When elections loom into view, journalists with an eye on the main chance, fancy a stint in politics. But in Odisha, the four-time Biju Janata Dal (BJD) MP Tathagata Sathpathy, a stand-out parliamentarian, has taken the opposite route: back to journalism.
Satpathy, owner and editor of the well-regarded Odia newspaper Dharitri, and its sister English daily, Orissa Post, shocked many by his decision, conveyed through a tweet, that he was bidding adieu to “active politics” for a life back in the grind.
In Odisha’s peculiar media structure, where the interplay between politics and the press is a recurring theme, the ruling BJD has a near-total stranglehold, but observers say Satpathy’s publications have shown some spine despite his politics.
Son of Odisha’s first and only woman chief minister, Nandini Satpathy, Tathagata Satpathy had excelled in Parliament, speaking with spunk and polish on such diverse issues as net neutrality, legalisation of cannabis, and homosexuality.
His decision to quit at the age of just 62 has, therefore, set tongues wagging.
S.T. Beuria reports in the Bangalore-based Deccan Herald that Satpathy’s dramatic decision to quit active politics may have had something to do with the entry of his media and political rival, Soumya Ranjan Patnaik, into the party.
Patnaik owns the state’s no.1 newspaper Sambad, the news channel Kanak TV and Radio Chocolate, an FM radio channel. Patnaik, son-in-law of former Congress chief minister J.B. Patnaik, was nominated to the Rajya Sabha the day he joined BJD. His brother Niranjan Patnaik is currently the Congress chief in the state.
Nearly every newspaper and news channel in Odisha barring Samaja, which is owned by a trust, has a political and business imprint.
This has attendant implications for the news and views citizens receive in a state which has been led by the same party for 19 years.
# Baijayant “Jay” Panda, the former BJD MP from Kendrapara, who recently switched over to the BJP owns the state’s No.1 TV news channel, OTV.
# Manoj Nayak, who owns the Prameya newspaper and News 7 channel is reported to be seeking the BJD ticket from Kendrapara Lok Sabha constituency.
# Bhartruhari Mahtab, the BJD MP and another stand-out parliamentarian, owns Prajatantra, formerly Odisha’s second biggest daily newspaper.
Besides, Achyuta Samanta, the BJD MP who runs the educational institution Kalinga Institute of Technology, owns the Kalinga News channel; the BJD MP Ravindra Jena the News World Odisha channel; and the BJD MLA Pranab Prakash Das owns the MBC channel.