Red-faced after mid-day's report on the party mouthpiece pointing fingers at Nehru and Sonia Gandhi, Congress leaders demand that Mumbai Congress chief and magazine editor Sanjay Nirupam face a probe
Mumbai Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam is standing on shaky ground after making a laughing stock of his party with controversial articles about Congress icon Jawaharlal Nehru and current party president Sonia Gandhi in the party mouthpiece helmed by him. Although he quickly found a scapegoat to push the blame onto, party members are baying for his blood for causing the party immeasurable embarrassment.
Sudhir Joshi and Sanjay Nirupam
On the day the Congress celebrated its 131st Foundation Day, the party was left red-faced after mid-day broke the story about the contentious articles in the December issue of ‘Congress Darshan’. A 6-page write-up — whose author was unidentified — in the Hindi magazine blatantly stated that Nehru was to be blamed for the current Kashmir, China and Tibet conflicts, as he did not pay heed to the suggestions of fellow freedom fighter and former home minister, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. And that’s not all. In an edition that was themed on Nehru’s granddaughter-in-law and party top boss, Sonia Gandhi, another article alleged that her father was a fascist soldier.
Congress MLA Arif Naseem Khan said he suspected the episode was a conspiracy to bring the party down, and demanded a probe into the matter. (Right) MRCC chief Sanjay Nirupam justified his decision to sack journalist Sudhir Joshi, saying it was his responsibility to ‘do the job perfectly’. File pics
Tremors were felt across the country with this revelation, and party bosses sought an explanation from Nirupam, the magazine’s editor. Nirupam eventually zeroed in on local journalist Sudhir Joshi — a non-Congressman — as the scapegoat. As the content editor for the magazine, Joshi was responsible for the goof-up, argued Nirupam as he sacked the scribe. However, as many pointed out, Joshi’s name doesn’t even appear anywhere on the magazine.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Rahul leave the party headquarters in New Delhi after celebrating the 131st Foundation Day yesterday. The controversial December issue of Congress Darshan also had an article that labelled Sonia’s father a ‘fascist soldier’. Pic/PTI
Attempts to contact Joshi failed as his phone was switched off all through yesterday, but after he was sacked, the little known journalist exploded onto Twitter and other social media platforms, with politicians and citizens pointing out how he had been made the fall guy. Congress members also reacted angrily to the blunder and Nirupam’s attempt to shake off responsibility.
“All people who are responsible for incorrect, indiscriminate and defamatory articles should be sacked,” party MLA Arif Naseem Khan told mid-day yesterday.
Asked if he wanted the party to sack Nirupam as well, Khan told mid-day that no leader in the party was bigger than the Congress and its top leadership. “This isn’t as simple as it is being portrayed by some local leaders. I have demanded a probe into the entire issue because I suspect a conspiracy to weaken the Congress. Why would a Congress magazine say things that the RSS, BJP and other opposition parties say?” he asked.
Incidentally, Sanjay Nirupam was once the editor of the Shiv Sena’s Hindi mouthpiece, ‘Dopahar ka Saamana’, which has also been pointed out by others (See ‘Not unexpected from ex-editor of Sena mag’).
Sources in the Congress said many MLAs, including Khan, will soon meet to devise a strategy to ensure Nirupam’s removal, in case he remains in office for two more days. Several city leaders told this paper they would also participate in the meeting and create a pressure group.
Will he step down?
Nirupam told this reporter he would only react if an official demand is made for his resignation. “I will respond only when I know who is asking for my resignation, openly and officially,” he said.
On the matter of sacking Joshi, whose name does not even appear in the party mouthpiece, Nirupam said the job of bringing out the edition had been completely outsourced to the journalist. “I agree that Joshi’s name isn’t there in the magazine, but it was his duty to do the job perfectly,” he added.
Chastened by this episode, however, the MRCC chief said he would appoint full-timers to manage the magazine, and added, “There will also be a change in the editorial board (comprising party office-bearers).”
But had he washed his hand off the blunder completely? Nirupam said he had accepted the mistake and took proper action that had satisfied party leaders in Delhi. “I discussed the issue with certain senior leaders in Delhi who approved my actions. But the leaders also warned me against repeating the same mistake,” said Nirupam, who now plans to also invest his past experience from editing Sena’s magazine.
“An editor cannot escape his responsibility for published material. The editor is deemed the writer of articles that do not carry the authors’ names. Whatever has appeared in the magazine has been published before. The Congress did not deny the information earlier, but now it has endorsed the information by making it part of the official publication,” said BJP’s chief spokesperson Madhav Bhandari.
‘Not our mouthpiece’
After the controversial articles in ‘Congress Darshan’ left the party squirming in embarrassment, the Congress vehemently tried to distance itself from the “defunct” magazine. “We have nothing to do with this publication. It was a defunct magazine that was trying to revive itself. That is not our mouthpiece. We have nothing to do with this publication. This magazine has not been associated with Congress,” said Congress spokesperson Tom Vadakkan.
Congress leaders react
In his initial reaction, Maharashtra Congress chief Ashok Chavan sought to downplay the issue, and said that since Nirupam had clarified everything, he did not think it right to comment. Meanwhile, in Delhi, Congress leader and former External Affairs minister, Salman Khurshid said, “If something like this has come out in the Congress article, then AICC will take it up.”
‘Not unexpected from ex-editor of Sena mag’
As MRCC chief Sanjay Nirupam faces increasing heat over the injudicious articles, Union Minister of State for Environment, Forests and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar (BJP) yesterday tweeted: ‘#CongressDarshan-Congress has printed pages of history in their mouthpiece. Want to congratulate Sanjay Nirupam for revealing the truth’. During a press conference, Javadekar said Nirupam was known for such write-ups when he was the editor of Sena mouthpiece ‘Dopahar Ka Saamana’, and quipped that he may have copy-pasted the controversial article from something he might have written for Saamana earlier.
>> Sir Ravindra Jadeja @SirJadeja: Sudhir Joshi, Content Editor Of Congress Journal Sacked By Congress After Article Appears To Criticise Sonia, Nehru. Is This Tolerance?
>> Suresh En@surnell: Sudhir Joshi sacked. #CONgressDarshan disowned. @sanjayNirupam on defensive. But no one, yes no one, refuted what the Article spoke about
>> Nandini@_NAN_DINI: Dear Jr Most Editor. You are sacked because we don't like facts & have never faced the truth. Gandhis. #SudhirJoshi