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Surjit Singh Barnala
The Vice President, Shri Mohd. Hamid Ansari with the Governor of Tamil Nadu, Shri Surjit Singh Barnala and the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Dr. Kalaignar M. Karunanidhi (cropped) (Surjit Singh Barnala).png
8th Governor of Tamil Nadu
In office
3 November 2004 – 31 August 2011
Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa
M. Karunanidhi
Preceded by P. S. Ramamohan Rao
Succeeded by Konijeti Rosaiah
In office
24 May 1990 – 15 February 1991
Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi
Preceded by P. C. Alexander
Succeeded by Bhishma Narain Singh
Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry
Additional Charge
In office
9 April 2009 – 27 July 2009
Chief Minister V. Vaithilingam
Preceded by Govind Singh Gurjar
Succeeded by Iqbal Singh
18th Governor of Andhra Pradesh
In office
3 January 2003 – 4 November 2004
Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu
Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy
Preceded by C. Rangarajan
Succeeded by Sushilkumar Shinde
1st Governor of Uttarakhand
In office
9 November 2000 – 7 January 2003
Chief Minister Nityanand Swami
Bhagat Singh Koshyari
N. D. Tiwari
Preceded by Office Established
Succeeded by Sudarshan Agarwal
5th Minister of Chemicals and Fertilizers
In office
19 March 1998 – 13 October 1999
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee
Preceded by M. Arunachalam
Succeeded by Suresh Prabhu
5th Lieutenant Governor of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands
In office
December 1990 – 18 March 1993
Preceded by Ranjit Singh Dyal
Succeeded by Vakkom Purushothaman
11th Chief Minister of Punjab
In office
29 September 1985 – 11 June 1987
Governor Arjun Singh
Hokishe Sema
Shankar Dayal Sharma
Siddhartha Shankar Ray
Preceded by President's rule
Succeeded by President's rule
12th Minister of Agriculture
In office
18 June 1977 – 28 July 1979
Prime Minister Morarji Desai
Preceded by Parkash Singh Badal
Succeeded by Brahm Prakash
Member of Parliament Lok Sabha
In office
Preceded by Gurcharan Singh Dadhahoor
Succeeded by Simranjit Singh Mann
Constituency Sangrur
Personal details
Born (1925-10-21)21 October 1925
Ateli, Punjab Province, British India
(now in Haryana, India)
Died 14 January 2017(2017-01-14) (aged 91)
Chandigarh, India
Political party Shiromani Akali Dal
Spouse Surjit Kaur Barnala
Children 4

Surjit Singh Barnala (21 October 1925 – 14 January 2017) was an Indian politician who served as the chief minister of Punjab state from 1985 to 1987. Following that he served as the governor of Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand, Andhra Pradesh , lieuntant governer of Andaman and Nicobar Islands and a Union Minister on handling various portfolios.

Early life

Barnala was born in Begpur Village in Ateli Tehsil, Haryana. Born of a well-to-do family (his father was a magistrate), Barnala passed law from Lucknow University in 1945. In Lucknow, he was involved in the Quit India Movement of 1942. Subsequently, he practised law for some years, and became politically active in the late 1960s, rising through the ranks of Akali Dal. Though, he first stood for election in 1952 but lost by a meagre 4 votes.


Barnala's first ministerial assignment was in 1969 when he has sworn in as education minister in the Justice Gurnam Singh Government and was instrumental in setting up the Guru Nanak Dev University in Amritsar.

In 1977 he was elected to the Indian Parliament and was inducted in the Morarji Desai Cabinet as the agriculture minister at the time when the ministry included Irrigation Water Resources, Food, Environment and Forests, Consumer Affairs, Power and Chemical And Fertilizers and Rural Development. In 1978, Barnala signed the historic Ganga Waters Agreement (Farakka Agreement) with Bangladesh.

In 1979, during the turmoil in the national government when PM Morarji Desai resigned, the then-president Neelam Sanjiva Reddy toyed with the idea of appointing an interim government with Barnala as prime minister but had to drop the idea at the last moment, fearing horse-trading by a top member of the Cabinet, and Deputy Prime Minister Chaudhary Charan Singh assumed prime ministership.

Barnala served as chief minister of Punjab from 29 September 1985 until 11 May 1987. Barnala, a member of the Sikh political party Shiromani Akali Dal (Longowal), served as chief minister during a period of Sikh militant movement in Punjab. The state had under in Barnala's chief ministership from 1985 to 1987, and after nearly two years in office, President's Rule was imposed.

In 1996, Barnala once again came close to becoming prime minister as in the 1996 Indian general election, with no political party getting a mandate, it was a good time for a regional party to have its prime minister. Regional parties accounted for about 80 MPs in the Lok Sabha. The Asom Gana Parishad of Prafulla Kumar Mahanta and Telugu Desam Party of Chandra Babu Naidu, including The Left parties, zeroed on Barnala, but at the last minute Barnala's parent party Shiromani Akali Dal led by Barnala's supposedly close friend Parkash Singh Badal without informing Barnala joined hands with the Bharatiya Janata Party hence Barnala yet again missed being Prime Minister.

In 1997, Barnala was a candidate of the BJP and its allies in the election of the vice-president of India.

In 1998, Barnala was again elected to Parliament and became the minister for Chemical & Fertilizers and Food & Consumer Affairs in the Vajpayee Cabinet.

At the time of his death, he was the patron of a four-party alliance Sanja Morcha in Punjab. Like few other anti-Congress leaders of his time, he has spent about three and a half years in jail as a political prisoner, including 11 months in solitary confinement.


Since then, Barnala has served as a governor of several states. He first served as governor of Tamil Nadu from 1990 to 1991 for about nine months. Barnala refused to recommend the dismissal of the Tamil Nadu government, and when he was later transferred as governor of Bihar he chose to resign. He served as the lieutenant governor of Andaman and Nicobar Islands from December 1990 to 18 March 1993.

He was the first governor of Uttarakhand from its creation in 2000 until 2003, and governor of Andhra Pradesh from 2003 to 2004. During this time he also held additional charge of Orissa as governor for some time and was governor of Tamil Nadu until 31 August 2011 during his Tamil Nadu years. He also held additional charge of Puduchery for a few months. He is the second longest-serving governor in Indian history after Dr. A. R. Kidwai and the only governor to have served three terms in the history of Tamil Nadu State of 300 years.

Author and painter

In 1996, Barnala authored a book, Story of an Escape, about his experiences of living a disguised life in various locations of India. His other book released in December 2007 is titled My Other Two Daughters and has been transliterated in braille by Kunwar Singh Negi.

Barnala painted landscapes and political portraits, many of which are on display in the official residences he occupied in his various tenures. His paintings have also been sold in various fund raisers.

Personal life

Surjit Singh Barnala was married to Surjit Kaur Barnala, who is also an active politician. In August 2009, Surjit Kaur become the President of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Longowal). The couple had three sons and a daughter. The eldest son, Jasjit Barnala, is not actively involved in politics and is a businessman. Their second son, Gaganjit is a politician. His youngest son, NeilInder, died in a road accident in 1996 and daughter, Amrit, in 2012 of cancer. He has 8 grandchildren varying from 37 years to 17 years old.


Barnala died at PGIMER hospital, Chandigarh, following a prolonged illness, on 14 January 2017, aged 91. He was admitted to the hospital on 12 January.

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