Soon after 10.45 am on September 11, Kiritbhai received a call. His source told him. “Today is the day. Vijay Rupani will resign as Gujarat Chief Minister”. After confirming it, Kiritbhai posted the news to his Facebook page. And the rest is history.
‘Savaare cha, sanje Akila’, is a known phrase in Gujarat. It means, you cannot do without tea in the morning and Akila in the evening. Akila is the most popular evening newspaper of Gujarat, based in Rajkot. Though Kiritbhai is above 70, his Facebook presence and activities are amazing. He does at least one Facebook Live daily.
The man who has made Akila a household name is Kiritbhai Ganatra, a seasoned journalist. Unlike several journalists who don’t miss a chance to bask in glory, Kiritbhai is modest, humble and rooted. “Every journalist has sources, no? Mine told me. So I posted it in Gujarati,” explains Kiritbhai, alluding to the breaking news. That is the language Kiritbhai works, writes and thinks in.
After lunch, Kiritbhai called Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, whom he has known for over 40 years, and asked him , “Shu chaale chhe? Kai jaanva jevu? (What’s up? Anything worth knowing”? The CM informed him that he was leaving for Raj Bhavan to tender his resignation. This was nearly 85 minutes before any other journalist knew about it.
This is not the first time that Kiritbhai has actually “broken” exclusive news. In the past, when the Babri Masjid was demolished, he had hired a Muslim journalist who immediately had called him up with the news that the masjid was being demolished. Akila was soon out with an edition, the first in the country probably to report the news.
“Very soon, there were police in our office,” recalls Kiritbhai. It became a serious issue, but I never publish any news without ascertaining its credibility.”
A man who is genuinely passionate about journalism, Kiritbhai does not believe in “belonging “to any party,lobby or ism or ideology.”. News, Just news, is what matters.
Interestingly, Kiritbhai had also broken the news that Vijay Rupani would replace Anandiben Patel as resign as Gujarat Chief Minister. He was also the first to announce that Chief Minister Narendra Modi would contest his maiden assembly election from Rajkot.
Kiritbhai’s most memorable report was when he revealed the existence of a nearly silent and till then invisible agitation building up against then Gujarat finance minister and the Rajkot royal head Manoharsinhji Jadeja. Later on, an inquiry was instituted against Akila and Kiritbhai in that matter. “But we were, as usual, right,” explains Kiritbhai, adding that credibility and truth remains the guiding principle of Akila when it comes to news.
It is nearly 43 years that Kiritbhai has been involved with his family newspaper, Akila, which was launched in 1978. Devenbhai Patel of Rajkot says, “at times I have seen Akila having six editions in a day. Whenever there was any latest news or updates in the pre-Internet era, Akila would soon be out with an edition.” Deven’s brother HIrenbhai who lives in New Jersey explains, “Even here, I have to read Akila.”
Every day, two queues form outside the newspaper’s office. One queue leads to the classifieds department. The other forms outside the office of the editor. Kiritbhai meets people on a daily basis and learns about their concerns that eventually get addressed through his publication. It could be about a pothole, a leaky public tap in a neighbourhood, or street lights not working.
Now 72, the managing editor of Akila says citizen journalism and public-friendly news is his forte.No wonder Gujarat regards Akila as their newspaper and Kiritbhai Ganatra as the real People’s Editor though he has no formal degree in journalism.
Kiritbhai on Vijay Rupani’s resignation
I feel that one of the prime reasons for Rupani’s resignation is the resentment of the Patidars towards him. The Patels want a Patidar Gujarat CM and this has been their unfulfilled demand for a long time.Rupani’s resignation is not a sudden step. It has been taken considering the upcoming Gujarat elections.
Rupani’s resignation is a strategic move to balance and keep the appropriate candidate in the party. In the coming future, the BJP may come up with more OBCs or Patels in their party. The whole party structure may change.”
When it comes to Rupani’s work as CM, I have high praise for him. From the way he handled Covid to the improvement he brought about in infrastructure, he has done an incredible job. He also represented Rajkot; that’s another proud moment.”
Truth alone can bring this credibility to one’s personality.