When V(VI)P came calling
Monday, April 30, 2012 AT 04:46 PM (IST)
"Come on, help yourself with another biscuit. You are a young man, you need to eat well,” the prime minister said to me as he passed on a plate of biscuits to me. I took a biscuit as that seemed to be the only way to break the air of awkwardness that was prevailing in the VIP Lounge of the Lohegaon airport. I, along with just three-four journalists from Pune, was with the prime minister Vishwanath Pratap Singh, and all of us were killing time, as the New Delhi-bound Indian Airlines plane supposed to carry him, was yet to arrive at the airport.
This incident took place a couple of months after Singh had taken over the office of Prime Minister in the Janata Dal-led government. He was invited to address a campaign meeting for a by-election in the neighbouring Karnataka. The Raja of Mandi, who was then described as an epitome of value-based politics, had declared that he would not use a special plane to address a poll meeting of the party, but would travel in an ordinary plane. That is how the PM minus his usual government retinue was waiting at the VIP Lounge. About half an hour before that, some of us had received a call informing that the PM was making a halt at the Pune airport en route to Delhi and would meet the members of the press. Hurriedly, I had hitchhiked on a two-wheeler of another journalist to reach the airport. And here we were chatting with him and sipping the tea placed before us.
To be frank, given such a short notice, we journalists were hardly prepared for a half an hour-long question and answer session with the PM on any national or other issues. The Janata Dal’s Maharashtra unit president, Mrinal Gore, was there too and I could see that she was in the same boat. The firebrand socialist leader or the ‘Paniwali Bai’ too didn’t have much to talk to the PM as some strange twists had only recently brought them politically together.
After 10 to 15 minutes, the conversation invariably whirled around the weather, giving a clear signal that we had run out of topics to discuss. And now, the PM was asking me to have another biscuit. To the relief of all, a government official announced that it was time for the prime minister to board the plane and we took the VVIP’s leave.
The incident only reaffirmed the dictum that journalists should always be equipped with information to interview important people. And that even Prime Ministers should be equipped to strike interesting conversations with people, just in case such an eventuality occurs.