Union minister Arun Jaitley on Friday recalled how the late journalist Kuldip Nayar withstood government pressure and became the voice of the journalistic fraternity during the Emergency, and described him as an “iconic political journalist”.
Releasing a book, On Leaders and Icons from Jinnah to Modi, by Nayar, who died last August at the age of 95, Jaitley, who attended the event through video conferencing from New York, said Nayar was a newsman with an ability to sniff out scoops.
The event was also attended by former Union minister Kapil Sibal of the Congress, Union minister Hardeep Singh Puri, Janata Dal (United) leader Pavan Varma and diplomat Navtej Sarna.
Jaitley said some of Nayar’s most significant contributions came during the Emergency. “When Emergency was imposed, press censorship imposed, and the journalistic fraternity was looking for a leader who would speak up, he became the natural choice. Therefore, he stood out, suffered detention, fought out in the courts, after some time got released, never looked back and never compromised his views,” Jaitley said. Jaitley recalled two of Nayar’s stories as hallmarks of his journalism; one about Pakistan having possessed the capability to make the nuclear bomb, and the other on then prime minister Indira Gandhi being set to announce the general elections in January 1977. The book launch was also expected to be attended by former prime minister Manmohan Singh, who declined to attend. A letter from Singh, read out at the event, said he was staying away because of a reference to him in the book.
Quoting from the letter written by Singh to Nayar’s wife, the latter’s son Rajiv read: “I found a reference to me on page 172 that during my prime ministership government files would go to Sonia Gandhi’s house. This statement is not true; and Kuldip never checked with me about its truth. In this background, I would find it embarrassing to attend the book release function.” In his book, Nayar has written that Manmohan Singh “not having a popular base helped him in his political career” and that government files would go to Sonia Gandhi’s house at 10 Janpath.
Former minister Sibal concurred with Singh. Sibal said during his term as a minister in the United Progressive Alliance governments, “neither the PMO nor 10 Janpath called for any file”.
Responding to Sibal’s charge that institutions were being “desecrated”, Puri said the only occasion when there had been an organised onslaught on civil liberties was in 1975.
“When you talk about other institutions, when you talk about judiciary, who attacked it? Who led the attack on the SC,” Puri said.
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