Political battle by military man

First Print 25 Nov 18



The days’s programme for Jaswant Singh, the BJP candidate from Chhittorgarh, Rajasthan, began with a numeric ‘0755 hours’.

At the appointed hour Singh, dressed in trademark safari suit, came out of his room at Chittor’s government circuit house to start the days’s election campaign.

In the veranda only five of us were there. Me, a photographer, a driver and two party workers.

“Where are others”, asked Singh.

“They are on their way,” mumbled the embarrassed workers.

“But we were supposed to start at 7.55. Let us go,” said the candidate.

Jaswant Singh, who would later become India’s Defence, Foreign and Finance Minister, had left Army a quarter century ago. But the Army never left him.  He used to fight his political battles with military precision. Continue reading “Political battle by military man”

Each farmer gets Rs 50K, yet suffers

DB Post 24 November 2018


Baihar Baiga is a differently-abled man of uncertain years. The tribal from Shahdol district is lame, to use the politically incorrect term.

In the courtyard of his mud-thatched house in the Baiga quarters of the Singhpur village, he is surveying with resignation the crop that his two school-going grandsons have just brought in from the fields.

The paddy plants are shrivelled, with few grains to be seen. It can be, at best, used as a fodder. The crop has failed.

A member of one of the most impoverished primitive aboriginal tribes in India, Baihar Baiga owns one acre of land, a gift from the State.

But he is not a member of any agricultural credit cooperative society. Neither does he have an account in the cooperative bank. He could not, and did not, buy the crop insurance policy.

So, he cannot get any compensation. Farming, for him, is a gamble that did not pay this year.

Continue reading “Each farmer gets Rs 50K, yet suffers”

Travelling with a CM and his cash in election time

First Print 18 November 2018


Pandit Shyama Charan Shukla was tall. And not only physically. He was chief minister of Madhya Pradesh thrice. He cared for the state and was passionate about irrigation schemes, which he knew better than any engineer. Apart from Shivraj Singh Chouhan, he was the only chief minister of MP who would talk constantly about its development.

His father was MP’s first chief minister, Ravi Shankar Shukla, and younger brother VC Shukla was a star of Indira Gandhi’s cabinet. He was also one of the most transparent politicians I have met. We got on well, may be due to some of my reporting that did not put Arjun Singh, another politician from MP and his bête noir, in favourable light.

Ahead of the 1990 assembly election I landed in Raipur for covering the poll campaign for the magazine I worked for then, India Today. I talked to Shukla and he graciously agreed to take me with him in the chopper that the Congress party had hired for him as one of its key campaigners.

Laden with flasks of tea and boxes of savoury, we took off early one morning on the campaign trail of Chhattisgarh region, then part of united MP. An aristocrat, Shukla always packed his favourite Darjeeling tea, known for its unique floral aroma and distinctive bitter taste that he loved to sip throughout the day accompanied by tasteless biscuits, pungent cheese and baked chivda. That was his meal. Continue reading “Travelling with a CM and his cash in election time”

एक मुख्यमंत्री और उनकी नकदी के साथ चुनावी यात्रा

Prajatantra 18 November 2018

When SC Shukla flew with bundles of currency in a chopper


पंडित श्यामा चरण शुक्ल का कद बड़ा था। केवल शारीरिक रूप से ही नहीं। वह तीन बार मध्य प्रदेश के मुख्यमंत्री रह चुके थे। वे अपने राज्य के बारे में बहुत सोचते थे. खासकर सिंचाई योजनाओं को लेकर वे बहुत कोशिश करते थे. इस क्षेत्र में उनकी जानकारी किसी इंजीनियर से भी ज्यादा थी. शिवराज सिंह चौहान के अलावा वह इस प्रदेश के शायद ऐसे एकमात्र मुख्यमंत्री थे जो सोते-जागते हमेशा विकास की ही बात करते थे.

राज्य के पहले मुख्यमंत्री रविशंकर शुक्ल उनके पिता थे. छोटे भाई वीसी शुक्ला इंदिरा गांधी की किचन कैबिनेट का हिस्सा हुआ करते थे। मैं आजतक जितने नेताओं से मिला हूँ, उनमें सबसे पारदर्शी लोगों में वे एक थे. हमारी अच्छी घुटती थी. हो सकता है यह मेरी कुछ रिपोर्टों की वजह से हो, जो उनके राजनीतिक रकीब अर्जुन सिंह के ज्यादा अनुकूल नहीं थीं. Continue reading “एक मुख्यमंत्री और उनकी नकदी के साथ चुनावी यात्रा”