Usually reliable sources in Chandigarh media circles claim The Tribune is in for some churning. Current Editor-in-Chief Raj Chengappa’s stay at the venerable 130-year old newspaper will soon be over. Kanwar Sandhu, who joined The Tribune as its Executive Editor on October 3, will replace Chengappa.
Sandhu, much respected for his journalism during the difficult and trying 1980s and 90s in Punjab, was earlier Resident Editor of the Chandigarh editions of Hindustan Times as well as The Indian Express. He headed Day and Night news channel, until recently.
Sources said The Tribune Trust that runs the newspaper and is widely respected in the media industry for its good relations with employees, wanted somebody with a better grip of the politics of the region at the ground level with the 2014 Lok Sabha elections on the anvil.
Chengappa while having done a good job during his three-year stint was more comfortable in the Delhi circuit where he has spent much of his professional career than in Chandigarh, Hissar, Shimla or Jammu, where The Tribune has traditionally had a strong footprint.
It may be easy to conclude that both The Hindu and The Tribune are getting new editorial leadership with the anticipated change in the government at Delhi post-2014. However, neither of the two changes are with an intent to have somebody at the helm closer to the BJP or its Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.
Quite to the contrary, both Siddharth Varadarajan, former editor of The Hindu, and Chengappa are being replaced by people who have consistently opposed the ‘communal agendas’ of the BJP and the Shiromani Akali Dal.
People closest to Varadarajan believe he lost his job despite a brilliant 20-month stint, in which he changed the focus of The Hindu from press release journalism, making the newspaper one of the most vibrant in India because of the stories that exposed Robert Vadra’s land deals. And not because of the inadequacy of the newspaper’s coverage of Modi’s rallies, as some of Varadarajan’s left-liberal supporters believe.