Family feud forces Agarwals to use 'Divya' instead of 'Dainik' Bhaskar: report

MUMBAI: Even as the Agarwal family-owned Dainik Bhaskar group gears up to launch the Ahmedabad edition of its Gujarati daily newspaper Divya Bhaskar in the third week of June 2003, media reports indicate that the group is fighting a battle not just against the two rivals Gujarat Samachar and Sandesh but also some internal ones. Very soon, it is possible that the 'Divya' tag will make its appearance in the frontline editions of Dainik Bhaskar - Gwalior, Bhopal, Indore amongst others.



However, recent media reports in central India based publications indicate that the current owners (Ramesh Agarwal and and his son Girish Agarwal) have deliberately avoided using the popular brand name Dainik Bhaskar while launching their Gujarat edition.

A report in the Prashant Jyoti (published from Rajashthan and available in central India) states that a legal dispute and a 40-year old family feud has restricted the current owners from using the Dainik Bhaskar umbrella brand in Gujarat. It states that the Ramesh Agarwal's father Dwarka Prasad originally owned 40 per cent of Bhaskar Prabhandhan Writers and Publishers - the holding company for Dainik Bhaskar. Ramesh Agarwal owned 20 per cent and the rest was divided between Dwarka Prasad's brothers Vishambar Agarwal and Mahesh Agarwal.

The Prashant Jyoti report further adds Dwarka Prasad (DP) had disowned his son Ramesh Agarwal - in fact, it refers to a front page report in Dainik Bhaskar dated 9 October 1991 wherein the elder Agarwal (DP) had publicly denounced his son Ramesh Agarwal. DP had also urged the other stake holders to side with him rather than with Ramesh Agarwal.

However, Ramesh Agarwal had convinced the two other stake holders (Vishambar and Mahesh Agarwal) to join hands with him much to the chagrin of his father. However, DP Agarwal nominated his daughter Hemlata (Ramesh's step-sister) as his rightful heir and passed on his share of the stake to her. However, Ramesh Agarwal refused to accept this development and didn't consider her Hemlata as part of the management.

The report states that the highly educated Hemlata refused to play ball with her step-brother and sought legal assistance to fight Ramesh. She also started another newspaper named Samantar Bhaskar - for nearly an year, there were two Bhaskars in Gwalior. Since then, Hemlata is demanding possession of a substantial stake in several editions (Bhopal, Gwalior and Indore) of Dainik Bhaskar in addition to an amount of Rs 500 million as a compromise solution. In fact, the report quotes her as saying that the courts have acknowledged the veracity her claims.

The report also claims that the courts have restricted Ramesh and Girish Agarwal from using the "Dainik Bhaskar" brand name till matters are settled. This is the reason why the soon-to-be launched Ahmedabad edition is using the 'Divya' name. This will prevent Hemlata from seeking any rights in the Gujarat edition.

However, several media experts argue that it is a known fact that the current success of the Dainik Bhaskar group in central India can solely be attributed to the aggressive postures adopted by the young and dynamic Girish Agarwal and his team. They say that Hemlata didn't play any role in the success story.

Others add that the team will find it difficult to replicate the success in Ahmedabad (unlike Punjab and Rajasthan) since two strong competitors Gujarat Samachar and Sandesh have already initiated measures to counter the threat. Only time will tell whether the Agarwals will make it in Gujarat.

Well, it is time to wait and watch!

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