VETERAN JOURNALIST and two-term Rajya Sabha MP Chandan Mitra died at his Sainik Farms home here late Wednesday night. He was 66.
Editor and managing director of The Pioneer newspaper, Mitra had been unwell for the past one year.
Although considered a prominent right-wing intellectual when he was first nominated to the Rajya Sabha by the BJP in 2003, Mitra’s ability to forge friendships beyond political ideologies could be judged by the leaders of various parties who paid tributes to him.
Among the first to condole his death Thursday morning was Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “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,” he tweeted.
President Ram Nath Kovind said Mitra was an “outstanding journalist and his stint as a parliamentarian added to his reputation”. “His understanding of Hindi heartland and its history was profound. His demise leaves a void in Indian journalism,” he tweeted, offering condolences to his family.
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.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) September 2, 2021
Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, whose party Mitra joined in 2018, tweeted, “Saddened by the demise of Shri Chandan Mitra. He will be remembered for his contribution to the world of journalism and politics.”
Mitra started his journalism career with The Statesman in Kolkata. He joined The Pioneer, which he headed editorially for around 24 years, after stints at The Times of India, Sunday Observer and Hindustan Times newspapers.
A year into heading The Pioneer, its then owners, the Thapar Group, handed over the newspaper to Mitra in 1998. It was in June this year that he stepped down as the newspaper’s printer and publisher.
Very sorry to hear abt d demise of former MP n senior journalist Sh Chandan Mitra. He was a good friend. Served on d India Foundation Board for many years until his health forced him to withdraw from public activism. Condolences to @kushanmitra n other near and dear. On Shantih pic.twitter.com/dHvHNjrgt8
— Ram Madhav (@rammadhav_rss) September 2, 2021
Among the leading editors of his time, Mitra’s dynamism lay in being able to have an all-encompassing and accommodative view of the world around him, even if they ran contrary to his ideology or belief system. He gave special attention to issues such as climate change, urban and rural development, heritage, and education. He realised the soft power of Bollywood and encouraged serious discourses on the film industry in a mainstream newspaper.
A supporter of Left politics in his student years, Mitra was drawn to the right-leaning ideology and the BJP. Considered close to L K Advani, he got a second term in the Rajya Sabha in 2010 when he was elected as a BJP member from Madhya Pradesh.
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 pic.twitter.com/58vMvU6Wa9
— Swapan Dasgupta (@swapan55) September 2, 2021
He, however, quit the party eight years later to join the Trinamool Congress, the ruling party in his home state West Bengal.
An avid foodie, he was an authority on Hindi film music and wrote extensively on it. At the end of a hard day at work, he loved to go back to his favourite Archie comics or listen to Rabindra Sangeet.
An alumnus of La Martiniere Calcutta and St Stephen’s College, Delhi, Mitra got MA and M.Phil in History from Delhi University and even taught briefly at Hansraj College. Later, he went to earn a doctorate from Oxford University.
Mitra is survived by his wife Shobori Ganguli, and two sons Kushan and Shakya Mitra. His last rites were performed at Lodhi Crematorium, where several editors and journalists gathered to pay tributes.