Doordarshan's poor coverage of Indira Gandhi's Boat Club rally of June 20, 1975 was a turning point for Vidya Charan Shukla. Inder Gujral, the then information and broadcasting minister who was supposed to 'use' the broadcaster effectively, failed to cover the rally live, end-to-end.
Sanjay Gandhi was disappointed - it was yet another goof-up by the suave, intellectual Gujral who was not being able to tame his friends in the Press enough. Within a week, Gujral was out and Shukla was in. With this began the real 'Emergency' for the Indian Press.
Vidya Charan Shukla was born on August 2, 1929 in Raipur. His father Ravi Shankar Shukla was a freedom fighter, Congressman and the first chief minister of reorganized Madhya Pradesh.
After his graduation from Morris College, Nagpur, in 1951, Shukla started a global big-game safari company called Allwyn Cooper Pvt Ltd. But it was the 'big game' of the political world that closed in on Vidya Charan and his brother Shyama Charan (who became chief minister of MP, thrice). The former was fielded by the Congress from Mahasamund (now in Chhattisgarh) in the 1957 general elections. He won massively and entered Parliament as one of its youngest members, drawing appreciation from then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
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.
The Emergency (1975-77) saw Shukla at the height of his power, thanks to his closeness with Sanjay Gandhi. He imposed Press censorship with an unnatural zeal, cutting electric supply to presses and monitoring almost every story printed. 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 AIR and Doordarshan from May 4, 1976 till the end of the Emergency. Reason: Kishore had refused to sing at a Congress rally in Mumbai.
Vidya Charan Shukla, for the past few years, had now lived in a South Delhi apartment, away from the capital's power circuit. But he always had his eyes fixed on Chhattisgarh, the land which his family ruled for years. Unfortunately, his foray into the erstwhile family stronghold this time was bloody -- with Maoists puncturing the 84-year-old veteran of many battles with bullets on May 25.