The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Jogi tossed off both chair and channel

Raipur, Dec. 6: Ajit Jogi has not only lost the ground beneath his feet; even the airwaves have shut him out.

The state’s only locally owned channel, Akash, has stopped beaming the “Sapno ki raja” (dream merchant) theme — projected so carefully in the run-up to the polls — after the Congress’ defeat.

The channel had gone overboard during the elections, interviewing key ministers of the Chhattisgarh government and virtually propagating their views. According to the BJP, the logo — two small “A”s — suggested who the owners were: Jogi and his son, Amit.

Now, even the entertainment channel that Akash used to run has switched from Chhattisgarhi songs and folk music to old, sentimental films. “The sad tone of the films virtually echo the sentiment of Congress leaders who lost,” says a party old-timer.

As for the news channel, instead of the usual stuff — the Jogi government’s good deeds — it has gone musical. Last heard, it was blaring a popular Bollywood number — Gana to ek bahana hai (Songs are just a pretext).

The channel’s office in state capital Raipur wears a forlorn look. Once crowded with leaders, its newsroom is virtually empty. A few operators hang around, but all that they do is change cassettes.

Raj Awasti, the manager, however says the programmes have been regulated because of lack of adequate staff. “Besides, the contract awarded to a company for running the news channel has expired,” he says.

But some of the local employees dispute this. According to them, the channel is headed for a change in ownership. Awasti also could not explain why the staff shortage coincided with the BJP’s victory as well as the absence of any news item on the change of guard.

The news channel grew in strength after the owner of the cable networks in the state, Dhananjay Parihar, a Shiv Sena activist, got involved in a string of criminal cases following which he was arrested, paraded on the street by police and jailed. As Parihar’s control over the cable operators weakened, Akash became the unquestioned king of cable operations as well as the local advertisement market.

But now, with chief minister-designate Raman Singh announcing a probe into the channel’s activities, its high-ups are gradually withdrawing and going into hiding, says Jogendra Raj, a close aide of BJP leader Dilip Singh Judeo who became embroiled in a cash-on-camera scandal just before the polls.

The channel had come under attack from Union law minister Arun Jaitley on November 28, three days before the polls. Jaitley had alleged at a news conference that the channel’s owners were behind the Judeo episode because the person who booked the hotel for bribing Judeo was Rajat Prasad, one of the financiers.

According to Jaitley, the actual owner of Akash is Amit as, in an e-mail to a friend, he had talked about the bifurcation of the management of the two channels. However, both Jogi and the Congress had vociferously denied that they had any role to play in the functioning of the channels.

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