NEW DELHI -- The board for India's largest public broadcasting agency, Prasar Bharti, is all set to be reconstituted soon and the frontrunners are mostly close friends of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), according to an Economic Times report.
The ET report quoted unnamed sources to reveal that the 12 contenders for the four part-time spots currently open at the board include Shashi Shekhar, Anup Jalota, Ashok Kumar Tandon, Sunil Alagh, Seshadri Chari, Jay Vasavda, Kajol, Vikram Gokhale, YN Avinash, Minhaz Merchant, and Vartika Nanda. Most of them have BJP affiliations. The existing two part-time members in the board are Muzzafar Ali and Samir Kumar Barua, who were appointed by the previous UPA government.
This is not the first time that recruitments for positions in Prasar Bharti have appeared to be politically motivated. In 2010, four-fifths of the 30 selected journalists at Doordarshan News (its television channel) were alleged to be close to the then-ruling Congress party, with some of them being relatives of Members of Parliament.
Interestingly, PM Modi himself has criticised the curtailing of press freedom just before he was elected with an overwhelming mandate last year.
On days such as this, I feel very sad to see our National TV channel struggling to maintain its professional freedom.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) May 3, 2014
We have witnessed the horrors of Emergency when freedom of press & freedom of expression were suppressed. It is a blot on our democracy.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) May 3, 2014
Out of the current shortlist for the four open positions on the Prasar Bharti board, Shekar is the CEO of the BJP-leaning news website Niti Digital, Jalota is an artist who has earlier pledged his support for Modi and helped campaign for BJP, and Tandon, used to be former PM Atal Bihar Vajpayee's media advisor. Alagh, former MD & CEO of Britannia who was asked to quit after allegedly using crores of company funds for personal use, has been an open BJP supporter.
A journalist said NaMo doesnt hav stature/charm of Nehru/Rajiv. I say neither captured world's imagination like NaMo— Sunil Alagh (@sunilalagh) September 28, 2015
Meanwhile, Chari is the ex-editor of the RSS' publication Organiser. Vasavda, a Gujarati speaker and columnist, confirmed to ET that he has been approached for one of the posts, adding, "Modiji is a man of ideas and he has delivered his best in Gujarat. His understanding of Indian ethos and how to present it to the rest of the world is very good."
A three-member committee comprising Vice President M Hamid Ansari, Press Council of India Chairman C K Prasad and Information and Broadcasting secretary Bimal Julka will make the selection from this pool as the security clearance for all of them has been done already.