Senior leader of the All India Trinamool Congress and former Rajya Sabha MP Chandan Mitra passed away Wednesday night at the age of 65. Mitra's son Kushan confirmed the news on social media, indicating that Mitra was suffering from some prolonged illness.
Since it is already out there; Dad passed away late last night. He had been suffering for a while.
— Kushan Mitra (@kushanmitra) September 2, 2021
Tributes poured in from across party lines. The former BJP man, who was now working with the TMC, was friends with the likes of Shashi Tharoor of Congress and Swapan Dasgupta of the BJP.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the tributes and condoled the death of former BJP leader.
Shri Chandan Mitra Ji will be remembered for his intellect and insights. He distinguished himself in the world of media as well as politics. Anguished by his demise. Condolences to his family and admirers. Om Shanti.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) September 2, 2021
"Shri Chandan Mitra Ji will be remembered for his intellect and insights. He distinguished himself in the world of media as well as politics. Anguished by his demise. Condolences to his family and admirers. Om Shanti," tweeted Modi.
Before turning a politician, Mitra was an illustrious journalist. He was the former editor and managing director of The Pioneer newspaper in Delhi, a post from which he only resigned in June 2021 after the paper ran into legal troubles and was facing insolvency proceedings.
Mitra started in journalism as assistant editor with The Statesman in Kolkata before he moved to The Times of India in Delhi and then The Sunday Observer; he went on to become editor of the paper, and later moved to the Hindustan Times as executive editor. Mitra left HT to join The Pioneer as editor, and eventually bought control of the newspaper from the Thapar family in 1998 when industrialist LM Thapar decided to cut his losses.
He had dabbled in teaching as well shortly -- before taking the plunge in journalism -- as a professor of history at Hansraj college.
Mitra holds a MA and M.Phil in History from Delhi University. He also received a doctorate degree at Oxford University.
Mitra was a part of the Bharatiya Janata Party for the longest part of his political career. Considered a close aid of BJP leader LK Advani, Mitra was brought into politics via the Rajya Sabha route.
He was nominated as a member of the Upper House from August 2003 to August 2009. He was elected to another term in the Rajya Sabha, as a Bharatiya Janata Party MP from Madhya Pradesh, in June 2010. Mitra also contested the West Bengal Assembly elections in 2016 but lost. He was fielded as the party's candidate from Hooghly in West Bengal in the 2014 Lok Sabha election and came a distant third.
However, his political stock in the party plunged under Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah. Mitra was found to be critical of his own government on several occasions, and as a result, was divested of important organisational posts.
He resigned from the BJP in July 2018 and switched over to BJP's arch-enemy AITMC.
"I have no bitterness against the BJP, but I had been feeling more and more frustrated that I was unable to do much in terms of effecting change in my home State. The feeling grew stronger after I contested the 2014 Lok Sabha poll [from Hooghly, West Bengal]. As a Rajya Sabha MP from Madhya Pradesh, I couldn’t contribute any funds to the State either. I found that given the acceptability of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee among the people, the most appropriate vehicle for doing work in my home State would therefore be to join the Trinamool Congress," he had told The Hindu after changing parties.
Mitra is survived by his wife and two sons.