Daily Archives: 5 May 2009

How Chandan Mitra has his halwa and hogs it too

One of India’s oldest English dailies, The Pioneer, has undergone not so much a transformation but a transmogrification in recent years.

Once a paper which had Rudyard Kipling on its rolls, and for which Winston Churchill served as a war correspondent, the low-circulation paper has returned to its politically conservative roots and become an unabashed mouthpiece of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Under Chandan Mitra, the Oxford-educated Marxist who now is a Rajya Sabha member nominated by the BJP, The Pioneer is one of the few mainstream English language publications to experiment with and articulate the right wing view, providing “the other view” as it were in an ocean of liberalism and so-called “pseudo-secularism”.

On Monday, Mitra told a “packed news conference” in Dehra Dun on how he managed to wear two hats with aplomb—one of an “independent” journalist and the other of a BJP ideologue:

“When I enter the newspaper office, I wear the journalist’s hat and once I come out of it, I wear the politician’s cap. In office, a journalist enjoys full autonomy. For instance, our bureau chief Navin Upadhyay had been to Orissa to cover the election and wrote a report that Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik was a good chief minister. Later, I received 50-60 letters asking how a pro-BJP paper can publish such a story. I replied that this is how I maintain balance between the two roles. Once I realise that I am unable to do justice to my professions, I would leave one of them.”

Photograph: courtesy Rajya Sabha