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Lalu introduced Gujral as ‘Gujjar’ to the people of Patna

‘Our relationship remained very cordial and that was the charm of the politician of that generation,’ says Yashwant Sinha.

NAVTAN KUMAR  New Delhi | 1st Dec 2012

Former Prime Minister I.K.Gujral was cremeated in New Delhi on Saturday | Photograph: Pramod Pushkarna

he people of Patna fondly remember the late I.K. Gujral from the time when RJD president Lalu Yadav invited him to contest from the Patna seat in 1991. Originally from Punjab, there was the fear that Gujral would be regarded as an "outsider" by the voters. So Lalu Yadav, in his inimitable style tried to introduce Gujral to his voters by saying the following: "Gujralji is a Gujjar, which means Yadav in Punjab. Woh hamare apne hi aadmi hain (he is our own man). Please vote for him."

The Samajwadi Janata Party, led by former Prime Minister Chandrashekhar had pitched Yashwant Sinha against Gujral. It's another matter that the election was countermanded following allegations of irregularities. After this, neither Gujral nor Sinha contested the LS elections from Patna. But Lalu Yadav facilitated Gujral's entry into the Rajya Sabha in 1992 from Bihar. Gujral a rented house at Sabji Bagh area under Pirbahor police station in Patna. In 1998, he chose to contest from Jalandhar constituency and won the election.

Sinha, recalling the 1991 elections, told The Sunday Guardian that despite all the unpleasantness that led to the countermanding of the election, "There was not a bit of bitterness between the two of us. Humlog bahut sharafat ke saath chunav lade (we contested the election very cordially)."

"He was a very good friend of mine and our friendship remained unchanged after that election. Our personal relationship remained very cordial and that was the charm of the politician of that generation. Lalu Prasad Yadav, and not Gujral, was responsible for what happened during the Patna election," said Sinha.

On how he countered Lalu Yadav's claim of Gujral being from the Yadav community, Yashwant Sinha said, "It was a trash. Nobody believed him. He (Gujral) was a very nice human being. We were together for a long time. We had serious political differences and parted ways but that did not affect our personal relationship."

Abdul Bari Siddiqui, senior RJD leader and Leader of Opposition in the Bihar Assembly said, "Had the counting being carried out, Gujral Sahib would have won by a record margin. Par shayad unka aur T.N. Seshan (the then Chief Election Commissioner) ka kuch chhattis ka aakda tha (Apparently he was not in good terms with then CEC T.N. Seshan). Our party workers were quite annoyed with the development. But they kept cool as we were in power in Bihar at the time."

Shyam Rajak, currently a JD-U MLA from Phulwari Sharif in Patna, who was with Lalu at the time, recalled how Gujral got a building for a girls' school constructed in Ajim Chak village, from his MP fund. "He was very soft spoken person who would give a patient hearing to problems. I remember he worked very hard during the campaigning."

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