Is Rajeev Chandrasekhar’s Resignation from Republic TV an Eyewash?

As an independent MP, Rajeev Chandrasekhar showed clear alignment with the NDA govt, so why step down now?
Vishnu Gopinath
India
Updated:
Rajeev Chandrasekhar announced his resignation from Republic TV’s board of directors on 2 April.
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(Photo: Arnica Kala/The Quint)
)Rajeev Chandrasekhar announced his resignation from Republic TV’s board of directors on 2 April.
Since I am now a member of the BJP, I believe it is in the best interest of Republic TV’s brand and team that I no longer serve on the board.
Rajeev Chandrasekhar

On 2 April, the day he was sworn in as the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) Member of Parliament from Karnataka, Rajeev Chandrasekar announced that he had resigned from the board of directors of Republic TV’s parent company, ARG Outlier Asianet News Private Limited, with effect from 31 March.

I have taken this decision because of my recent joining of the BJP and being elected as a BJP MP. As you are aware, from 2006 I have been in public life as an Independent MP, and not a member of any political party.
Rajeev Chandrasekhar

Chandrasekhar’s Political Affiliation

Chandrasekhar has been an Independent MP from Karnataka since 2006. He was also appointed as the Vice-Chairman of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in Kerala in September 2016. In fact, a report by Newslaundry adds that Chandrasekhar also actively campaigned for the NDA government during the 2016 Kerala state Assembly elections.

Like these tweets from his official Twitter handle show:

Was Chandrasekhar never connected to the BJP then? When asked this very question, a source from Chandrasekhar’s office told The Quint that he was simply representing the NDA, not the BJP.

On a side note, the BJP is the largest party in the NDA.

Chandrasekhar's Appointment as Director of Republic TV

ARG Outlier Media Asianet News Private Limited, Republic TV’s parent company, came into existence on 8 August 2016, with five directors – Chandrasekhar, Managing Director Arnab R Goswami, Samyabrata Goswami (Arnab’s wife), Ajay Rameschandra Garg, and Mohit Jayanti Raghunath Dhamne as Company Secretary.

Chandrasekhar was appointed as nominee director of ARG Outlier Asianet News Private Limited on 24 November 2016, nearly two months after his appointment as the NDA vice-chairman in Kerala.

Was Chandrasekhar Not an NDA Man Then?

Apart from Republic TV, Chandrasekhar is also the Founder and Chairman of Jupiter Capital Private Limited, the company under whose umbrella Republic TV, Asianet News, Suvarna News, Radio Indigo, newspaper Kannada Prabha, and many more media outlets operate.

Now, Arnab’s inclination to “pose tough questions” to, and even harangue leaders of Opposition parties, those who question the military, and students of JNU is remarkable.

From repeated questions to Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani, to PhD student from JNU, Umar Khalid, who, Arnab during his stint at Times Now once called “more dangerous to this country than maoist terrorists,” none who “oppose the nation” are spared his wrath.

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Not for Me to Explain What Republic TV Does: Chandrasekhar

Questions about Republic TV’s “hard-hitting approach” against the Opposition government, and hesitation to raise tough questions with the ruling BJP government, have been posed to Chandrasekhar in the past.

In an interview with Scroll, he had this to say when asked about the editorial stance of the media outlets he invests in:

Republic TV has a different point of view, and people have accused it of being pro-BJP, mouthpiece of the BJP. That is for the editor to explain. It’s not for the shareholder to explain.
Chandrasekhar to Scroll

In addition, an email accessed by Newslaundry, reportedly sent by Jupiter Capital CFO Amit Gupta on 21 September 2016, read:

“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 and should be aware of his governance reforms;

- well familiarised with his thoughts on nationalism and governance

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

The Chairman, mentioned above, was in fact Chandrasekhar.

The email, was countered the very next day, by another mail sent by Gupta which says, “I request for this mail [on editorial hiring] to be ignored.”

The Newslaundry report adds that when they reached out to Gupta about the email his office had responded stating that the mail network had been “hacked by a disgruntled element,” adding that the “hack” was being probed.

The Newslaundry report also adds that they were informed by an anonymous source from Chandrasekhar’s office that the mail was retracted because of “editorial pushback,” contrary to the reply from Gupta’s office.

The Quint got in touch with Chandrasekhar’s office with the following questions:

  1. Rajeev Chandrasekhar said he resigned now in the interest of Republic TV's brand and team, after becoming the BJP's MP. But he was the Kerala NDA’s vice-chairman since 2016. So, while representing the NDA, he was made a director of ARG Outlier, however, now, when he's been made an MP of the BJP, which is the largest party in the NDA, he feels that he shouldn't continue in his role as director of ARG. Why?
  2. Wasn't he a director of Republic TV when he was a representative of the NDA?
  3. What about the Rs 30 crore which Rajeev’s Asianet News Online Pvt Ltd invested in ARG Outlier? Does Rajeev Chandrasekhar also intend on transferring his shares and relieving himself of his majority share in ARG Outlier?
  4. Now that Chandrasekhar has stepped down from the board of directors, does this mean he will have no say over Republic TV’s editorial stance?
  5. Did he have any editorial stance earlier? For example, the mail that was sent by Amit Gupta on 21 September 2016, which was reported by Newslaundry, mentioned “aligning with Chairman’s ideologies” while hiring candidates. Another mail was sent to “ignore this” the very next day, the Newslaundry report added. Additionally, in response to Newslaundry's questions about this, it was stated that the e-mail was "hacked by a disgruntled element."
  6. Additionally were the suggestions to hire people who were “pro-military” and “right of centre” and “aligning with chairman’s ideologies” simply a mistake, or were they done by a "disgruntled element" as you've stated in your reply to Newslaundry? The Newslaundry report added that the Jupiter had "initiated an investigation into the breach." Could we also know what this investigation has revealed so far?
  7. Republic TV's stance has always been "hard on the opposition," but easier on the government. Why is this so?
  8. Now that Mr Chandrasekhar has resigned from the board of directors, can we expect tougher questions from Republic TV to the ruling government?

This report will be updated if and when we get a reply.

(With inputs from Newslaundry, Scroll, and PTI)

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Published: 06 Apr 2018,08:40 PM IST

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