parliament as a Rajya Sabha member in 1964, courtesy Indira Gandhi.
At the time of the Emergency in 1975, Gujral was Information & Broadcasting Minister in Indira Gandhi’s Cabinet. It is said that he was shunted out of the Ministry as he questioned the locus standi of the ‘all powerful’ son of the then Prime Minister, late Sanjay Gandhi. Gujral quit the Congress in the 1980s to join the Janata Dal, of which he was a member till the time of his death.
Twice Foreign Minister and Ambassador to Russia, the veteran politician is best known for his ‘Gujral Doctrine’, a set of five principles to guide the conduct of India’s foreign relations with immediate neighbours, which is referred to by experts till this day.
In 1997, it was ‘luck by chance’ that catapulted Gujral to the Prime Minister’s seat, as there was a tussle among several claimants to the hot seat, including Mulayam Singh Yadav.
In 1989, Gujral was elected from Jalandhar in Punjab and became Minister for External Affairs, first under the V.P. Singh (in December 1989) and then under H.D. Deve Gowda (in June 1996). In 1998, he was re-elected to Lok Sabha from Jalandhar as an Independent with help from Akali Dal.
His wife predeceased him in 2011.