New Delhi: Former Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral died at the age of 92 in New Delhi on Friday. Gujral, who headed the United Front government for 11 months from April 1997 to March 1998, had been ailing for a long time.
He was India's external affairs minister during the 1991 Gulf War. Gujral was India's 12th Prime Minister and had been undergoing dialysis for a year. He was hospitalised following a lung infection.
Born on December 4, 1919 in Jhelum (now in Pakistan), Gujral joined the freedom struggle at the age of 11 and was jailed during the Quit India Movement in 1942.
He was the author of the Gujral Doctrine, a guide to India's policy viz-a-vis its neighbours. He was a writer and commentator on national and international affairs as well as theatre.
Gujral breathed his last at 3.31 PM at Medanta Hospital in Gurgaon, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde announces in Lok Sabha on Friday. After the announcement, the two Houses adjourned for the day as a mark of respect to the departed leader.
Gujral, an intellectual who propounded the 'Gujral Doctrine' of five principles for maintaining good neighbourly relations, had left the Congress to join the Janata Dal in the late-1980s.
Capping a long political career that saw him occupy positions in various ministries under the late Indira Gandhi, who made him Ambassador to the then superpower USSR, Gujral became the surprise choice of a motley group of regional parties to be the Prime Minister of Janata Dal-led United Front government in 1997.
With tussle among several claimants including Mulayam Singh Yadav, Gujral became the consensus choice after Congress under Sitaram Kesri withdrew support to H D Deve Gowda. It was another matter that the experiment failed and in 10 months and the nation was forced to go to polls.
He was the Information and Broadcasting Minister when Emergency was imposed (on June 25, 1975), which brought in arbitrary press censorship. Since he refused to kowtow to the powers-that-be, he was taken out of the Ministry and sent by Indira Gandhi as Ambassador to Moscow, a post he handled with tact and finesse.
He continued even during the tenures of her two successors, Morarji Desai and Charan Singh. After his stint in Moscow, Gujral returned to India. Leaving Congress in mid-1980s, he re-entered power politics by joining Janata Dal.
A controversial decision of his tenure as the Prime Minister was its recommendation for President's rule in Uttar Pradesh in 1997, which the then President K R Narayanan refused to sign and sent it back to the government for reconsideration.
His wife, Sheila, who died in 2011, was a poet and author and his brother Satish Gujral is a prominent painter and architect. He leaves two sons, one of whom Naresh Gujral is a Rajya Sabha MP and now an Akali Dal leader.
(With Additional Inputs from PTI)