Surjit Singh Barnala, who almost became Prime Minister in the mid-90s but for his party ditching him, was a moderate Akali politician and played a role in the Rajiv-Longowal Accord that catapulted him to the chief minister's seat in Punjab during its worst period of militancy.
Painter, politician and author, 91-year-old Barnala was among the few who held various posts including that of Chief Minister, Governor and Union Minister.
Barnala was a candidate of the BJP and its allies in the election of the Vice President of India in 1997. But in the previous year, he almost emerged as a consensus candidate for prime ministership when motley combine of parties formed the United Front after defeat of Congress.
His party Akali Dal, however, did not support him as it chose to go with the BJP which had just lost power after 13 days in government.
When Punjab was rocked by militancy in the 80s, Barnala stood by another moderate Akali leader Sant Harchand Singh Longowal who signed the Punjab Peace Accord in 1985 with Rajiv Gandhi, months after he had become Prime Minister.
Barnala was elected from the Barnala assembly constituency during the 1985 assembly polls held after the signing of the Rajiv Longowal accord.
He was unanimously elected leader of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) legislature party on Sept 27, 1985. He remained Chief Minister till May 11, 1987 during the peak period of militancy.
He was elected acting President of SAD on August 25, 1985 following the assassination of Longowal by terrorists.
Barnala was appointed Governor of Tamil Nadu a post he held from May 1990 to February 1991. He was Governor of Tamil Nadu for a second time from Nov 2004 to August 2011 holding two successive tenures.
In his first term as Governor of Tamil Nadu, Barnala had famously refused to recommend dismissal of the DMK government in 1991 when the late Chandrashekhar was the Prime Minister for a short time. When he was transferred to Bihar following his refusal, he chose to resign as Governor.
The government headed by Chandrashekhar then dismissed the Karunanidhi ministry using the "otherwise" provision in Article 356 of the Constitution after Barnala's refusal to make a recommendation.