From Editor Clashes to Political Dissent: ND Sharma’s Legacy of Courage, Integrity and Mentorship

The Coffee House conversations are over, but ND Sharma's legacy of critical thinking and ethical journalism continues

In the heartland of Madhya Pradesh last Thursday, a sombre atmosphere enveloped journalists, writers, political leaders, and civil society members as they mourned the passing of Narayan Datt Sharma, fondly known as ND Sharma or Sharmaji. He had devoted 20 years to the Indian Express, travelling across states and capturing stories that reflected the changing face of India. His unwavering commitment to integrity earned him respect, and his critical lens sparked discussions. He delved deeper, questioning the impact on Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb and the very fabric of Indian society.

Political Insight

Sharmaji’s focus was simple: expose the hidden realities behind political developments, economic shifts, and social transformations.

His journalistic acumen was evident in his ability to scrutinize government decisions’ integrity, both at the central and state levels. One of his notable pieces, dated January 4, 2018, delved into the Electoral Bonds scheme, critically analyzing its potential consequences. In his opinion, the scheme, touted by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley for transparency in political party funding, was deemed a clever move to weaken opposition parties. He foresaw that it wouldn’t curb the influx of black money into the electoral process. The Election Commission shared his apprehensions, and Sharmaji’s insights on the mischievous inclusion of the scheme in the 2017-2018 budget proposals reflected his keen understanding of political dynamics.

A remarkable coincidence marked the end of Sharmaji’s journey. The Supreme Court’s ruling to discontinue the electoral bonds scheme arrived on February 15, 2024, the same day as his cremation. This timing added an unexpected layer of significance to his legacy.

Political Dissent

Sharmaji was an individual in a league of his own, characterized by an argumentative and anti-establishment stance. In one of his final conversations, held just 36 hours before his passing at Bhopal’s India Coffee House, he critiqued both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi with equal disdain. His views on Modi reflected concerns about the arrogance of power and disregard for farmers, while Sonia was accused of perpetuating dynasty politics and contributing to the erosion of genuine political alliances within the INDIA bloc.

Journalistic Journey

Sharmaji’s journalistic legacy extended beyond his tenure at the Indian Express, marked by a knack for challenging editors. Frequent transfers and postings in states like Jammu, Shimla, Ahmedabad, and Bhopal became a badge of honour for him, showcasing his courage of conviction. Editor-correspondent tussles during that era seldom resulted in job termination, and Sharmaji embraced these challenges with pride. He relished complaints from prominent figures like Farooq Abdullah, Chiman Bhai Patel, Shanta Kumar, Digvijay Singh, Uma Bharti, and Shivraj Singh, considering them validations of his impactful writings.


He valued news that wasn’t just attention-grabbing but truly insightful. He discouraged sensationalism and encouraged analysis, urging journalists to decipher the deeper meaning behind events. His stories were straightforward, avoiding judgment and allowing readers to form their own opinions. His work lives on through his blog.

Passionate About Social Issues

Social justice was close to his heart. He challenged individuals, policies, and corporations that disrupted livelihoods or infringed upon universal bonds. He actively engaged with issues, often expressing discomfort with violations of ethical norms.

A Life Steeped in Knowledge

An avid reader, Sharmaji devoured newspapers, magazines, books, and government documents. He retained information with an elephantine memory, effortlessly recalling details while narrating events. He was a voracious listener of All India Radio, particularly enjoying cricket and hockey commentaries.

Beyond Religion, Embracing Karma

Though an Acharya of Sanskrit Vishwavidyalaya, Sharmaji viewed religions objectively, respecting their core principles but criticizing individuals who misused them.

He believed in karma and lived life on his terms, unafraid to dissent and voice his convictions.

Mentoring the Next Generation

Informally serving as a mentor to numerous journalists, Sharmaji had a passion for nurturing young talents. His mentoring involved imparting various angles and nuggets of information to weave into their stories. Known for his elephant-like memory, he could recall incidents with precision, adding depth to his storytelling. As a generous host, he assisted new correspondents with practical matters such as accommodation, opening bank accounts, and introductions to top bureaucrats and politicians.

Discipline and Punctuality

Time was precious to Sharmaji. He had a strict routine, and even at the coffee house, his arrival and departure were punctual. When Digvijaya Singh was expected, Sharmaji left promptly at his usual time, despite attempts to persuade him to stay. Though Singh enjoyed their spirited debates, he also valued Sharmaji’s candid criticism.

Remembering a Titan

ND Sharma was more than a journalist; he was a social commentator, a mentor, and a voice for the marginalized. His commitment to truth, his critical perspective, and his dedication to nurturing young talent left an indelible mark on Indian journalism. Though gone, his legacy lives on through his work, his influence on those he mentored, and the values he championed.


The veteran journalist was also Patron of eNewsroom India.

Anup Dutta

is a multimedia freelance journalist based in Bhopal. He reports on people, politics, policies, health, art and culture.

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