I K Gujral: The suave man who made a mark in India's foreign policy

Ik Gujral

This was the beginning of a long innings, both in the national politics and diplomacy.

He was part of the 'coterie' that helped Indira Gandhi become Prime Minister in 1966.

In Gandhi's government, he held several portfolios as Union Minister for Communications, Parliamentary Affairs and Housing.

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.

In the 1989 elections, Gujral was elected from Jalandhar parliamentary constituency in Punjab and he became Minister for External Affairs, first under V P Singh (in December 1989) and then under Deve Gowda (in June 1996).

He was a Rajya Sabha Member twice between 1964 and 1976, 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 Lok Sabha in 1998 from Jalandhar in Punjab as an independent with help from Akali Dal.

Exigencies and coalition pressures felled his government in just 10 months when the Congress party decided to withdraw support to the United Front.

A controversial decision of his government 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.

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