Chinsurah (West Bengal), April 29
Asserting that people in high places should refrain from coming up with kiss-and-tell accounts, BJP candidate Chandan Mitra, who is a well known editor and a prominent face on TV for the party, says he would not have gone the way of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s former media adviser Sanjaya Baru, even though his book “exposed” the ills of the UPA government.
“On the one hand, he did some service by exposing the ills of the government. But personally speaking, I wouldn’t have done this. People in high places should refrain from coming up with kiss and tell accounts,” Mitra, who is BJP’s candidate from the Hooghly constituency in West Bengal, told IANS in an interview here.
Causing immense embarrassment to the Congress in the midst of the Lok Sabha polls, Baru’s book “The Accidental Prime Minister – The Making and Unmaking of Manmohan Singh” portrays the prime minister’s position as being undermined by Congress president Sonia Gandhi and has kicked up a political storm.
However, Mitra, a senior journalist-turned-politician, does not feel the episode would make political parties wary of appointing mediapersons in key positions.
“Political leaders cannot do without media advisers in this age of the media. The PM will need a mediaperson to advise him on how to go about it,” says Mitra.
The 58-year old Oxford University Ph.D runs one of the country’s oldest daily newspapers, The Pioneer, and there is a buzz that he could become the information and broadcasting minister if the BJP comes to power.
But Mitra calls such talks “premature”.
“Choosing the ministry is like selecting a cricket team in which the captain has a role or others have a role. Whether I’ll be a minister or whether I will get some specific ministry, I feel to even talk about this will be very, very premature. I don’t know anything about this.”
But Mitra does not agree that the Bharatiya Janata Party is trying to control the media by putting its men in pivotal positions aided by some corporate houses.
“It is the Congress which has always got the media’s blessings. The BJP often gets very bad press. (BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra) Modi has often been demonised in the media…BJP is too liberal.”
Mitra, contesting his first direct election, bitterly complains about the intolerance of the state’s ruling Trinamool Congress, which has been tearing off BJP posters. Attacking Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee, he says: “Her style of functioning has always been intolerant. Now power has made her even more intolerant. Her philosophy is if you are not with us, than you are against us.”
The discussion veers to the “intolerance” being shown by some BJP leaders like Giriraj Singh, who said those opposing Modi should be sent to Pakistan.
“Obviously, I don’t subscribe to such views. But the comments have been made by a state level leader. I don’t want to comment on that. BJP is not intolerant,” says Mitra, sitting in the sprawling old-world drawing room of his ancestral home in this town, about 60 km from Kolkata.
In the fray from a seat where the BJP had bagged less than four percent votes in 2009, Mitra says: “Things are different this time. I have come here to win. Trinamool has become unpopular.” Trinamool candidate Ratna Dey Nag is the sitting MP.
Holding roadshows, going door to door, addressing people at street corners, market places, on the banks of the ganges, it has been a hectic routine for Mitra, who feels “like a celebrity”.
He says lack of development is a major issue.
“The constituency also includes Singur, where the erstwhile Left Front government’s bid to acquire land for a Tata Nano plant had triggered a peasant unrest, which the Trinamool encashed to come to power. However, the car factory still stands, albeit like a ghost house.
“If I get a chance, I will set up an IT park there,” says Mitra. He also promises to construct good hospitals besides agro-based industries, as agriculture is “stagnating”.
What would be his newspaper’s future if he got an important assignment in the new government?
“I would see to it that the paper survives. So, if I ever take any responsibility, I want to do for the paper whatever is permitted by rules and constitutional provisions of my new assignment,” Mitra said.
(IANS interview by Sirshendu Panth)