Politicians and Media are known for friends with benefits. There are two extreme sides of journalism and media houses these days, they are totally anti of some political party or pro to some but barely any neutral journalists. Political ambitions of media house owners and editors are not new to Indian politics. The relationship between some media owners and the Rajya Sabha has stretched over longer time spans. Hindustan Times proprietor KK Birla was a Rajya Sabha MP for 18 years while his daughter Shobhana Bhartia was also an MP more recently. Narendra Mohan Gupta and Mahendra Mohan Gupta of Jagran Prakashan, which publishes Dainik Jagran, managed nominations from the BJP and the Samajwadi Party.
Sanjay Raut to Sanjay Nirupam, both the editors of Saamana, Shiv Sena Mouthpiece are active in state politics. Sanjay Nirupam is with Samna and Shiv Sena, whereas Nirupam is with Congress and he quit Dopahar Ka Saamana long back. Somewhere being in politics, their journalism makes them bonded.
Vijay Darda was Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of Lokmat while serving three terms in the Rajya Sabha. Subhash Chandra of Zee also played his innings and given how entrenched his media house is with the ruling BJP, it could be a long one. Media houses think their empires can benefit from closeness to those in power. Political parties think a friendly media realm is useful for their kingdom. It’s all barter, give and take at the end of the day.
Pramod Navalkar began his career as a journalist and commentator while he was still a college student. In 1955, he began writing a weekly column titled Bhatkyaachee Bhramanti (“Man About Town”) in the Marathi daily Navshakti. The column, which dealt with political, social and cultural issues, ran continuously for 52 years without a break and ended only with his death. This consistency earned him a mention in the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest-running op-ed column in the world. Navalkar came into politics and became a prominent face of Shiv Sena and his writing too changed its direction.
Every time a journalist or a media owner is nominated to the Rajya Sabha, it evokes a passing stretch of hand-wringing over journalistic independence. But look closer and you find that it is more a case of confirming an ideological or political affiliation that was already there or of a professional journalist who for her/his own reasons is ready to move into politics for their higher aspirations.
Loksatta editor Kumar Ketkar had to serve Congress for 15 years with his editorials. His journalism was mortgaged for his political craving, and finally, he became an MP but today neither he remained a notable politician nor a journalist. Businessman and media owner and Member of Parliament Rajeev Chandrasekhar, the former was offered a nomination from Maharashtra by Congress.
Swapan Dasgupta, now a BJP member of the Rajya Sabha, journalists like him have long had identifiable political leanings, so a party nomination does not change that much. Harivansh, was the Editor-in-Chief of Prabhat Khabar when the Janata Dal (United) in Bihar surprised him with an offer in 2014. He was working in Jharkhand at the time but was nominated for a seat in Bihar. He decided he was ready to make the switch to politics. It took the paper’s owners close to two years to hire a replacement, so there was a period when Harivansh was both editor and MP. But his name was removed as chief editor from the print line of the paper two months after he took oath as MP.
Whatever great journalism you do, the system does not change. Arun Shourie, editor of the Indian Express and The Times of India joined BJP and became Minister of Communications and Information Technology in the Vajpayee Ministry. Later on, he lost credibility and relevance in politics.
The exchange between journalists and politics has a long and vibrant history. Pritish Nandy was given a Rajya Sabha nomination by Thackeray’s Shiv Sena, Rajiv Gandhi persuaded MJ Akbar to fight a Lok Sabha election on a Congress ticket, recently he joined BJP and he had to resign on a humiliating note. Cho Ramaswamy was a Rajya Sabha MP nominated by the BJP, as was Ranchi Express owner-editor Ajay Maroo.
Rajeev Shukla, the Congress leader had been a veteran Hindi journalist and a TV anchor. Shukla was nominated to the Rajya Sabha in 2000 and joined the Congress later. He worked for Jansatta, the Hindi daily of the Express group, and Raviwar Magazine. Shukla hosted the popular TV interview show Rubaru from the mid-90s to early 2000s. Clips of his interview with Narendra Modi in 2001 went viral in 2016 when Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal filed an RTI query seeking information about the PM’s educational qualification. Chandan Mitra started as an assistant editor of The Statesman in Kolkata. He later moved to the Times of India in Delhi and then The Sunday Observer, which he left as its editor. He then joined the Hindustan Times as executive editor. He was nominated to the Rajya Sabha in 2003 and got another term as a BJP MP from Madhya Pradesh in June 2010.
Shazia Ilmi, a television journalist and anchor with Star News, Ilmi spent 15 years in the field of television news and documentary production joined the Aam Aadmi Party. However, she lost the assembly as well as the Lok Sabha election she fought on the AAP ticket. She resigned from the AAP after a tussle with the party’s leadership in 2014. She joined the BJP on January 16, 2015. Now she has become irrelevant to both politics and journalism.
Ashutosh, TV news anchor first on Aaj Tak and later on IBN7, joined the AAP in 2014, contested the Lok Sabha polls but lost. And gradually he left politics and switched to journalism with his own news portal. Manish Sisodia, now Delhi’s deputy chief minister started his career as a journalist from Pilkhuwa near Delhi after completing a diploma in journalism from Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. He worked as a documentary filmmaker and a TV newsreader from 1997 to 2005.
Ashish Khetan is known for his investigative journalism as a Tehelka journalist. In 2007, he published his report on the 2002 Gujarat riots The Truth: Gujarat 2002, based on sting operations. Khetan later established his own investigative journalism portal called Gulail. In 2014, he joined the Aam Aadmi Party and left.
There is an endless list, thousands of journalists pursuing their career in Politics but very few made it to peak, and most of them got lost in time. Some of them saw a very humiliating phase in politics, perhaps they must have realised, politics is good for news subjects or editorial but when you become part of the game you become toothless.
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