Kolkata, April 27: The Ananda Bazaar Patrika (ABP) Group, the big media house of West Bengal, has been seen targeting the Mamata Banerjee government before and during this year's Assembly election. The daily, Anandabazaar Patrika, and news channel, ABP Ananda, are seen attacking the establishment unsparingly day in and out. The ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) is being held responsible for almost every clash or problem which is happening during the election.
The house is also leaving no stone unturned to make the most of the Narada sting operation against a number of high-profile leaders, ministe and MPs of the TMC after declaring that it has not verified the footage, to take itself to a safe distance. [Bengal media's disappointing poll coverage]
But why is the media house targetting Mamata Banerjee's TMC government so overtly?
An investigative report by the Millennium Post has revealed the reason. According to its report published on Tuesday (April 26), Aveek Sarkar, the stylish head of the media group, had hoped to convince the Mamata Banerjee government to allow him make a massive profit of Rs 500 crore from a land measuring over 3 acres on the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass.
Clash of interests
The land was leased out by the TMC-led Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) for just Rs 3 crore for media-related activities. But Sarkar's house instead wanted to undertake commercial activities like real-estate development in that land.
Mamata declares Aveek Sarkar an adversary in the polls. His paper responds by giving Left-Cong rally a page-1 salute pic.twitter.com/PPiLe36XkN— Shekhar Gupta (@ShekharGupta) April 28, 2016
The Millennium Post also showed a document with its report which proved that in January 2014, the ABP group's MD and CEO DD Purkayastha wrote to CM Banerjee seeking changes in certain clauses in the lease of the land.
The top ABP official also met Sovan Chatterjee, the mayor of Kolkata, seeking permission on the same. But to its disappointment, the media house saw the KMC's mayor-in-council planning to take back the land for usage that would help raise funds for development work, the report said.
In July that year, the KMC cancelled the land's lease, leaving the ABP Group fuming and it soon launched an all-out attack on the state government.
The report also added that the agreement between the KMC and ABP Group said the land was transferred for setting up a printing press and office within three years but the land has remained unused since then, the report said.
The KMC officials also learned that the media group authorities filled up water bodies inside the plot illegally, flouting environment laws.
The civic authorities then sought the agreement to be scrapped and repossession of the land on the grounds that the ABP Group failed to serve the purpose for which the agreement was made and was even asking the chief minister to change the clauses.
The matter then went to the court and an ex parte stay order was received, the report said. The ABP group accused the KMC of trying to evict them from the land, which the latter denied.
The land is still in possession of the ABP and there is every possibility of the TMC taking it back if voted to power this year again for the high court had said the KMC has the right to cancel the lease but should follow a proper method. If the TMC gets back the land, then it will not only mean a loss of face for the ABP group but also a huge economic loss.
Besides the land issue, there has been instances in the past when the two Sarkars of Bengal---the TMC and Aveek-came face to face over other episodes like a proposed transfer of a land belonging to the age-old Royal Calcutta Golf Club or reducing the property tax drastically.
The ABP group head, according to the report, has tried to influence Mamata Banerjee on modifying/removing the land ceiling rules---both urban and rural---so that his own corporate plannings are executed smoothly but in vain and this has hurt Sarkar's ego, besides the ambition.
Hence, the decision to unleash the entire media machinery to ensure Mamata Banerjee loses this high-stake election.