In Assam too, scribes take the plunge

BY TERESA REHMAN| IN Regional Media | 08/04/2014
The star attraction this election in Assam is prolific journalist and former Deputy Editor of the television news channel DY 365, Manorom Gogoi.
Both journalism and politics are tools to change society, candidates tell TERESA REHMAN. PIX: AAP candidate from Guwahati Pranjal Bordoloy

This Lok Sabha election has attracted many high profile journalists and Assam is not untouched by this phenomenon.  This year the state has seen several media stalwarts trying their hand in politics.

The Rajya Sabha elections in January 2014 saw high-profile journalist Haider Hussain contesting as a combined Opposition candidate. Hussain was the editor-in-chief of Asomiya Protidin, the highest selling Assamese daily. In a rare show of unity, three opposition parties of the state assembly - BJP, Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) came together to nominate Hussain as the fourth candidate as a protest against Sultanpur MP and Congress candidate Sanjay Singh's nomination. However, AGP-BJP-AIUDF backed Independent, Haider Hussain, could muster only 26 first-preference votes despite the combine having 32 votes needed to elect an MP.

Hussain, however, denies that he is into politics. He hastily adds, “I never indulged in politics though I was invited many times. This time, I decided to contest as an independent candidate due to different reasons but I am not a politician.”

Hussain is not the only journalist to have taken the plunge.  The BJP in Assam got another shot in the arm with the joining of former student leader and journalist Adip Phukan, who was the editor of Assamese daily Edinar Sangbad. Phukan’s tryst with politics is not new.
 He was earlier the general secretary of Assam Jatiyatabadi Yuva Chhatra Parishad. He later resigned from the organisation and joined the central executive committee of the AGP. Then, he resigned from the AGP, leveling a host of charges against the party president and Chief Minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta. For a while, he came back to active journalism before joining the BJP this year. 

Dinesh Baishya, an academic, feels that journalists fall in the ‘responsible and enlightened’ class of society, so it’s ideal if a journalist steps into politics. “We also think that journalists can change the society. So, politics is just a tool in achieving a better society. Its time good people from all professions should join politics otherwise it has indeed become a safe refuge of scoundrels.”

The star attraction this election in Assam is prolific journalist and former Deputy Editor of the television news channel DY 365, Manorom Gogoi. He is contesting on an AAP ticket from Jorhat constituency in upper Assam. Gogoi, who was a popular face on television, has been a big crowd-puller. Apart from being a journalist, he is also an acclaimed writer.  
His books include "Paragdar Sannidhyat", a book on Late Parag Kumar Das, a veteran journalist as well as a pioneer human rights activist of North-east India. He also wrote a book "Sangbadikotat Naitikota: Ejon Sangbadikor Atmanusandhan", a book on ethical journalism and latest media trends of Assam. 

 Gogoi says, “I had been into journalism for 25 years. When I started in 1989, I took it as a social mission and not just a profession. Over the years, I have realised that only writing in newspapers and speaking on television cannot change the way corruption has crept into our system. I think it is time that people from all professions should use politics as a tool to change society for the better.” 

Gogoi however rues that media has become a bigger politician than politicians themselves. He adds, “Politics should not be the last refuge of scoundrels but the last refuge of honest people. I want to carve a path for honest politics. If the number of honest people in politics increases, we can turn the tables,” says Gogoi. He agrees that due to lack of funds they have not been able to hold massive rallies, hoardings and star campaigners, but there is a strong undercurrent for change among the conscious citizens. But Gogoi is also firm that he will continue to wield the pen and his journalism will continue and it will be for the betterment of the society.

The glib and outspoken young face of AAP, Pranjal Bordoloy who is contesting from Guwahati constituency also started as a mediaperson. He started Azury Communications in 1994 with focus in creative solutions, event management, TV news & destination-solutions. As a producer/director, he has to his credit Khabar, a pioneering television news-magazine in Doordarshan. Started in April 1999, it was the first privately produced news-magazine in DDK. He has produced over 200 documentaries, corporate films, TV serials etc. 

Pranjal Bordoloy was the one who gave the clarion call and organised the first protest in Assam in support of the anti-corruption movement, led by Anna Hazare in Guwahati on April 7, 2011. Currently the convener of AAP in Assam,
 Bordoloy initially was apprehensive about treading into politics – he thought it was dirty. It was after talking to his party chief Arvind Kejriwal, he realised that one cannot change the system without being a part of it. He travels on city buses to campaign and he adds, “There are very good journalists working on the ground. The conflict of interest arises when corporates want to monopolise the news business.” Bordoloy is hopeful of bringing about a change and build the India of tomorrow. “People want the neta culture to end,” he urges.

Both journalism and politics are tools to change society feels journalist turned politician Abdul Khaleque, former MLA of the Congress party. Khaleque worked for two Assamese dailies Asom Bani and Aamar Asom before he joined politics. “I wanted to do something for the development of my area which is underdeveloped. I also wanted to do something for the development of my community. As a journalist, I could not take part in the development process directly.”

The mood of the people is palpable. They want change. Hopefully, the trend will continue and more and more conscious citizens will join politics in different parts of northeast India as well. This will discourage consolidation of power by a group of selfish power-brokers.

Teresa Rehman is Managing Editor, 
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