Sankarshan Thakur, The Telegraph
New Delhi, Nov. 30: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh could credibly claim he acceded to the job without having to try. Inder Kumar Gujral, who died today aged 92, was one better — he became Prime Minister without trying or even knowing.
He was lying in bed reading at his Maharani Bagh home in southeast Delhi, quite unaware that he was about to become collateral beneficiary of a succession battle between United Front chieftains that none was prepared to lose but none could win.
April 1997: Delhi had become capital of a kingdom without a king. The Congress, led then by Sitaram Kesri, had withdrawn support to the H.D. Deve Gowda government in a spike of pique. The United Front, for all its protestations over principle and annoyance with the Congress, had resolved to sacrifice Gowda, not the government.
But for a week and more after Gowda’s near-lachrymal exit from power, they hadn’t come to agree on a successor. India’s prime ministership had become an agonising palaver not much unlike the murky palace intrigues that littered the latter decades of the Mughal empire, a swing-door of namby-pamby figureheads who were foisted and finished off as often as the nobles pleased.
None of the court nobles of 1997 wanted Gujral. The problem was they wanted each other less. Continue reading