Posts Tagged ‘Kanchan Gupta’

Are journalists already poised to ride Modi wave?

27 February 2014
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M.J. Akbar (extreme left) and Swapan Dasgupta (second from right) at the release of the book on Moditva

As the 2014 general election campaign gathers steam, the masks are beginning to come off, as journalists who make no pretence of their political and ideological inclinations (without disclosing it publicly) walk over to the other side, just as they did in previous elections.

Ashutosh of IBN-7 is officially the Aam Aadmi Party’s candidate from Chandni Chowk; Manish Sisodia of ex-Zee News has already done a stint as Delhi education minister; Shazia Ilmi of ex-Star News could stand against one or the other Congress or BJP heavyweight.

The buzz is a number of scribes are being tapped by AAP to make the switch.

Both in the 2004 and 2009 elections the BJP had no shortage of journalists, columnists and editors advising it from inside and outside. And 2013 is proving to be no different.

At a recent event in New Delhi to release a book titled Moditva, former Telegraph editor M.J. Akbar and former India Today managing editor Swapan Dasgupta  (both columnists for The Sunday Times of India) were helpfully at hand, making no bones about where they stand.

The Telegraph, Calcutta, reported the BJP president Rajnath Singh‘s address thus:

“When I first heard of the book, I was certain it was authored by a politician or someone wanting to get to the Rajya Sabha or acquire a post when our government is formed….

“I was amazed to know that this young man [Siddharth Mazumdar of Columbia] was not a politician or a political aspirant” added Rajnath, before looking long and hard at a group of panellists who had taken their seats for a discussion.

For the record, the other members at the book-release panel were economist Bibek Debroy, former Delhi police chief Kiran Bedi (a likely BJP Lok Sabha candidate), the BJP’s stormy petrel Subramanian Swamy, and BJP treasurer Piyush Goyal (who is already a Rajya sabha member).

Also for the record, M.J. Akbar is a former Congress member of Parliament from Kishanganj, Bihar. His name was mentioned in 2008 as a potential BJP member of the upper house along with former India Today editor Prabhu Chawla.

Photograph: courtesy The Pioneer

Also read: Who are the journalists running, ruining BJP?

Don’t laugh, do journalists make good politicians?

Why the BJP (perhaps) sent Chandan Mitra to RS

Kanchan Gupta versus Swapan Dasgupta on Twitter

For the BJP, is the pen mightier than the trishul?

Ex-Star News, TOI journalists behind ‘Arnab Spring’

When the gang of four meets at IIC, it’s news

What brainwave has struck our netas tonight?

23 August 2012

Mail Today cartoonist, R. Prasad, salutes the geniuses in the Indian government using the trouble in Assam to play around with Facebook and Twitter, including by reportedly blocking the IDs of journalists Kanchan Gupta and Shiv Aroor. The latter has put up this image on his Twitter handle.

Also read: Should Facebook be censored?

Say ‘No’ to India’s blogger control Act

Should the censor’s tighten Savita bhabhi‘s hook?

The arrival of a television anchor foretold

21 July 2010

Kanchan Gupta in The Pioneer:

“Interviewing prospective students for a media school can be a useful experience. It provides you with an insight into how media is perceived among the young who shall inherit the world from us.

“I usually begin by asking the applicants whether they want to pursue a career in print journalism or in the audio-visual media.

“During one such interview recently, a young woman told me, “I want to join a news channel.” And do what? “I want to become an anchor.” Why? “I have many things to say and as an anchor I can say anything I want.”

“What makes you think so? “I watch television regularly. I know.” And why do you think you can actually say whatever you want? That left her slightly flustered. “But we have freedom of expression, right? And media is free in our country, right?”

Read the full article: ‘Free’ media tars RSS with fiction

Bhopal, Raajkumar Keswani & Pablo Bartholomew

8 June 2010

The farcical judgment in the Bhopal gas tragedy case has come—25 years and 6 months after the accident.

We in the media pat ourselves on the back for securing justice in middle-class, urban, people-like-us stories like Jessica Lal, Sanjeev Nanda and Ruchika Girhotra.

Will the TV stations get into a similar activist mode on behalf of the 15,274 killed and 574,000 affected in Bhopal, especially when one of the eight convicted, Keshub Mahindra, is a major advertiser and the uncle of media darling Anand Mahindra?

Yesterday’s judgment has offered a chance for journalists to put things in perspective on a pre-television era tragedy.

