Chandan Mitra, a former Bharatiya Janata Party MP who switched to the Trinamool Congress in 2018, died last night. He was also the editor of The Pioneer, but recent reports stated that he had resigned as printer and publisher of the newspaper in June this year.
Chandan Mitra, after hobnobbing with both the INC and the BJP, had finally managed to get the stewardship of The Pioneer in the 1990s from the Thapar Group. He had earlier been the executive editor of pro-INC newspaper Hindustan Times.
Chandan Mitra’s son Kushan said that his father had died last night in Delhi. “Shri Chandan Mitra Ji will be remembered for his intellect and insights. He distinguished himself in the world of media as well as politics. Anguished by his demise. Condolences to his family and admirers. Om Shanti,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said.
BJP’s Rajya Sabha MP Swapan Dasgupta, on receiving the news, tweeted: “I am posting a photograph of Chandan Mitra and me together during a school trip in 1972. Be happy my dear friend wherever you are. Om Shanti.”
“I lost my closest friend—editor of Pioneer & former MP Chandan Mitra—this morning. We were together as students of La Martiniere & went on to St Stephen’s & Oxford. We joined journalism at the same time & shared the excitement of Ayodhya & the saffron wave,” he wrote.
Another former colleague of Chandan Mitra who practises pro-BJP journalism, Kanchan Gupta mourned his death too.
Chandan Mitra’s former colleague Sidharth Mishra condoled his passing on Facebook.
Sirf News‘ Editor-in-Chief Surajit Dasgupta worked under Chandan Mitra in The Pioneer between 2005 and 2008. “From Chandan Mitra, I learnt what not to say — or when to keep quiet — in journalism,” Surajit Dasgupta said, adding that he did not always exercise that restraint, which to him meant sometimes taking recourse to sophistry to camouflage the truth.
Chandan Mitra began his career in journalism as an assistant editor with The Statesman in Calcutta (now Kolkata) before he moved to The Times of India in Delhi and then The Sunday Observer. He went on to become the editor of the paper and later moved to the Hindustan Times as its executive editor. Mitra left HT to join The Pioneer as editor, and eventually bought control of the newspaper from the Thapar family in 1998, thanks to some help from the then top brass of the BJP, when industrialist LM Thapar decided to cut his losses.
Mitra went to La Martiniere school in Calcutta, where he was awarded the Founder’s Gold Medal in 1971. He was a batchmate of Swapan Dasgupta and Paranjoy Guha Thakurta at La Martiniere. The trio went up to St Stephen’s College, Delhi University, together.
At St Stephen’s, Chandan Mitra and Shashi Tharoor became friends. Mitra even managed Tharoor’s successful campaign to become president of the college’s student union.
Mitra received an MA and MPhil in History at Delhi University. He taught for a short while at Hansraj College.
In 1984, he was awarded a doctorate degree at Oxford University, where he was a member of Magdalen College, for the thesis “Political mobilisation and the nationalism movement in India – a study of eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, 1936-1942” written under the supervision of Indian historian Tapan Raychaudhuri. Mitra married twice. His second wife Shobori Ganguly was earlier the wife of a colleague of his.
In a substantial part of Chandan Mitra’s career as the head of The Pioneer, his journalism toed the line of his respective political masters. From a communist background during his formative years, Chandan Mitra had switched to the so-called saffron camp as he became the editor as well as business head of The Pioneer. But his line was not merely pro-Hindutva; his newspaper zealously guarded the interests of BJP leaders till the time he was in the party. On his switching to the Trinamool Congress, the newspaper turned anti-BJP overnight.
CMYK Printech Limited, the company that runs The Pioneer, appealed to the authority recently for declaring it a bankrupt company.
Chandan Mitra fought two elections unsuccessfully from his native place Howrah, West Bengal, on BJP tickets.