Congress-led coalition govt. looks to de-saffronise Prasar Bharati

NEW DELHI: The new Congress-led coalition government would like to de-saffronise Prasar Bharati, which would mean that people owing allegiance to it and other allies of the Congress would find a place on the board of the organisation that runs Doordarshan and All India Radio.

Though the chairman of Prasar Bharati, MV Kamath, has been an erudite and well-known editor of several prestigious publications of India, he is likely to be one of the first target as he is also the softest one owing to his self-confessed close relationship with RSS, the parent organisation of the 

Bharatiya Janata Party that led the previous coalition government.

Because Prasar Bharati, in its present form, did not exist when Congress was last at the helm of powers in Delhi, it is still not clear what would be the reaction of the new government to the board that is manning India's pubcasters.There is, however, no weapon in the Prasar Bharati Act that could compel the new government to remove Kamath, who got a nod for a second six-year term some time back, unless (unlikely) charges of grave nature are brought against him.

What the government can do, if it's desperate on Kamath, is to put pressure on him on health grounds that he would not be able to continue discharging his duties because of medical infirmities.

That Kamath recently met with an accident and is still said to be recovering from it could give the new government enough ammunition to put pressure on him to quit voluntarily.

But Prasar Bharati sources indicate that there could be several changes in the organisation once the new government gets down to the nitty-gritty's of governance and filling up key posts with 'friendly' people.

In the Prasar Bharati board, three posts are vacant that can be filled up by like-, minded people by the new government.

These post fell vacant due to the exit of veteran journalist BG Verghese, regarded as one of the best board members for his outspokenness, VN Misra and former defence personnel Zaki. The last two were said to be close to the ruling BJP.

It is also not clear whether artiste Bhupen Hazarika, who contested a parliamentary seat on a BJP ticket and lost, would continue as a board member.

One person, who may come under some cloud, but come out unscathed, is Prasar Bharati CEO KS Sarma.

A career bureaucrat from Andhra Pradesh - where TDP's techno-savvy Chandrababu Naidu lorded over till recently before a virus called Congress struck his governance fatally - Sarma is likely to continue if government sources are to be believed. Speaking on Sarma's mercurial qualities, a senior information and broadcasting ministry official said, "If we know him (Sarma) well, he'd strike a good rapport with the new I&B minister too."

All in all, even if a tornado does not hit the Prasar Bharati, some changes are likely to be effected, which, in normal course, could be expected from any new regime.

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