V.C. Shukla: Emergency era’s hatchet man

New Delhi, June 11 (IANS) Vidya Charan Shukla, who died Tuesday, will be remembered for imposing censorship on the media and putting journalists, including top editors, behind bars.

He was former prime minister Indira Gandhi’s hatchet man during her hated emergency era (1975-77) when he was the information and broadcasting minister.

Shukla, who was close to Indira Gandhi’s younger son Sanjay Gandhi, who used to act like an unconstitutional authority during the emergency period, cut power supply to newspaper printing presses, clamped restrictions on free media operations, harassed and imprisoned journalists and personally monitored stories for their stance towards the government.

At the height of his power, Shukla even banned songs of popular singer Kishore Kumar from All India Radio and Doordarshan after the artist refused to perform at a Congress rally in Mumbai.

Shukla, who started his political career with the Congress, was an opportunistic mover on the quicksand of Indian politics and had been in many parties since then.

In 1957, he won from Mahasamund Lok Sabha constituency in Madhya Pradesh as a Congress candidate.

He was elected to Lok Sabha nine times in subsequent elections. Shukla deserted the Congress for the first time in 1977 when Indira Gandhi was voted out.

Her son and then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi rehabilitated him after Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984 but Shukla again quit the party along with V.P. Singh to form the Jan Morcha in 1989.

He was a minister in V.P. Singh’s National Front government formed after elections the same year but when it fell, he went over to Samajwadi Janata Party and was again a minister in the Chandrashekhar government.

After Chandrashekhar lost the 1991 elections, he came back to Congress under then prime minister P.V. Narasimha Rao.

But he again left the Congress in 2003 after being denied the chief ministership of Chhattisgarh, when it was carved out of Madhya Pradesh in 2000.

Shukla joined the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in 2003.

The next year, just ahead of the 2004 parliamentary polls, he joined the Bharatiya Janata Party and contested from Mahamsamund on a party ticket but lost to Congressman and former chief minister Ajit Jogi.

He left the BJP the same year and rejoined Congress in 2007.

Shukla belonged to a traditional Congress family from Chhattisgarh.

His father, Pandit Ravishankar Shukla, was a lawyer, freedom fighter, veteran Congressman and the first chief minister of undivided Madhya Pradesh. His elder brother, Shyama Charan Shukla, was also a state chief minister.

Shukla graduated from Morris College, Nagpur in 1951. The same year he married Sarla. He had three daughters.

He also served in the ministries of external affairs, parliamentary affairs, water resources, defence, home, communications, finance, planning and civil supplies.

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