In midst of polls, a corporate Mahabharat unfolding in Kurukshetra
Though politically he is locked in a close fight with a middle-level industrialist Raj Kumar Saini of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the real challenge to Jindal’s re-election is coming from multi-medium media group Zee, whose boss Subhash Chandra is camping in Kurukshetra for past fortnight having now put his weight behind the candidature of Narendra Modi for the prime minister’s position.
Both the families belong to the neighbouring district of Hissar and belong to the trader Vaish community. Though much younger to OP Jindal, founder of the group named after him, Chandra enjoyed a good rapport with him. The relations between the two families deteriorated following the death of OP Jindal in helicopter crash in 2005. It touched its nadir last year when both the groups decided to wash dirty linen in public.
Naveen Jindal last year released a videographed conversation between his officials and editors of Zee group negotiating an advertising deal to ‘go slow’ on their expose of the role of JSPL in the multi-crore Coalgate Scam. The release of videos led to an uproar in the media industry and arrest of the editors of Zee group -- Sudhir Chaudhary, the head of Zee News, and Samir Ahluwalia, the head of Zee Business channels.
The Zee group on the other hand alleged that the release of videos was an attempt by Jindals to cover up their role in the Coalgate scandal. The Jindals are facing CBI probe in the matter. Zee News had cited the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) that has named JSPL as one of the beneficiaries of the allocation that was done bypassing auctions. The Zee group has also filed a 150 crore defamation suit against Naveen Jindal. The steel and power major retaliated by filing a Rs 200 crore suit against the media group.
Now this battle has cast its shadow on the upcoming Lok Sabha polls with Chandra leaving no stone unturned for what he sees as fight to finish. He even shared dais with BJP prime ministerial candidate with Narendra Modi when he addressed a public rally here on 3 April. Though he claims that he has chosen several constituencies to work in but agrees that he has a ‘principled difference of opinion’ with the sitting Congress MP.
His presence on the stage ensured that Narendra Modi spoke about the multi-crore Coalgate scandal and appropriate action in the matter. BJP’s prime ministerial candidate even went onto say at his Kurukshetra rally that ‘how could a person be trusted when he has not even spared coal.’ Bourses would definitely be watching the outcome of this political battle with some anxiety.