14 January, Chandigarh
Former Punjab chief minister and ex-union minister Surjit Singh Barnala passed away after a prolonged illness at PGI here Saturday.
91-year-old Barnala was admitted to the PGIMER recently where he breathed his last.
He is survived by wife Surjit Kaur Barnala and two sons Jasjit Singh Barnala and Gaganjit Singh Barnala.
Born of a well-to-do family on October 21, 1925 in Ateli, Haryana, he passed Law from Lucknow University in 1946. In Lucknow, he was involved in the Quit India Movement of 1942. Subsequently he practised law for some years, and became politically active in the late ’60s, rising through the ranks of Akali Dal. He first stood for election in 1952 but lost by a meagre margin of four votes.
In 1969 Barnala was sworn in as Education Minister in the Justice Gurnam Singh Government and was instrumental in setting up the Guru Nanak Dev University in Amritsar. In 1977 he was elected to the Parliament and was inducted in the Morarji Desai Cabinet as the Agriculture Minister. In 1978, he signed the historic Ganga Waters Agreement (Farakka Agreement) with Bangladesh.
Barnala served as Punjab Chief Minister from September 29, 1985 till May 11, 1987 during the militancy period.
He served as Governor of Tamil Nadu from 1990 to 1991 for about nine months. When he refused to recommend the dismissal of the Tamil Nadu government he was transferred as Governor of Bihar but he choose to resign. He served as the Lieutenant Governor of Andaman and Nicobar Islands from December 1990 to March, 1993.
In 1997 Barnala was a candidate of the BJP and its Allies in the election of the Vice-President of India. He became the minister for Chemical, Fertlizers and Food and Consumer Affairs in the Vajpayee cabinet.
He was the First Governor of Uttarakhand from its creation in 2000 until 2003, and Governor of Andhra Pradesh from 2003 to 2004 during this time he also held additional charge of Orissa as Governor for some time, and was Governor of Tamil Nadu till August 31, 2011. During his Tamil Nadu years he also held additional charge of Puduchery for a few months.
Barnala spent about three and a half years in jail as a political prisoner including 11 months in solitary confinement.
He has authored a book ‘Story of an Escape’ which has been translated from English to Punjabi, Hindi and Urdu. His second book that was released in December 2007 is titled ‘My Other Two Daughters’ and has been transliterated in braille by Kunwar Singh Negi.
Barnala was married to active politician Surjit Kaur Barnala, who become Shiromani Akali Dal (Longowal) president in August 2009. The couple were blessed with three sons and a daughter.