***

Internationally acclaimed photographer Pablo Bartholomew writes in today’s Hindustan Times on how he got to capture the picture that defined the Bhopal tragedy:

“The Lok Sabha election campaign started on December 1, 1984, and I decided to start working in Patna and make my way to Amethi in the Sultanpur area in Uttar Pradesh.

“While in Patna on December 3, I heard on the radio: 30 dead in gas leak in Bhopal. Ignored it and took the plane to Lucknow.

“Drove towards Sultanpur to arrive at a dhaba by 9 pm. On a black-and-white TV, saw the most bizarre news footage of dead people being wheeled on wooden handcarts. Toll: 120 dead.

“Decided to go to Bhopal.

“Maybe it is a denial, a kind of guilt that I have not been able to do enough on a personal individual level for the people, the situation. And that is I guess the shallowness of 95 per cent of the journalism we do. We all tend to walk away. It’s the next story that we look to and the story is just a story.

“This experience really scared me. Showed the ugly side of modern development and what corporate greed and negligence was all about.”

Elsewhere, in the same paper, N.K. Singh, then a junior reporter in the Indian Express, pens a first-person piece on the trauma of reporting the tragedy.

The human tragedy waiting to happen in the city mosques had been prophetically predicted by the outstanding journalist Raajkumar Keswani (in picture, left) years earlier. “Bhopal jwalamukhi ki kagaar par (Bhopal on the edge of a volcano),” ran a headline for Keswani‘s piece in 1982.

N.K. Singh writes that he too was alerted to what was to unfold on December 4, by Keswani.

“I was fast asleep under a warm quilt in Bhopal when the phone rang. My friend Raajkumar Keswani, a journalist living in the old quarters of the town, sounded agitated, a little incoherent and was gasping for breath and coughing. He said there was a commotion in the street, people were running around and something had happened.

“‘I am having a problem breathing,’ he said….

“On the evening of December 3, 1984, as I sat on my typewriter to write the story of the world’s worst industrial disaster, tears started welling up in my eyes. That evening, and for many evenings after that, tears would keep rolling down  my cheeks even as I hammered at the keyboard to meet the deadline of the newspaper.”

For his work on Bhopal, Raajkumar Keswani was later decorated with the B.D. Goenka award.

***

Last year, on the 25th anniversary of the Bhopal disaster, Shreekant Khandekar, the former Bhopal correspondent of India Today, recounted the experience in an article in Outlook magazine:

“I was just 28 and had to work alone because everyone else was busy with the forthcoming general elections. Thankfully India Today was then a fortnightly and my deadline was still a week away….

“I needed the dope for a detailed illustration, showing how things had gone wrong. I found a local studio that was Carbide’s official photographer. I bought more than a hundred photographs of the Carbide premises from every conceivable angle. I also plotted the layout of the plant on a sheet. Then, at the back of every picture I noted the angle from which a particular piece of equipment had been photographed.

“Meanwhile, I had located a former safety officer of Carbide who now worked in Delhi. I flew down and ran him through what I had. He said it sounded technically plausible. And when our artist put together an illustration based on the photographs and layout sheet, the safety officer was amazed by its accuracy.”

The Pioneer‘s Kanchan Gupta, then a sub-editor on The Telegraph, Calcutta:

“I was a sub-editor on the news desk of The Telegraph and have vivid memories of the tragic story unfolding through the day and late into the night of December 3. Those days there was no Internet and reports came via agency tickers. The enormity of the disaster emerged as PTI and UNI kept on updating the death toll. It was my third exposure to mass murder – the Nellie massacre was first; the anti-Sikh pogrom after Mrs Indira Gandhi’s assassination was second.”

Photographs: courtesy iconicphotos, blogger

***

Pablo Bartholomew: We journalists just walk to the next story

N.K. Singh: ‘For several nights, I wept as I typed’

Shreekant Khandekar: The dead line

Sailing with the doves, supping with the hawks?

23 May 2010

Kanchan Gupta, associate editor of The Pioneer and a part of Atal Bihari Vajpayee‘s PMO, kicks where it hurts most in the matter of the tainted Pakistani TV journalist, Hamid Mir.

The Geo TV anchor, who has interviewed Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden thrice, now stands accused in the court of public opinion of instigating the murder of a kidnapped hostage at the hands of the Taliban.

“Geo TV belongs to Independent Media Corporation, which owns the Jang group of newspapers. And as we all know, the Jang group is the Pakistani partner of a well-known Indian group of newspapers in a joint venture called ‘Aman ki Asha’ which aims to promote cross-border harmony and peace.

“It would be perfectly in order to ask how can a media group that has die-hard Islamists with links to terrorist organisations vehemently opposed to peace with India in senior positions be a trans-border peace partner.

