02 August, 2021

Presidential Years

Zail Singh's posthumous defence of his controversial tenure

Presidential Years
FORMER president Giani Zail Singh writes that he was surprised when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi made him Union home minister after her return to power in 1980. He must have been even more surprised when she chose him as the Congress party's candidate for presidency two years later. It was clear to all but the gullible that she wanted a thoroughly dependable president. Moreover, a Sikh in Rashtrapati Bhawan could be a mollifying factor with militancy on the rise in Punjab.

Relations between the president and prime minister were cordial to begin with. Indira Gandhi meticulously observed conventions, calling on Zail Singh regularly and consulting him on important state matters in sheer contrast to what her successor was to do later. In his posthumously published memoirs, Zail Singh claims that even when he was the Union home minister, Indira Gandhi had been hesitant to discuss Punjab affairs with him and had given a free hand to Chief Minister Darbara Singh. The two had always been at daggers drawn.

It was...

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