Few know that Vidya Charan Shukla, the 84-year-old veteran Congressman, was also the man who locked down the press during the Emergency. A close aide of Sanjay Gandhi, Shukla imposed Press censorship with an unnatural zeal, cutting electric supply to various printing press and monitoring almost every printed story. But his most famous (or infamous) act had nothing to do with the Indian Press, but with Bollywood.
Shukla banned songs of Kishore Kumar from All India Radio (AIR) and Doordarshan from May 4, 1976 till the end of the Emergency on 21 March 1977. Reason: Kishore had refused to sing at a Congress rally in Mumbai.
His days of success began when Doordarshan did a poor coverage of Indira Gandhi’s Boat Club rally on June 20, 1975. Inder Kumar Gujral, the then information and broadcasting minister had failed to arrange for a live coverage of the rally. It was enough to disappoint Sanjay who wasted no time in bringing in Shukla instead.
Vidya Charan Shukla was born on August 2, 1929 in Raipur to Ravi Shankar Shukla, a freedom fighter and the first chief minister of reorganised Madhya Pradesh. After his graduation Shukla tried his hands in business and started a global big-game safari company called Allwyn Cooper Pvt Ltd., but it was politics where both he and his brother Shyama Charan belong to (who became chief minister of MP, thrice). Vidya Charan contested the 1957 general elections from Mahasamund on a Congress ticket and registered a massive win.
In 1966, when Indira Gandhi became Prime Minister, she included Shukla in her cabinet.
Thus started a long innings at the centre of power — Shukla went on to hold portfolios including Communications, Home, Defence, Finance, Planning, Information & Broadcasting, Civil Supplies, External Affairs, Parliamentary Affairs and Water Resources.
For the past few years, he was living in a South Delhi apartment, away from the capital’s power circuit, but his eyes were always fixed on Chhattisgarh, the land which his family had ruled for years. Unfortunately, his foray into the erstwhile family stronghold this time was bloody. Shukla, who sustained bullet wounds in a Maoist attack in Chhattisgarh on May 25, died on Monday.