Saturday, December 1, 2012

Inder Kumar Gujral - An Encounter

By Manuwant Choudhary

Inder Kumar Gujral is described by most as India's accidental Prime Minister.

And they are right, in a way he exemplifies how faulty Indian democracy really is.

Mr.I.K. Gujral with his beard resembles Captain Haddock in Tin Tin Comics and for many Indians he looked foreign enough to be just that - a foreign minister.

Indians in the villages laughed at him every time he appeared on television because he looked like a `Botu' - a male goat.

So for someone like that to be in Indian politics and get to the top must be quite a chance.

But I.K. Gujral did have a few similarities with Dr. Manmohan Singh.

Both were born in the area now called Pakistan.

Both made Punjab their homes.

Both are perceived to be honest personally.

Both can't win elections.

Both cheated to contest from Bihar and Assam to get into the upper house - the Rajya Sabha.

And both have been helped by another Sardar ...the Communist Harkishen Singh Surjeet to get the top job.

But Mr. Gujral disagrees and writes in his memoir that Surjeet  actually favoured Mulayam.

Both belong to the inner circle in New Delhi (read Tavleen Singh's new book Durbar).

So its not surprising Congressmen making a beeline to offer condolences while nothing from the old United Front leaders.

I.K. Gujral was an embedded Prime Minister.

If you study Indian history you will note that except the dark horse Deve Gowda and Atal Behari Vajpayee all of India's Prime Ministers have been from the Congress Party.

Even after a hard fight when the Janata Party came to power it was Morarji Desai who became prime minister and then Chandra Shekhar.

In effect, India saw no real change.

The new looked like the old.

And so the old were brought back.

So Congressmen are thankful to Shri Gujral.

I happened to get a glimpse of a unique moment in Indian history when not Delhi's 10, Janpath but  1 Anne Marg in Patna was the power centre.

Laloo Prasad Yadav was at his peak of his popularity and had just held the massive gareeb rally.

I was just a student activist then and wanted to interview Laloo Prasad Yadav for a youth magazine.

Laloo Yadav's brother had met with an accident so Laloo left for the airport suddenly.

In a semicircle all his powerful ministers sat...Nitish Kumar as well.

Suddenly an ambassador car arrived and a gentleman stepped out.

He was Inder Kumar Gujral.

None of Laloo's ministers even looked at him or even offered him basic courtesies like a chair.

I recall going up to him and introducing myself and asked him if I could ask him a question.

He replied, "Yes, yes, please."

I asked, "Sir, if your home is Punjab then what are you doing in Bihar looking for a Rajya Sabha seat?"

Shri I.K. Gujral had a nameplate in a Patna locality to fool the Election Commission.

And Shri Gujral got a bit hassled, "Thats a very journalistic question..."

He left immediately without meeting Laloo !

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