Eight years after being shelved, the Congress-owned newspaper National Herald staged a comeback in digital format on the 127th birth anniversary of its founder and the nation's first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. The Associate Journals Ltd announced in a press release that the long-defunct newspaper, which his been mired in a legal battle, resumed publication on the digital medium from Monday, according to The Indian Express.
"In keeping with the changing times, the newspaper group resumes phased publication as a multi-media outlet with a strong digital presence. The digital website will follow the same editorial vision and principles as that of our Founder, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru," The Day After quoted AJL's press release as saying.
Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi also tweeted out his best wishes on the occasion, commenting on the symbolism of the day chosen for its relaunch.
— Office of RG (@OfficeOfRG) November 14, 2016
Smeared in Spanish red against a white background, the website neatly stacks stories on its homepage with relevant images. The first look of the digital news journal is a refreshing change from its closely typeset print variant. It also features ten category pages like business, world, lifestyle etc. Barring small alignment issues in the two stacks of stories — namely 'Top read' and 'Featured Stories' — on the front and inner pages, the website sports a fairly neat interface for a start.
Symbolically, there couldn't have been a better day for the relaunch of the Congress mouthpiece. However, the new look fails to wipe off the memory of the recent legal quagmire the newspaper has been mired into. The relaunch of the historic newspaper, founded in 1938 by Nehru himself, could not shed the shadow of the bitter legal battle it has been embroiled into.
Acknowledging and challenging this fact, the National Herald's newly appointed editor-in-chief Neelabh Mishra writes in the editorial welcome note, "Here we come again, defying swamys of vitriol. A vitriol that seeks to sicken our democracy and the harmonious soul of our nation." In a not-so-subtle reference to BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, who had dragged the newspaper to court over charges of corruption, Mishra promises a website "with a free voice to uphold the values of our freedom struggle that our founder (Nehru) represented."
From 'love jihad' to atrocities against Dalit to the FTII row, Mishra's opening note captures all the soft spots of the current ruling dispensation. The edit piece also features a cartoon featuring Nehru himself, captioned "Don't spare me Shankar." The masthead carries the message — the publication hopefully aspires to maintain — "Freedom is in Peril, Defend it with All Your Might" in Nehru's hand.
However, another right-leaning news website PGurus, dubs the re-launch a "cover-up to beg-mercy from the court." Recalling the alleged scam, the article states that AJL was taken over by YIL in 2010 even when the newspaper had already become defunct in 2008. The article alleges "covert means" in the acquisition. It further goes on to say that after Swamy "exposed the fraud" the Congress said that the takeover was meant to revive the newspaper, which the party has managed to do only now, six years after the takeover.
National Herald was launched in the heat of the Indian freedom struggle in 1938 by Jawaharlal Nehru, who later became Independent India's first prime minister. AJL also published two other news dailies, Navjivan in Hindi and Qaumi Awaz in Urdu, which the party also seeks to relaunch, according to Live Mint. The newspaper, since then, served as the Congress party's mouthpiece until 2008, when it folded up due to incurring losses.
However, in 2012, BJP leader Subramanian Swamy filed a complaint alleging misappropriation of funds in the acquisition of Associate Journals Ltd by Young Indian Pvt Ltd., a company owned by Congress leaders, including Sonia and Rahul Gandhi both of whom hold 38 percent shares each. Apart from the Gandhis, Congress leaders Motilal Vora, Oscar Fernandes, Suman Dubey and Sam Pitroda are also accused in the case filed by Swamy.
Swamy has accused them of allegedly conspiring to cheat and misappropriate funds by just paying Rs 50 lakh by which YI obtained the right to recover Rs 90.25 crore which Associated Journals Pvt Ltd (AJL) owed to the Congress.