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IK Gujral, India's gentleman Prime Minister

columns Updated: Mar 06, 2011 01:08 IST
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Inder Kumar Gujral was Prime Minister of India for just under a year: from April 1997 to March 1998. A couple of days before he was sworn in, the front runner in the race for the Prime Ministership was Jyoti Basu, the Communist Chief Minister of West Bengal.

Two days before the election, his name was withdrawn from the race and after hectic political wheeling-dealing, the aspirants agreed on the name of Inder Kumar Gujral.

In his memoirs Matters of Discretion: An Autobiography (Hay House), he tells the story in full detail. His younger days were already narrated by his younger brother Satish Gujral, who, despite his handicap of deafness, rose to be one of India's top painters, sculptors and architects.

I heard Inder Gujral speak a couple of times before he became Prime Minister.

He was a polished speaker, not a rabble-rouser but eloquent. It was a joy listening to him. He was to the point and invariably quoted some Urdu couplets. I took them down to use in my columns.

He did not have the time to make his mark as citizen number one. He did spell out what he called the 'Gujral Doctrine' of five principals to conduct foreign relationship with India's immediate neighbours: Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives and Sri Lanka.

First: India could not seek reciprocity but would give and accommodate what it could in good faith.

Two: No South Asian country should allow its territory to be used against the interest of another country of the region.

Three: No country should interfere in the internal affairs of another.

Four: All South Asian countries must respect each other's territorial integrity and sovereignty and fifth: they should settle all their disputes through peaceful bi-lateral negotiations.

In actual fact, Gujral made a mess of his attempts in dealing with Saddam Hussain's unwarranted invasion and occupation of Kuwait. With a little malice I describe the Gujral doctrine as a Punjabi style embrace (Juphee) followed by an apt couplet from Urdu poetry.

Ram rajya is here

Where service to the people is a religion

And every meeting ends with Jan Gan man,

Mayawati's party has no criminals, not even one.

This is something only by her rivals done.

No Minister or MLA can

Slap a common citizen or a policeman

Nor kill a Commissioner or engineer

For not collecting enough money for the Chief Minister

On her epoch-making birthday,

Nor his hand on a poor woman lay

But if one does come his way

He neither rapes nor molests ever

And if still she creates a stir,

He arranges a jail term for her -

Thus for every criminal UP is a terror,

A model of law and order,

It is a State where Ram Lakhshman run factories and schools

And Sita Mata herself rules.

(Courtesy: Kuldip Salil, Delhi)
Mustard oil - sardar da tel

Everyone seems to be in such a hurry to scream 'racism' these days.

A customer asked, "In what aisle could I find the Sarson Da Tel?" (Mustard Oil)

The clerk says: "You a Sardar?"

The guy clearly offended says: "Yes, I am. But let me ask you something.

If I had asked for Italian Olive Oil, would you ask me if I was Italian?

Or if I had asked for German Bratwurst, would you ask me if I was German?

Or if I asked for a kosher hot dog, would you ask me if I was Jewish?

Or if I had asked for a Taco, would you ask if I was Mexican?

Or if I asked for some Irish Whiskey, would you ask if I was Irish?

The clerk says, "No, I probably wouldn't."

The guy says, "Well, then, because I asked for Sarson Da Tel, why did you say I am a Sardar?"

The clerk replied, "Because you're in a liquor store."

(Contributed by Vipin Buckshey, Delhi)