No buzz in capital's corridors on I&B minister

NEW DELHI: Even as political heat increases in the capital city of India --- the natural heat in the third week of May has already touched a scorching 44 degrees Celsius --- information and broadcasting ministry is one portfolio that has not been talked about in political circles much.

Still, one thing is almost certain: that the portfolio of I&B ministry, generally regarded as a propaganda ministry by the government of the day, is unlikely to go to a non-Congress political party irrespective of the sex of the person who presides over the I&B ministry.

The reason is quite simple, point out political observers. No government of the day would like to hand over charge of resistive and important ministries like finance, home, I&B, defense and even human resources development (it was an important ministry for the BJP-led previous government) to its allies 

out of fear of power being misused.

Though in the case of defence, the portfolio may go to the Maratha supremo and leader of the NCP, Sharad Pawar, who may be considered an outsider, but is originally a Congressman.

Coming back to the I&B ministry portfolio, speculation had been rife that Jaipal Reddy, who had been an I&B minister in the United Front government in 1997, could be brought back. But Congress sources indicate that Reddy is too senior a politician now, to be given the I&B ministry again.

"Some young blood should be infused and a comparatively younger minister would be preferable at I&B," a senior Congress leader said, hinting that the usual suspects may not be given this ministry.


The very fact that despite the whittling down of importance of the I&B ministry, the Congress would like to have somebody from the party to lord over it, also rules out the candidature of Dayanidhi Maran, son of late Murasoli Maran, who nevertheless has some media exposure in the form of controlling the Sun group of TV channels and Sumangli publications.There are several other names going round too for the I&B ministry portfolio, but they are all in the realm of speculations.

A pragmatic Congress leader added that the I&B ministry is important for a government, but "not high on the pecking order" to be discussed at this stage of government formation when the tug-of-war is for far more serious posts like that of the deputy prime minister and home minister.

But one thing has been made easy for the new incumbent on the fifth floor of Delhi's Shastri Bhawan, which houses the I&B ministry amongst several others. The new minister would not have to worry much over getting `friendly' bureaucrats.

Two of the senior most bureaucrats in the I&B ministry are slated to move out over the next 30-45 days time, making it easier for the new minister to bring in like-minded bureaucrats.

While I&B ministry secretary, Pawan Chopra, attains super-annuation status on 31 March, the tenure of additional secretary (broadcasting), Vijay Singh, in the ministry comes to an end by July as he gets empanelled for promotion to a secretary's post.

Asked by whether there is a possibility of his being promoted as a successor to Chopra, Singh said that it was technically possible, "but highly unlikely." Ideally, Singh, who has seen some of the controversial times (read a fiasco called CAS) in the ministry during former minister Ravi Shankar Prasad's regime, would like to move out of the ministry.

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