With newspapers reminding us of the 25th Indira Gandhi death anniversary this is as good an occasion as any other to plug in this vintage photo, dating back to early 70s. She is seen addressing members of the Delhi Reporters Guild on the lawns of the PM’s official residence on Race Course Rd., New Delhi.
Mrs Gandhi wasn’t particularly media friendly. In fact, many of us who went through the Emergency days in Delhi found ourselves treated by the authorities with a little more respect than they would give to a doormat. But then we have been accused of caving in to intimidation by Indira Gandhi’s media handler V C Shukla. As BJP’s L K Advani put it, the media under the Emergency regime ‘crawled when they were expected to bend’.
The photo here predates the Emergency. New Delhi-based Journalists those days belonged to two distinct classes – 1) Press Association members, who were accredited to the central government ; and 2) lesser beings in the reporters guild, accredited to the Delhi Administration.
The first was the favored class , entitled to official perks, notably, allotment of government flats in Sundernagar, Pandara Road, Chanakyapuri and other prime government residential localities . When we took this up with the then I & B minister I K Gujral, he was candid enough to admit a quid pro quo in the arrangement. Press Association journalists were the ones ministers and senior officials dealt with. They did the government’s bidding; published faithfully all official handouts. “They deliver,” said Mr Gujral, while humble reporters like us were not so amenable.
Mr Gujral, however, offered to set up meeting for us with Mrs Gandhi. And that was how the PM came to address the Delhi Reporters Guild.