With M Venkaiah Naidu set to assume the mantle of being the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Vice Presidential candidate, the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting will soon have an empty chair at the top. Within a span of three years, Modi Sarkar has given the country three Union I&B Ministers. Initially, Prakash Javadekar took the charge of the ministry but it was shortly after handed over to Arun Jaitley for a period of two years from 2014-2016. Thereafter, Naidu took over the reins of MIB.
Given BJP’s majority inside the Lok Sabha, Naidu’s election as the Vice President of India by both the houses of Parliament is almost certain. His political ascendance would also necessitate the need for the fourth I&B Minister of the incumbent government. It is important to recall that the country had four I&B Ministers throughout United Progressive Alliance’s ten-year rule at the centre. These included Dayanidhi Maran, Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi, Ambika Soni and Manish Tewari. In fact, even the National Democratic Alliance government under AB Vajpayee also saw only three I&B Ministers. However, the MIB is certainly low on steadfastness these days.
To add to that, the media and entertainment sector has been mired in numerous disputes ranging from the Directorate of Advertising & Visual Publicity’s ad rates to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s tariff order and interconnect regulations. The rollout of the goods and services tax coupled with the levy on lightweight coated paper is another flashpoint. Being the umbrella body, the MIB has often been at the centre of negotiations with the concerned minister playing a pivotal role. Post Naidu’s departure from MIB, these disputes may take a new turn depending upon the man in charge.
Though exchange4media approached several media industry biggies questioning them in relation to the implications of the move, most declined to comment owing to the speculative nature of the report. Nevertheless, the editor of a leading magazine agreed that an administrator who has spent an “adequate period of time” with a particular ministry is most equipped to deal with it after having become accustomed to “how things work”.
At present, the MIB is dealing with numerous issues pertaining to licensing of new television channels and allowing of private news on FM radio, among others. “Over the last three years, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been everything. There has been immense centralisation of power due to the personality of Modi,” said a source. A counter narrative around Modi didn’t go missing in this debate either. “I think the Prime Minister knows what he is doing and whatever he does, will be best for the country,” said a top executive of a broadcast carriage firm.
If elected as Vice President, Naidu will also act as the ex officio Chairperson of the Rajya Sabha. While the top leadership of the MIB may have exchanged hands faster than usual, it is significant to note that Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore has constantly held on to the position of MoS for I&B since 2014.