Confusion over CAS fate as rumours awash that impending cabinet reshuffle may see I&B ministry change of guard

There has been another fallout of the much-hyped issue of CAS' failure to get the okay of members of Parliament from the Rajya Sabha (Upper House of parliament). The political grapevine is abuzz with rumours that the prime mover of Cable TV Networks Regulations Amendment Bill, I&B minister Sushma Swaraj, may lose her portfolio in the impending Cabinet re-shuffle.

The talk doing the rounds in the corridors of power in the capital is that the re-shuffle may well see Swaraj being replaced by one of the two former I&B ministers - information technology, communications and parliamentary affairs minister Pramod Mahajan or law minister Arun Jaitley. And the more likely candidate of the two is Mahajan, who just might get additional charge of the I&B ministry, the rumours say.

While the rumours play out, there is the business of managing the ministry. Swaraj is currently away at Cannes, but after she returns she will have to weigh two options if she is to push through the CATV amendments bill. Either Swaraj, the force who has been moving CAS forward despite many a hurdle, waits for the monsoon session of Parliament or bulldozes its implementation through the promulgation of an Ordinance (executive order) by the President.

According to senior officials in the I&B ministry, a "final decision" on the future course of action on CAS has not yet been taken. An official admitted: "CAS has hit a roadblock at a time when we were trying to regulate the unorganised sector of cable operation in the country."

However, the options before Swaraj and her supporters, points out a cable operator, is fraught with pitfalls.

The cable industry, which by and large had hailed the moves on CAS, feels that if the government waits for the monsoon session for the amendments to be passed on CAS, then it will give a chance to big broadcasters, controlled by powerful foreign media tycoons, to lobby against implementation of CAS immediately.

If the ordinance route is taken, then the government has to show sufficient proof that the issue of CAS is important enough for the President of the country to issue an executive order on its implementation even before all the members of Parliament from both the Houses get a chance to discuss the matter.

"It all depends on how much support Swaraj has in the government and in the higher echelons of the party on the CAS issue for an Ordinance to be promulgated. Specially at a time when the country is being rocked by more serious issues like security and a war-like situation on the borders with Pakistan," a government official who has been part of the Prime Minister's Office said.

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