“It would also serve some purpose if we were to be told as to why the Jang group was selected over other newspaper groups or independent dailies like the Daily Times, which has played a leading role in exposing and outing Hamid Mir.

“Chinese whispers are not exactly reliable. But there could be some truth to the story doing the rounds that it was neither aman nor asha that prompted the partnership between the two media groups.”

Read the full article: The secret diary of Hamid Mir

Also read: When journo bites journo, it’s a ‘Super Exclusive’

Can newspapers bring peace between India, Pakistan?

‘The Lone Ranger of Loony Hindutva’ versus…

The media, the message, and the messengers

7 April 2010

The Booker Prize winning author Arundhati Roy‘s 31-page, 19,556-word essay “Walking with the comrades” in Outlook magazine*, has produced a fast and succinct response from the journalistic Twitterati after Tuesday’s dastardly ambush of paramilitary forces by said comrades.

From top, NDTV English group editor Barkha Dutt, Pioneer senior editor Kanchan Gupta, Indian Express columnist Tavleen Singh, former Stardust editor Shobhaa De, and London based freelance writer, Salil Tripathi.  Tripathi also has a finely argued critique of Roy’s piece in The Wall Street Journal.

Meanwhile, the adman turned magazine editor turned columnist Anil Thakraney offers this take on his Facebook status update.

* Disclosures apply

Screenshots: courtesy Twitter

The Lone Ranger of Loony Hindutva versus…?

1 March 2010

A somewhat tenuous peace has been achieved in the ranks of the Bharatiya Janata Party after the “nasty jolt” it received in the May 2009 general elections. But a detente eludes journalists aligned with the BJP.

This, above, is the public exchange of words between the columnist Swapan Dasgupta and the Pioneer associate editor Kanchan Gupta on the microbloging site Twitter.

The provocation? Dasgupta’s piece in the Wall Street Journal on reinvigorating the BJP.

Also read: For the BJP, is the pen mightier than the trishul?

Who are the journalists running, ruining BJP?

Don’t laugh: do journalists make good politicians?

The sad and pathetic decline of Arun Shourie

How come no one saw the worm turn?

How Chandan Mitra has his halwa and hogs it too

Advani: Prime minister maybe, but not a good sub

A ‘relook’ at relooking at Jyoti Basu’s Bengal?

19 January 2010

Amid the torrent of unctuous praise raining on the communist leader Jyoti Basu, Business Standard had a sharp piece by the former Pioneer journalist Kanchan Gupta on Saturday, 16 January, on its op-ed pages.

“Had it been Jyoti Banerjee lying unattended in a filthy general ward of SSKM Hospital in Kolkata and not Jyoti Basu in the state-of-the-art ICCU of AMRI Hospital, among the swankiest and most expensive super-speciality healthcare facilities in West Bengal, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would not have bothered to arrange for a video-conference for top doctors at AIIMS to compare notes with those attending to the former chief minister of West Bengal,” wrote Gupta, who did a brief spell in prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee‘s office.

“The fulsome praise that is heaped on Jyoti Basu today—he is variously described by party loyalists and those enamoured of bhadralok Marxists as a “humane administrator” and “far-sighted leader”—is entirely misleading if not undeserving…. As a Bengali, I grieve for the wasted decades but for which West Bengal, with its huge pool of talent, could have led India from the front. I feel nothing for Jyoti Basu.”

But, post Basu’s death on Sunday afternoon, the piece has disappeared off the Business Standard website. A Google cache exists.

(Update: The same piece had been published on Gupta’s blog on 9 January and by The Pioneer on 10 January.)

For the record, Business Standard is now edited by Sanjaya Baru, former media advisor to prime minister Manmohan Singh in his first term.

Screenshot: courtesy Google cache

Read the original article: Relooking West Bengal

Link via A.R. Hemant

***

Also read: T.J.S. George: When editor makes way for editor, gracefully

It’s all official about the return of Sanjaya Baru

Sauce for a paper ain’t sauce for a TV station?

Conflict of interest and an interest in conflict

Don’t laugh: Do journos make good politicians?

23 June 2009

PRITAM SENGUPTA in New Delhi and SHARANYA KANVILKAR in Bombay write: The stunning defeat of the BJP in the general elections has been dissected so many times and by so many since May 16 that there is little that has been left unsaid.

What has been left unsaid is how the BJP’s defeat also marks the comeuppance of a certain breed of journalists who had chucked all pretence to non-partisanship and made it their mission to tom-tom the party, in print and on air, for a decade and more.

