This Article is From Mar 13, 2020

I Climbed A Bus To Cover Madhya Pradesh Crisis

"Operation Rang Panchami", as the BJP reportedly calls its efforts to topple the Congress government in Madhya Pradesh, added a new shade to my Holi celebrations this year, as I was called in to cover the political drama in Bhopal.

The dénouement of this political stunner - the crossover of Jyotiraditya Scindia, a close friend and confidant of Rahul Gandhi, to the BJP - is yet to play out. Today, the "Maharaj" as he is called by his supporters, filed his Rajya Sabha nomination as a BJP candidate for the first time in his nearly two-decade political career.


BJP leader Jyotiraditya Scindia files his nomination papers for Rajya Sabha elections

It all started on Monday evening with the sudden flight of 17 MLAs loyal to him on a chartered plane to Bengaluru. 

Cutting short our Holi celebrations the next day, I rushed to the airport, boarding an evening flight from Jaipur to Bhopal. 

In Bhopal, the driver who had come to receive me at the airport informed me I had arrived bang in the middle of some political activity.

As it happened, the BJP was flying its MLAs out of Bhopal at that very minute and they were all at the departure gate.


BJP MLAs after boarding the buses parked near the party office in Bhopal

On this tip-off from the well-informed driver (drivers who work for news organisations often acquire a nose for news and double up as news gatherers, information collectors, the repository of valuable WhatsApp videos and also political gyan), I handed over my bags and rushed towards the departure gate.

Five gleaming new buses were lined up and the BJP MLAs were just about trooping out.

Without any equipment or camera, I wondered what to do. Then a tip from Sunil Saini, my editor, came to mind. 

I whipped out my mobile phone, attached the hands free cord to it to use as a mic that cuts external noise and began recording. The hand-held selfie video made it on air and I couldn't have been more thrilled. Often, a newsbreak is about being at the right place at the right time.

"Where are you going," I asked some of the MLAs.

"We are going for a Holi Milan," they quipped.

The next day, it was a similar story. Chief Minister Kamal Nath called all his Congress MLAs and organised their flight out, ironically to Jaipur, from where I had arrived the previous evening. 


In a bid to guard their Madhya Pradesh MLAs, the Congress moved them to Jaipur

Clearly, I was not going to be allowed to return on that special flight.

So I decided to at least try to get into their bus before they left to get a sense of what was going on. 

As the buses with the Congress MLAs drove into the airport, there was a mad scramble. As I started doing a live walk-through to give a sense of the action on the ground, I found myself next to the emergency exit of a bus window with a ladder alongside.


Striving for a scoop in the middle of a live report

Years of news reporting simply got the better of me. I placed my foot on the bus wheels, climbed onto the ladder and peeped in through the window to spot IndiGo flight boarding passes being distributed to the MLAs by a Congress man.

Filing away this nugget, I stepped down and carried on with my live report. 

I believe this video has attracted much comment on social media.

As somebody who has done television journalism for over 25 years, all I can say is - TV is about visuals and opportunities. One should follow one's gut and seize those opportunities.

With the Congress MLAs out of Bhopal, the action then shifted to Jyotiraditya Scindia's arrival for the first time after his switch from the Congress to the BJP.

The massive show of strength the BJP had lined up for him from the airport to the BJP office, a distance of 15 km, would most definitely be a big boost for the 49-year-old. It took Jyotiraditya Scindia's convoy over two hours to cover a distance of 25 minutes as it waded through the crowds.


Jyotiraditya Scindia was given a grand welcome by BJP workers in Bhopal

Accompanied by his aunt Yashodhara Raje, former Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and other BJP leaders, Scindia garlanded the statue of his grandmother Vijayraje Scindia, one of the founding members of the Jan Sangh and a photograph of his father Madhavrao Scindia put up at the BJP office next to her.

It seems to be a full circle for the Scindias, a politically-divided family.

The famous feud of the Scindias is well-known. Rajmata Vijayraje was bitter with her son Madhavrao for not standing by her during the days of the 1975 Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi and choosing to side with the rival Congress. 

She was perhaps hurt at her son for choosing safer political waters.

The question that stays - is this homecoming for Scindia junior or, in the ever-changing colours of this political landscape, has he too chosen saffron over white simply because it is safer? 

(Harsha Kumari Singh is NDTV's bureau chief, Rajasthan.)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.