Kuldip Nayar was a journalist’s journalist—a star reporter who delivered countless scoops. As a columnist for more than four decades and an editor for years, every piece Nayar wrote had something he was most fond of—new information. And, that is why his columns were widely published and read, wrote H.K. Dua, Nayar’s colleague at The Indian Express, in his tribute. In each of his 18 essays in On Leaders and Icons: From Jinnah to Modi, Nayar comes up with hitherto unknown information. The book was ready to be published when Nayar passed away last August.
Former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s Lahore bus yatra in 1999 is well-known. But, it requires a Nayar to tell us that as Vajpayee sat in the bus, he received a telegram that 26 Hindus had been killed by militants in Jammu and Kashmir! Vajpayee even wondered whether there was any use of further talks. When he and his delegation were to head for a banquet at the Qila, members of the radical Jamaat-e-Islami took to the streets. But, Pakistan ensured it was a symbolic protest and no more!
Another former prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri would have been cremated in his hometown—Allahabad—if Indira Gandhi had her way. But, his wife, Lalita, threatened to fast unto death if he was not cremated at Raj Ghat, alongside Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. Indira had to give in not once but twice, when Lalita insisted on ‘Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan’, coined by Shastri, to be inscribed on his samadhi.
The writing, like always, is simple, straight and loaded with information he gathered by listening to all kinds of people. What makes the book doubly precious is that it is the last from a man who lived to write.
ON LEADERS AND ICONS: FROM JINNAH TO MODI
Author: Kuldip Nayar
Publisher: Speaking Tiger