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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Emergency’s propagandist,man of many parties and endless ambition

Shukla had sustained injuries in Maoist ambush in Chhattisgarh on May 25.

Written by Express News Service | New Delhi |
June 12, 2013 4:33:53 am

Vidya Charan Shukla [1929-2013

Vidya Charan Shukla,known as Sanjay Gandhi’s right hand man during the Emergency,Tuesday succumbed to bullet injuries suffered in last month’s Maoist attack on the Congress convoy in Bastar,Chhattisgarh.

The former union minister who waded through many ideological streams and switched loyalties from one party to another in a long political career,held several important portfolios like external affairs,home and water resources in different governments.

Shukla will,however,be remembered chiefly for the excesses committed during the Emergency,when he was Minister for Information & Broadcasting in Indira Gandhi’s government.

He zealously implemented the policy of muzzling the press and throttling voices of dissent,cutting power supply to printing presses,blacklisting papers that did not toe the government’s line,vetting every news item to be published,and not even allowing newspapers to carry empty editorial space as a mark of protest against censorship.

Shukla ordered the destruction of the prints of Kissa Kursi Ka,a film that lampooned Sanjay Gandhi and his aides,and banished Kishore Kumar from All India Radio for refusing to sing at a Congress rally in Mumbai. As public anger against the Emergency gained momentum,he was targetted with slogans like “Emergency ke teen dalal,Sanjay,Shukla,Bansi Lal”.

In the final years of his life,Shukla had been busy with writing what was supposed to be a “tell-all” autobiography. In an interview given to The Indian Express last winter,he had claimed that he had had no advance knowledge of the Emergency,and that it was presented to him as a fait accompli.

“Like everyone else,I also learnt about the Emergency from newspapers,” Shukla had claimed,adding that he would reveal all in his autobiography.

Even at age 84,Shukla retained the ambition of his youth,meticulously plotting a path of return to prominence in the Chhattisgarh Congress. Not long before he died,he was lobbying for the election of his own panel against the one fielded by Amit Jogi,the son of his rival Ajit Jogi,in NSUI and Youth Congress elections in the state.

The nine-term MP was in fact gearing up to contest the assembly poll in Chhattisgarh and in 2014,the Lok Sabha election from Mahasamund.

The son of Ravi Shankar Shukla,the first chief minister of Madhya Pradesh,Shukla spent much of his political career trying to be part of the dispensation in power. He rebelled against Rajiv Gandhi in 1989-90 and founded the Jan Morcha,led by V P Singh. He became a minister in the V P Singh government,but was quick to join hands with Chandra Shekhar after toppling that government.

He returned to the Congress thereafter,and became a minister in the P V Narasimha Rao government. And when the BJP was on the ascendant,he jumped on to the saffron bandwagon.

“It is odd that I joined the BJP after having dissuaded Raja (K C Pant) from doing so earlier,” he confessed to his close friends. His luck ran out,though,and he lost the Lok Sabha election even as the BJP swept Madhya Pradesh.

After the Congress returned to power in 2004,Shukla mended ties with his former colleagues and worked his way back into the party,and plunged with gusto into its factional politics. He often locked horns with Arjun Singh,Ajit Jogi and Digvijaya Singh,and found it especially difficult to acknowledge Jogi’s primacy in Chhattisgarh during the latter’s best days. “Our collector,” is how he would allude to Jogi,who had,as an IAS officer,once served as the district collector in Raipur.

Shukla had his ideas for the 2014 elections,and for the Congress’s heir apparent. “Our bachcha is feeling a little shaky,” he would say of Rahul Gandhi,even though few in the party ever agreed openly with him.

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