Friday, June 14, 2024

Former PM IK Gujral breathes his last


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New Delhi: Inder Kumar Gujral, who was India’s prime minister for 11 months in 1997-98, died here on Friday just four days before his 93rd birthday.

Known as a gentleman politician, Gujral died at 3.27 pm at a Guragon hospital of lung infection.

The government has declared seven days of state mourning and Gujral is to be given a state funeral on Saturday at 3 pm. His body is being kept at his residence, 5, Janpath for last tributes.

Gujral had been admitted to the Medanta Medicity hospital in Gurgaon with a lung infection on Nov 19 and was on ventilator.

He is survived by two sons, Naresh, and Vishal Gujral, who was till recently a professor in the US, and three grandchildren.

Naresh is a sitting Rajya Sabha MP from Punjab and a senior leader of the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal. His younger brother is the famed artist and sculptor Satish Gujral. His wife Sheila predeceased him in July 2011.

The Union Cabinet, at a special session convened to pay homage to Gujral, passed a resolution expressing profound sorrow at his demise and said in his death India has lost a ‘great patriot, a visionary leader and a freedom fighter’.

Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh in his condolence message said he had a lost a friend of long standing and the country ‘has lost an intellectual, a scholar-statesman and a gentleman politician’.

The soft spoken and mild-mannered Gujral was completely different from the political archetype. Known for his impeccable dressing and manners and his trademark goatee beard, Gujral retained an abiding interest in Indian foreign policy till the end.

He will be remembered primarily for his keen interest in protecting and promoting India’s external interests and the eponymous Gujral Doctrine – his mantra for India’s neighbourhood policy when he was External Affairs Minister twice in a decade – from 1989-90 and 1996-97 first under Prime Minister VP Singh and then HD Deve Gowda.

Gujral, a quintessential Congress member, had left the party to join the Janata Dal after differences with former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi over her autocratic ways.

Gujral was born on Dec 4, 1919 in the town of Jhelum on the banks of the river of the same name, now in Pakistan.

Gujral was elevated to the Prime Minister’s post when he emerged as the consensus candidate of the fractious United Front after Sitaram Kesri, then Congress party president withdrew party support to the HD Deve Gowda government.

He spent his last decade writing and speaking largely on foreign policy issues and was much sought after in intellectual and academic circles. (IANS)


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