Giani Gurmukh Singh Musafir was born 119 years ago on 15th January 1899. He was appointed to the Constituent Assembly from East Punjab.
After Indian independence Musafir played an active role in making the Indian National Congress a strong party in Punjab. As the President of Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee and as an elected member of Congress Working Committee, he played a vital role in Congress’ success in the 1952 elections. When the new state of Punjab was created on 1st November 1966, he assumed office as the first Chief Minister of Punjab.
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I.K.Gujral (former Prime Minister of India) narrates an interesting anecdote: After the creation of Punjab in 1966, the question of who would be its first Chief Minister arose. The main contenders for this post were Musafir and GianiZail Singh. Indira Gandhi and her cabinet preferred Musafir, and I.K. Gujral was entrusted with breaking the news to Musafir and Giani Zail Singh. He found that convincing Musafir was a harder task than selecting him over Zail Singh. When I.K. Gujral telephoned Musafir’s residence to break the news, Gujral was told that he was in Chelmsford Club playing his weekly game of cards. Gujral then telephoned the Club and requested Musafir to meet him at his residence. But Musafir was hesitant to discontinue his game and met Gujral an hour later and was in a hurry to go back. When Gujral informed Musafir about the Congress’ choice, his immediate reaction was to reject the offer and he requested Gujral to convince Indira Gandhi to pick someone else. Following this conversation, a meeting was arranged between him and Indira Gandhi in which she convinced im to take up the office.
I.K. Gujral notes that he had never met a person who was so disinterested an office with power. He further adds that though Musafir agreed to become Punjab’s first Chief Minister, his heart was never in it.
Musafir was a famous poet. His literature was heavily influenced by India’s freedom movement. In a letter to Musafir after his death, Mulk Raj Anand acclaiming him as a poet notes: ‘I want your poems to enter the very air of our landscape, to inform our life breath, to usher us into hope’.
Some of his poems can be read here.
Read his biography here.