The Congress and the Left parties have had more than their share of sympathetic “left-liberal” journalists, of course. And for longer. But most were closet supporters unwilling to cross the divide from journalism into politics, or unwilling to be seen to be doing so.

However, the rise of the “muscular” BJP saw the birth of a “muscular” breed of journalists who unabashedly batted for the party’s politics and policies—without revealing their allegiance while enjoying its fruits “lavishly“—in a manner that would have embarrassed even the official spokesmen of the “Hindu nationalist party”.

Little wonder, Arun Shourie, the granddad of journalists turned BJP politicians, alleged at the party’s national executive meeting that “the BJP was being run by six journalists.” There are different versions doing the rounds on who the “Gang of Six” were, but some names are no longer in the realm of speculation.

# Sudheendra Kulkarni an assistant editor at The Sunday Observer and executive editor at Blitz, rose to be a key aide to both prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and prime minister-in-waiting L.K. Advani, even drafting the latter’s controversial Jinnah speech.

# Chandan Mitra, an assistant editor at The Times of India, editor of The Sunday Observer, and executive editor of Hindustan Times, found himself “mysteriously becoming the proprietor of The Pioneer, without spending a rupee thanks to the generosity of the BJP and more particularly that of L.K. Advani“.

# Swapan Dasgupta, the scion of Calcutta Chemicals (which makes Margo soap), rose to be managing editor of the weekly newsmagazine India Today, before emerging the unofficial media pointsman of sorts for Arun Jaitley and through him for Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi.

# Balbir K. Punj, the sugar correspondent of The Financial Express, who churned out masterly theses on conversions and other sundry diversions for Outlook magazine, was nominated to the upper house of Parliament by the BJP like Mitra.

# And then there’s a motley crew of fulltimers and freelancers, including India Today editor Prabhu Chawla, Pioneer associate editor Kanchan Gupta, who did a spell in Vajpayee’s PMO, and weighty political correspondents and editors of The Times of India, The Economic Times and Dainik Jagran.

“Journo Sena” was what the tribe came to be called, an allusion to the “Vanara Sena” (army of monkeys) that helped Lord Rama fight the armies of Ravana in Ramayana.

However, in the unravelling political epic, the “Journo Sena” stands trapped in the crossfire of a party struggling to come to grips with a gigantic electoral loss, firing wildly at each other—or are being fired at by the big guns.

***

First, Sudheendra Kulkarni’s “candid insider account” in Tehelka, a magazine whose website was hounded out of business by the Vajpayee government, came in for searing criticism from Anil Chawla, a classmate of his at IIT Bombay, for blaming the RSS for the BJP’s plight.

“The patient is being blamed for all that has gone wrong, without in any way blaming either the virus or the team of doctors who have brought the patient to the present critical state,” he wrote in a widely circulated “open letter”.

Kanchan Gupta, who many believe was eased out of Vajpayee’s PMO by Kulkarni, took a potshot at his erstwhile colleague.

“Kulkarni who undid the BJP’s election campaign in 2004 with the ‘India Shining’ slogan and fashioned the 2009 campaign which has taken the BJP to a low of barely-above-100 mark has written an article for Tehelka, the magazine which tarred the NDA government, causing it irreparable damage, and is now the favourite perch of those who inhabit the BJP’s inner courtyard, blaming all and sundry except those who are to blame,” Gupta wrote on rediff.com.

In a rejoinder in Tehelka, Swapan Dasgupta welcomed Sudheendra Kulkarni’s mea culpa calling it “a welcome addition to the ever-growing literature on the BJP’s 2009 election experience,” but couldn’t resist himself from sticking the knife in.

“Kulkarni has provided some interesting insights but has also cluttered the picture with red herrings. This isn’t surprising.

There are many in the BJP who insist that the problem with Advani was Kulkarni“.

When former external affairs minister Yashwant Sinha resigned from party posts, ostensibly miffed at the elevation of Arun Jaitley as leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha despite leading the party to defeat, Dasgupta rushed to Jaitley’s defence, wondering how the resignation letter had made its way to NDTV.

“TV editors I have spoken to have indicated that there were two parallel points of leak. The first was through an associate of Pramod Mahajan (who hates Jaitley) and the other was was the unlikely figure of a cerebral Rajya Sabha MP.

“I gather that the follow-up was done by a disagreeable journalist (one who signed the 20-points during the Emergency) whose nomination to the Rajya Sabha has been blocked by Jaitley on two separate occasions,” he wrote on his blog.

