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Former PM IK Gujral to be cremated today

Gurgaon: I K Gujral, a quintessential old-school politician who rose to become Prime Minister heading a rickety coalition government in the late 1990s, will be given a state funeral on Saturday afternoon.

The 92-year-old left-leaning liberal breathed his last in a private hospital here at 3.27 PM on Friday after a multi-organ failure, family sources said. He was admitted to the hospital on November 19 with a lung infection.

The former Prime Minister, who was on ventilator support, was unwell for sometime. He was on dialysis for over a year and suffered a serious chest infection some days ago.

Gujral leaves two sons, one of whom Naresh Gujral is a Rajya Sabha MP and an Akali Dal leader, and brother Satish Gujral, who is a prominent painter and architect. His wife Sheila, who died in 2011, was a poet.

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The body will be kept for public to pay respects at his residence in Janpath in central Delhi on Saturday morning and will cremated at 3 PM near Samata Sthal, the memorial of late Jagjivan Ram.

The news of his death was conveyed to Parliament by Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde after which both the Houses adjourned. There will be a condolence references made to him on Monday. Gujral had participated in underground activity in Punjab in his student days during freedom struggle and was in public service for decades.

An intellectual, he had propounded the 'Gujral Doctrine' of five principles for maintaining good neighbourly relations that became the hallmark of his policy of friendly relations with countries in South Asia.

President Pranab Mukherjee, Vice President Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, Union Ministers and political leaders were among those who paid glowing tributes to the late leader.

"In his passing, the country has lost an intellectual, a scholar-statesman and a gentleman politician whose liberal and humanist vision was rooted in the teachings of the leaders of our freedom movement," the Prime Minister said in his message.

"I personally have lost a friend of long standing, whose wisdom, idealism and deep concern for social equity left a great impression on me and whose counsel and opinion I often sought and valued greatly," Singh said.

Gujral, who migrated from Pakistan after partition, rose to become the Prime Minister with a big slice of luck after he evolved from the grassroots -- starting as Vice President in NDMC in the '50s to later become a Union Minister under late Indira Gandhi and then India's Ambassador to the USSR.

He had left the Congress to join the Janata Dal in the late-1980s. Gujral became External Affairs Minister in the VP Singh- led National Front government in 1989. As the External Affairs Minister, he handled the fallout of the Kuwait crisis following Iraqi invasion that displaced thousands of Indians.

He had a second stint as External Affairs Minister in the United Front government under H D Deve Gowda, whom he later replaced as Prime Minister after the Congress withdrew support in the summer of 1997.

He emerged as the consensus candidate after serious differences developed among the UF leaders including Lalu Prasad Yadav, Mulayam Singh and others as to who will become the Prime Minister.

It was another matter that his government survived only for a few months as Congress again became restive in the wake of Jain Commission report on Rajiv Gandhi's assassination and toppled the government.

Born on December 4, 1919 in Jhelum town now in Pakistan, Gujral belonged to a family of freedom fighters and had actively participated in the freedom struggle at a young age and was jailed in 1942 during the Quit India Movement.

Educated at DAV College, Haily College of Commerce and Forman Christian College, Lahore (now in Pakistan), Gujral took active part in student politics. He became a member of the Rajya Sabha in April 1964 and was considered part of the 'coterie' that helped Indira Gandhi become Prime Minister in 1966.

Gujral was the Information and Broadcasting Minister when Emergency was imposed (on June 25, 1975), which brought in arbitrary press censorship, but was soon removed.

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. 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.

JPN/Agencies

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