Relations between a President and prime minister have never been worse as it was when Giani Zail Singh was the Rashtrapati and Rajiv Gandhi the premier.
According to many accounts, the genial Sikh came close to dismissing Rajiv Gandhi.
The first Sikh President's innings in public life was long and varied -- freedom fighter, Congress leader, chief minister and Union home minister.
Tall and always immaculately dressed, the Giani was born on May 5, 1916 in Sandhwan village in Faridkot in a family of poor artisans. He came up the hard way -- ploughing fielding, laying roads and digging wells.
The young Zail Singh displayed an inclination for spiritualism and completed his study of Sikh and Hindu religious texts early.
The martyrdom of Bhagat Singh and his companions on March 23, 1931 motivated the young Giani, then only 16, to join the freedom movement. He started an unit of the Indian National Congress in his native Faridkot.
After independence as minister for revenue and agriculture in the then PEPSU state, he made 'important contributions in removing socio-economic injustice of farm labourers, small cultivators and tenants.'
On November 1, 1956, when PEPSU was integrated with Punjab, the Giani became a member of the Rajya Sabha and subsequently a minister in Pratap Singh Kairon's government. He resigned in the wake of the 1962 Sino-Indian war.
In March 1972, he became chief minister of Punjab. In January 1980, he was elected to the seventh Lok Sabha from Hoshiarpur.
Indira Gandhi made him her home minister.
Two years later, he was elected President on July 15, 1982.
Top: February 23, 1987. President Giani Zail Singh accompanied by Vice-President Ramaswamy Venkataraman, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, Lok Sabha Speaker Balram Jakhar, Parliamentary Affairs Minister H K L Bhagat, Sudarshan Agarwal, then the secretary-general, Rajya Sabha, and Dr Subhash C Kashyap, then the secretary-general, Lok Sabha.
Below: Three years earlier, February 23, 1984. President Giani Zail Singh accompanied by Vice-President M Hidayatullah, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, Lok Sabha Speaker Balram Jakhar, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Buta Singh, Sudarshan Agarwal, then the secretary-general, Rajya Sabha, and Dr Subhash C Kashyap, then the secretary-general, Lok Sabha.
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