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”