At the BJP’s national executive meeting, the “cerebral Rajya Sabha MP” Arun ShourieMagsaysay Award-winning former investigative journalist and author who became a minister in the Vajpayee government—”blamed six unnamed journalists who, he said, were responsible for articles damaging the [BJP] party interest.”

Whether the journalists were all members of the BJP or merely sympathetic to it, Shourie didn’t make clear.

In drawing attention to the journalists in specific, the former journalist may only have been indulging in the nation’s favourite sport of shooting the messenger but he was also underlining the role his compatriots were playing in the BJP’s affairs.

In his column in the media magazine Impact, Sandeep Bamzai writes:

“Arun Jaitley and his band of journalists-turned-politicocs misread the ground realities and the tea leaves completely. Buoyed by several wins in key States, this core team thought that the mood in the States would be mirrored at the Centre when the general hustings came along.

“Price spikes, terror threats and fulminations against a decent PM Manmohan Singh were the new imperatives crafted by Jaitley and his journo boys.

“The entire strategy fell flat on its face and all the journos who hogged prime time on new telly in the run up to the elections turned into disillusioned critics immediately after the results.”

In the India Today cover story on the BJP’s travails, Swapan Dasgupta’s former boss, Prabhu Chawla, seen to be close to incumbent BJP president Rajnath Singh, found fault with Singh’s bete noire Arun Jaitley for being spotted at Lord’s, applauding a boundary by Kevin Pietersen during the India-England Twenty20 match:

“Jaitley, a hardcore cricket buff, was in London with his family on holiday while his party back home was imploding, just like the Indian team.”

On a yahoogroup called “Hindu Thought”, the former Century Mills public relations officer turned columnist Arvind Lavakare, attacked Swapan Dasgupta, presumably for urging the BJP to junk the “ugly Hindu” image engendered by its commitment to Hindutva.

“After quitting a salaried job in a reputed English magazine a few years ago, Swapan’s livelihood may well be depending on his writings being published in a wide range of prosperous English newspapers which are anti-Hindu and therefore anti-BJP. If that is indeed so, Swapan simply cannot afford to project and push the Hindu line beyond the Laxman rekha. Poor dear,” wrote Lavakare.

The comment would perhaps have gone unnoticed, but Dasgupta gave it some oxygen by responding in kind in a post-script on his blog:

“I have no intention of affirming my credentials. To do so would be to dignify Lavakare’s personal attacks as a substitute for an informed debate on ideas.

“I merely hope that the attacks on where I write, who went to college with me and who are my friends are not in any way an expression of envy. It is a matter of satisfaction for me that I get a platform in the mass media (cutting across editorial positions).

“Engaging with the wider world is daunting but much more meaningful than gloating inside a sectarian ghetto. I strong recommend Lavakare also tries earning a livelihood out of writing for “a range of prosperous English newspapers”. It could be a humbling experience.”

Among the few journalists to have spotted the travails of the “Journo Sena”, or at least among the few to have had the courage of conviction to put it on paper, is Faraz Ahmed.

He writes in The Tribune, Chandigarh:

“When the BJP lost power in 2004, all the branded BJP editors—Kanchan, Swapan, A. Surya Prakash and Udayan Namboodri—were pensioned off to Chandan Mitra’s Pioneer. Today, however, each one of them is finding fault with Advani, the BJP and some even with the Sangh.

“These are ominous signs of the demise of a political party and reminds one of the slow and painful death of Janata Dal in the early ’90s when the ‘Dalam’ was dying and BJP was on the upswing and everyone was joining it or identifying with it because that was the most happening party.

“To be fair to these people who naturally represent the rising middle class, they waited patiently for five years in a hope that the UPA government would be a one-election wonder and would die a natural death in the next round. So much for their political understanding.”

Obviously, everybody loves a winning horse and doubtless the antics of the “Journo Sena” would have made for more pleasant viewing had the election verdict been the other way round.

Still, their antics in the aftermath of defeat raise some fundamental questions about their grand-standing in the run-up to the elections: Are all-seeing, all-knowing journalists cut out for politics? Do they have the thick skin, large stamina, and the diplomatic skills required for the rough and tumble?

From the embarrassment they have caused and are causing to their party of choice, it is clear that there is an element of truth to BJP president Rajnath Singh’s statement that he can “neither swallow nor spew out” the journalists.

Then again, L.K. Advani started his career as a journalist.

Also read: How come no one saw the worm turn?

The sad and pathetic decline of Arun Shourie

How Chandan Mitra has his halwa and hogs it too

Advani: Prime minister maybe, but not a good sub

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