Remembering P.K. Maheshwari, veteran journalist and former MP

Lalit Shastri

Prafulla Kumar Maheshwari¹, a former Rajya Sabha Member and veteran journalist is no more.

After the reorganisation of States and formation of the central Indian State of Madhya Pradesh in 1956, Navbharat, the Hindi daily newspaper which had its roots in Nagpur and was founded by renowned freedom fighter and doyen of Hindi journalism late Ramgopal Maheshwari, soon became the leading newspaper of Bhopal, the new State capital.

Madhya Pradesh Chronicle, which is now called Central Chronicle, was launched by the Navbharat group and within no time, it became the reading habit of the discerning citizens.

While Prafulla Maheshwari took charge of the Madhya Pardesh editions of Navbharat and MP Chronicle, his brother Vinod Maheshwari held fort at the Nagpur headquarters of the Navbharat Group. Those were the days, when television media was not there and the national newspaper chains had not spread beyond the Union capital and the metro-cities, the Navbharat group was then the unquestioned leader in Central India. That was a time when Navbharat had its own imposing building at Jehangirabad near the Police headquaters in Bhopal, while the present day newspaper giant, the Dainik Bhaskar Group, was being run from a modest double-shutter shop in a congested commercial lane in the old Bhopal area.

In the mid-eightees of the last Century, when I was reporting to P.K. Maheshwari and was fully in-charge of the editorial section, including the hiring and training of journalists, Dainik Bhaskar (by this time both Navbharat and Bhaskar groups had shifted to their new premises at the Press Complex at Maharana Pratap Nagar) had tried to compete with Navbharat by launching an English daily by the name of “English Bhaskar”. The word had spread that they were leaving no stone unturned to give the Navbharat Group a run for its money. To face the challenge, Maheshwari had called an in-house meeting with the editorial staff and had asked whether or not anything special was required to be done in terms of extra resources or manpower. I had responded by looking at each of the editorial staff present and dismissing the offer by telling the editor with utmost confidence that he should be rest assured, as we were fit to take the challenge head on. within a short time, the English daily launched by Bhaskar Group was shut down.

The same story was repeated once again when Bhaskar tried its hand at launching another English daily titled as “National Mail”.

The Navbharat Group was a pioneer in innovation. It was the first to completely computerise the editorial and composing sections MP Chronicle in central India.

I recall how I used to spend time with Prafulla Maheshwari discussing news inputs, government’s working, international relations, law and order, environment, politics and every other issue under the sun. He possessed a very high degree of awareness and had an excellent grasp of events taking place around the world. Logic was his forte and it was always a great experience engaging with him in discussions since he always talked with an open mind, believed in sharing notes and information and respected the other person’s views.

On the demise of K P Narayanan, the former Editor of MP Chronicle, I used to write one of the two editorials for the leader page while the second one was being written by the then news editor. His ego unfortunately plummeted to great depths one day. When I was busy giving tips to a couple of trainee journalists, the news editor walked up to my desk and started blaring at me saying what rubbish I had written in my editorial on the State Government’s Tendu leaf policy. Soon the information about this incident had reached Prafulla Maheshwari. From that day onward, the editorial column was exclusively mine and within less than a week the news editor had left the organisation.

My association with MP Chronicle and Prafulla Maheshwari, who always spoke with a soft and gentle voice, reminds me of Mani Shankar Aiyar. Once, I was briefed by Maheshwari, that we were supposed to publish every Monday an exclusive piece by Aiyar. Regularly, his write-ups would land on my desk and after my approval, the hard copy would go for composing and page making. Once I found that what he had written for his weekly column was objectionable as it had a communal overtone. I brought the matter to the notice of Maheshwari who in turn told me “the article has to go as it is”. But I chose to put my foot down and leaving Aiyar’s piece on the Editor’s table told him as I walked out of his office: “Please handle it, Sir. I will not approve it for publication.” A few minutes later, the article in question landed on my desk with the editor’s note. It read: “drop this article and publish something else this Monday.” So Aiyar’s column drew a blank that week.

¹Prafulla Kumar Maheshwari  was in the United News of India (UNI) Board of Directors and served as its Charman for many terms.

Maheshwari was Managing Editor of two prominent newspapers of central India – the Hindi daily “Navbharat” and English daily “Central Chronicle”.

Maheshwari had founded the Madhya Pradesh Daily Newspapers Association. He was elected unopposed to the Rajya Sabha as a Congress nominee in March 2000 and had made a mark for himself when he was on the Parliamentary Standing Committee of Industry, Parliamentary Consultative Committee on Defence. He was also the Joint President of the Federation of MP Chambers of Commerce and Industry and Chairman of the Madhya Pradesh Branch of Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan.

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