BJP, Congress now have new faces as key spokespersons, media panelists: Baijayant Panda, Shama Mohamed among anointed

  • While some are young newcomers to the political scene, others are veterans who have switched over to peddle new lines in new roles

  • Through his political career, Panda has enjoyed sustained popularity among the Lutyens circle and was considered Naveen's eye in Delhi

  • The daughter of Union Minister of State for Human Resource Development Satya Pal Singh, Charu Pragya is a BJP youth wing recruit

With the Indian democracy largely playing out on television these days, the spokesperson of a political party is a very familiar face. Even more so now that the dates of the Lok Sabha election have been announced and evening debates are never wanting of burning issues. Challenged with the job of repeating the party line every day, spokespersons are key communicators of a party's position, travelling from the screens of one news studio to another within the course of a single evening.

In the current pre-poll scenario, a number of new faces can be seen representing some of the major political parties as spokespersons. While some are young newcomers to the political scene, others are veterans who have switched over to peddle new lines in new roles.

Baijayant Panda

When former Kendrapada MP Baijayant Panda announced that he would be joining the Bharatiya Janata Party on 4 March, few were surprised. He had been suspended from the Naveen Patnaik-led Biju Janata Dal after a bitter fallout and had quit his Rajya Sabha position. Amid fervent retweets of BJP leaders, frequent trips to his Odisha constituency and social media endorsements of Narendra Modi's way of functioning, Panda had been speaking the BJP's party line much before he joined the party. Yet the decision that did take political watchers by surprise was his appointment as one of the BJP's spokespersons and its vice-president, four days after he joined the party.

With regular columns in the opinions editorial sections of many English newspapers, he is a natural choice for articulate criticism of political opponents. His appointment also secures for BJP another reminder to the people of Odisha that the party is prioritising the state.

Charu Pragya The daughter of Union Minister of State for Human Resource Development Satya Pal Singh, Charu Pragya is a BJP youth wing recruit. A steady presence on television media panels now, Pragya has over 28,000 followers on Twitter. Her social media posts range from photographs with Uttar Pradesh's "shooter Dadi" to garden variety slams of Congress chief Rahul Gandhi's "stupidity". A staunch adherence to the party line helps Pragya's stand reach audiences clearly. She is also part of several global initiatives involving youth leaders like the Australia-India Youth Dialogue and is a fellow of the German political party foundation Konrad Adenauer Stiftung.

Shama Mohamed

On 31 December, 2018, when Rahul Gandhi announced the names of 10 new Congress spokespersons, he also announced several new media panelists. The list covered representatives from the length and breadth of India. Most were young and all were fiercely capable of speaking the new social media-friendly word of the Congress.

Among them were dentist Shama Mohamed, whose social media engagements reflect her party's keen eye on the news. Mohamed straddles the secularism line with an avowed love for Hindu culture and Muslim tradition. She routinely slams the ruling dispensation with take downs of its farmers' policies and the demonetisation move, and is often the first to tweet on an issue that has just emerged.

Szarita Laitphlang Another key new figure is Szarita Laitphlang, a rare face from the North East in the all-India party. From Meghalaya, Laitphlang is known for training the lens in evening debates on issues of the region. A mentee of Shashi Tharoor's, she is also the regional coordinator of the All India Professional Congress's (AIPC) east wing and a fellow of the International Visitor Leadership Program in the United States. Similar figures who have become Congress panelists include Aishwarya Mahadev, Adil Boparai, Aman Pawar, Sanjay Chhokar and Anil Dhantori.

Surendra Rajput

The chief spokesperson of the Congress in Uttar Pradesh, Surendra Rajput is a familiar face in the state.His new steady role comes at the end of a few years of turmoil in the two-time MLA and Rajiv Gandhi loyalist's equation with the party. In 2014, Rajput left the party he had joined in 1970, and joined the BJP just before the general election.

He had been elected to the state legislative assembly from 1980-85 and 1985-90, was vice-president of Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee (GPCC) and an All India Congress Committee (AICC) delegate from the state the Business Standard had reported. The man who started his political career through Congress party's labour union, the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), and fought for workers who lost their jobs following closure of textile mills in Ahmedabad, is now back in the party ranks and is a regular face on regional news programmes.

Updated Date: Mar 12, 2019 12:01:55 IST