Is MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar Using His Media Houses to Promote the BJP’s Agenda?

Despite being a Malayalee, Rajeev Chandrasekhar,  a successful businessman and an independent Member of Parliament from Karnataka, was not a popular name in Kerala till he was appointed as the vice-chairman of the Kerala unit of the NDA. He is also the owner of Asianet News.

Unlike businessmen like Vijay Mallya, Mr. Chandrasekhar could be considered a trendsetter who has proven that even businessmen can try their hand at politics, without creating too many controversies.

However, his captaincy for media houses has resulted in a major setback and landed him in trouble. This has also raised various questions on his political career.

‘Newslaundry’ had published a story that contained a leaked email sent by Jupiter Capital’s Chief Operating Officer Amit Gupta to editorial heads of media outlets including Malayalam news channel Asianet News, Kannada news channel Suvarna News, web portal Newsable and newspaper Kannada Prabha.

These are the major portions of the email that was published.

“All Editorial talent to be hired with a summary of bio to be sent to CXO office for views and guidance.

The candidate should be:

–  Right of Centre in his/her editorial tonality

– Pro-India, Pro-Military,

– Aligned to Chairman’s ideology, views

– Should be aware of his governance reforms;

– Well-familiarised with thoughts on nationalism and governance

Offers being rolled out shall be summarised and shared with Chairman’s office as regards to the credentials (only) and the hiring managers have to ensure that the above has been ticked appropriately.”

The third point, which specifies that the candidate who is being hired in the editorial team should be aligned to the “chairman’s ideology”, seems to be a matter of concern, as the chairman being referred to here is none other than Mr. Chandrasekhar himself. The media outlets mentioned above are owned by the Bengaluru-based investment company, of which Rajeev is the founder and chairman.

Newslaundry has also mentioned that the COO had sent another message the very next day asking the editors to ignore the previous mail. The message read, “I would request for this mail [on editorial hiring] to be ignored. Excuse the incov caused.”

Even though the justification by Mr. Gupta is that the email account has been hacked, it has been reported that the second email asking the editors to restrain from carrying out the recruitment in the above-mentioned manner was because many of them were aggrieved by the company’s decision.

This is not the first time that we are hearing of a controversy related to a politician. But the diktat on editorial hiring by Mr. Chandrasekhar’s company is unsettling.

The MP has advocated governance reforms, institution building, internet freedom, national security, welfare of the Armed Forces Personnel, etc. All his campaigns have been applauded by the public and many recognize him as a politician with substance.

The guideline given in the email that suggests that the candidate should be “pro-India and pro-military” doesn’t reflect well on a person of Mr. Chandrasekhar’s standing. Equally disturbing is the one that says that the people hired by these media houses should have an ideology similar to that of the chairman. This guideline can be interpreted as one in line with promoting the Hindutva agenda of the BJP.

The media undoubtedly is powerful and a medium that is being followed by the public at large. In light of Mr. Chandrasekhar’s recent appointment, it seems as though the BJP is badly in need of an outlet that echoes its ideology. And the leaked email from Jupiter Capital reflects that these media outlets are open to editorializing the content and news being aired.

The Kochi Post contacted M.G. Radhakrishnan, Chief Editor of Asianet News, to confirm the authenticity of the email. He denied the allegations and said it is a “fraud mail”.

The Kochi Post reached out to Mr. Chandrasekhar  in order to get his comments on the issue. We received the following statements from the MP’s office.

Jupiter Capital is an investor in various companies in media and technology. It has a track record of successful investments in entertainment, technology and media including NDTV, Asianet News, etc. These companies are managed by their boards and independent managements.

The question of directing companies on editorial content, hiring and other operational aspects by Mr. Chandrasekhar doesn’t arise. Mr. Rajeev Chandrasekhar is not member of any of these boards or managements.

Asianet News is a media company in which Jupiter Capital has invested and has a well-earned reputation for its fierce independent coverage of news. It’s the market leader because of that. Its sister brands are SuvarnaNews24x7, Kannada Prabha and AsianetNewsable. Jupiter Capital has invested in other media companies as well.

Alleged emails of the kind as reported by the newslaundry.com and other media outlets have originated without the knowledge and consent of Mr. Rajeev Chandrasekhar.

 

This article has been updated to include Mr. Radhakrishnan’s and M P Rajeev Chandrasekhar’s views.

Main photograph from Facebook

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