The latest set of US diplomatic cables from the ’70s made public by whistleblower website WikiLeaks includes some damning observations about leaders of India, including the then chief ministers of Punjab and Haryana.
In a cable dated June 29, 1973, from New Delhi about the deteriorating domestic political situation in India, it is mentioned, “In Punjab and Haryana the chief ministers are of the ‘old’ type, faced with charges of mismanagement and corruption, but able to keep a strong basis of political support as a result of substantial achievements in their states and their disposition of spoils.” Bansi Lal was the CM of Haryana at the time, while fellow Congressman Giani Zail Singh was helming Punjab.
The cables are from Henry Kissinger’s tenure (1973-76) as US secretary of state.
In fact, both leaders are defined in rather unflattering adjectives in another cable dated August 26, 1975: “Haryana chief minister Bansi Lal and Punjab chief minister Zail Singh have become frequent visitors at the prime minister’s residence. Both are right of center. Both have built a reputation of ruthlessness and guile in running their respective states.”
Even a cable from a day before that, “(Prakash Chandra) Sethi (of Madhya Pradesh) reportedly is the most repressive of the chief ministers as far as Jan(a) Sangh is concerned, followed perhaps by Bansi Lal of Haryana.” A Congressman, Sethi is also thus seen as repressive towards the then opposition Jan Sangh.
Lal’s loyalty to Indira, and ‘discontent in Army’
In a cable dated January 19, 1976, on the then union defence minister Bansi Lal’s assertion that his loyalty was more towards the then PM Indira Gandhi as a person than the office of the PM, the embassy commented that “aside from raising questions about his oath of office to the constitution and president, the defense minister’s remarks may well also strike a somewhat sour note for the officers of the Indian Army. Embassy officers will be watching for any indication of annoyance or concern within the Indian military to Bansi Lal's suggestion that his orders to them may relate more directly to Mrs Gandhi’s personal interests than to those of the state.”