If film and television stars are hot favourites with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee after she brought them into politics, journalists are not lagging far behind, either.
Banerjee’s love-hate relationship with the media continues unabated as she has picked another senior journalist as a candidate for the 2016 state assembly polls: Prabir Ghosal, a senior journalist from Bartaman Patrika – a Bengali vernacular paper.
After Ghosal’s nomination, she said, “My door for journalists is always open. If journalists want to try their luck with politics seriously, I am always there to find them some responsibility.”
The All India Trinamool Congress already has many journalist-politicians in its ranks. Ghosal has been nominated in place of a popular Bengali singer – Anup Ghosal, whose tune in Satyajit Ray’s Goopi Gayen Bagha Baine continues to enthrall millions even today.
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Mamata Banerjee said the singer was not keeping well. “I had a talk with him before giving nomination to Prabir Ghosal,” she added hinting that the change was made with the singer’s consent. The Uttarpara constituency is a high winning probability seat for the TMC and Prabir Ghosal could be in Banerjee’s new team.
Ghosal’s profile is concerned, he had had a long stint in Bartaman Patrika – the second largest circulated Bengali daily from Kolkata. He had joined the paper at its inception in 1984 and continued to work for 30 years. “My introduction to Mamata didi dates back to 1981 – even before I had joined the Bartaman paper. Didi was then the women’s wing chief of the INTUC in South Kolkata and working as a Congress worker,” revealed Ghosal.
The West Bengal chief minister had surprised all by sending four journalists to the Rajya Sabha in May, 2012 – namely, Kunal Ghosh ( now suspended from the party and in jail in connection with the Saradha case) Nadimul Haque – an Urdu paper journalist and columnist, Vivek Gupta – editor of Sanmarg – a Hindi daily published from Kolkata. There is also Ahmad Hasan Imran who was associated with an Urdu magazine cum paper . Relations between the Trinamool and Hasan deteriorated after the CBI summoned him in connection with Sudipta Sen – the Saradha chief .
In the last Kolkata Municipal Corporation polls too, Mamata Banerjee had nominated a young woman reporter from ANI and got her elected. She had also inducted Srinjoy Bose – editor and owner of a Bengali newspaper group called Pratidin Prakashoni Pvt Ltd. But Srinjoy Bose resigned from the TMC after the CBI questionen him in the Saradha case.
However, the last municipal polls in West Bengal in 2015, saw Banerjee on a collision course with journalists when her party supporters allegedly assaulted a large number of journalists and also prevented them from working in the polling booths with a free hand. Processions were taken out condemning the attacks. Her government also allegedly took several steps, restricting the free movement of journalists in news gathering at the state secretariat at Nabanna.
Before the state elections were announced, Banerjee had declared a health and accident insurance scheme for all accreditated journalists. The decision was approved by the cabinet . Under the scheme health care services would be available to journalists up to the age of 65 at all government or government-enlisted private hospitals and diagnostic centres in the state at free and subsidized costs, Mamata had said. Earlier, she had announced a free travel facility for all accreditated journalists in all government owned transport, ferry services, etc.