In my long career as a journalist I have met nearly two dozen chief ministers in various states of the country. But there was no one like Bhairon Singh Shekawat, the former chief minister of Rajasthan.
My first meeting with Shekhawat, who later on became the vice president of India, will remain etched in my memory forever.
It was early 90s. I had landed in Jaipur in connection with a story about the BJP-ruled states in the country. I sought an appointment with the chief minister. I was asked to come at 8.30 to his official residence for the interview and also join him for breakfast.
On the appointed day and time I was outside the CM House in Jaipur’s Civil Lines locality. I was a little apprehensive as my taxi entered its gates.
In my experience, security personnel did not like a vehicle with commercial number plate. But the couple of lazy-looking policemen simply waved the car as I told them that I had an appointment with the CM.
This was the first surprise. I was based at Bhopal, where, as India Today correspondent, I had to deal with Sunderal Patwa as CM. He was a tough nut, not easily accessible even to his own partymen.
Often my requests for appointments materialized long after the concerned story had appeared in the print. Meeting a chief minister was such a hassle — going through elaborate security and a maze of maddening bureaucracy.
As I entered the gates, I found an office complex on the right side. I went looking for a staff member to inform Shekhawat that I had arrived. But it was quite early, I guess and most office rooms were locked.
I spotted a couple of employees in a room and told them about the appointment. They simply asked me to proceed towards the sprawling bungalow.
This was the second surprise. Till now I had not been frisked, I had not been asked for identity papers of any sort, I was not even questioned about whether I really had an appointment with the CM.
As I stood on the deserted veranda of the bungalow, I thought someone would soon take me to Shekhawat. But there was not a soul in sight.
After waiting for a couple of minutes I knocked at the doors of the first room and entered. It turned out to be the drawing room, but totally deserted. I returned to the veranda.
Soon I spotted a busy-looking domestic and he turned out to be well-informed, like most domestics. He directed me towards one of the rooms.
I thought I had been directed towards a visitor’s room where the CM would meet me. But the third, and final surprise of the day, awaited me as I opened its half-ajar doors. Continue reading “Meeting CMs in bedrooms and washrooms”