With chief editorial writer missing in action, it’s up to his team at Saamana to spell out Sena’s stance
Its executive editor and driving force Sanjay Raut may have been arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on the alleged money-laundering charges, but the show must go on in the Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamana
Its executive editor and driving force Sanjay Raut may have been arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on the alleged money-laundering charges, but the show must go on in the Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamana. The senior editorial team in the three-edition newspaper will handle the work of writing the editorials and by extension, spelling out the party’s position on a range of issues — a task that was earlier vested with Raut.
Saamana was launched on January 23, 1989 by late Sena supremo Bal Thackeray. He was the editor of the newspaper in his lifetime, with Raut, who joined in 1992, as the executive editor. After Bal Thackeray’s demise in 2012, the imprint line carried Uddhav Thackeray’s name as the editor, though Raut continued to run the show.
After Uddhav was sworn in as the chief minister, his wife Rashmi became the editor, but Raut, a Rajya Sabha MP and party spokesperson, continued to monitor the editorial functioning of the newspaper during his morning visits to his second-floor cabin in Sadguru Darshan building at Prabhadevi.
Raut is reputed to write the editorials by hand and would also check the dummy of the front page daily. Even before he became an MP, Raut was among the few journalists who had also become the news. His editorials in Saamana were mandatory reading for political reporters on the Sena beat as they reflected the official position of the party.
“There is a separate team to handle the editorials. Earlier, these senior editorial hands would write editorials on issues other than politics, which was largely the prerogative of Raut saheb,” an editorial staffer said.
He said the team would continue writing the editorials, and also make comments on political issues. “After all, they are aware of the party’s position on various issues, and more importantly, know the ‘Lakshman Rekha’. This will ensure things happen seamlessly. After all, this team was groomed by him [Raut].”
Another journalist said the senior editorial staff across the three editions of the newspaper — Mumbai, Pune and Aurangabad (Sambhajinagar) — would continue to collaborate on issues like designing the front page, which is known for its attacking and acerbic headlines.
Birth of Saamana
Sena is the only political party to have been birthed by the art of a cartoonist. In August 1960, Bal Thackeray, an accomplished cartoonist, launched a cartoon weekly Marmik with his cartoonist-music composer brother Shrikant.
The weekly took up causes close to the heart of the Marathi manoos like jobs for the sons of the soil. This led to the launch of Shiv Sena in June 1966.
Saamana was launched on January 23, 1989, which was the birthday of the Sena chief. Senior journalist Ashok Padbidri, who had socialist leanings, was the executive editor.
The title was taken from Vasant Kanade, a Solapur-based journalist who was running it as a fortnightly.
Shrikant wrote features and film reviews for Marmik, under the pseudonym Shuddha Nishad. He also contributed film reviews for Saamana in a column titled Chanderi Dunia (celluloid world).
Uddhav, who then played a back room role in politics, was instrumental in launching Saamana with former industries minister Subhash Desai. Uddhav used this as a springboard for his eventual rise in politics.
His now estranged cousin Raj Thackeray too frequented the Saamana office at Prabhadevi. Uddhav has also drawn cartoons for the publication.
Saamana also carried the announcements of the Sena chief. A prominent one was that on July 18, 1992, when Bal Thackeray announced that he was leaving the party with his family members. This came after criticism by his former associate Madhav Deshpande, who accused him of nepotism and dynastic rule. Thackeray withdrew his “decision” after being urged to do so by Shiv Sainiks.
In 1993, when Sena was using Hindutva to expand among non-Marathi speakers, the party launched Dopahar Ka Saamna, a Hindi daily. Sanjay Nirupam, who had been brought in from the Indian Express Group’s Jansatta was the executive editor.
Saamana and Dopahar Ka Saamna carried serialised interviews with Bal Thackeray and later, Uddhav. In an indication of the deepening ties between the two parties, Saamana also carried an interview of Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar by Raut in July 2020.
During the erstwhile Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party regime from 1995 to 1999, Saamana took frequent potshots at the saffron alliance government.