Lok Sabha TV: Lower House's politics trickle into channel's appointments too

The Sangh parivar is seeing red in selection of the editor-in-chief and CEO of Lok Sabha Television where its candidates were outwitted by a last minute entrant who was allegedly backed by Lok Sabha Speaker, Sumitra Mahajan.

Aashish Joshi, a senior faculty member of the Bhopal-based Makhanlal Chaturvedi University, secured 77 points out of 100 to pip the rest amid complaints that Joshi was a “last minute addition”, his name not even on the list finalised by the Lok Sabha Secretariat - it oversees operations of the channel — on November 27, 2016, the last day for the applications.

What made matters worse was the fact that Joshi’s name was not even there on another list of candidates issued by the secretariat on 23 December, 2016. These two lists were put up on the Lok Sabha Secretariat website.

“And then, his name featured in another list issued by the Secretariat on 27 December, 2016. The last list had only one name, it was the final one and Joshi featured as a new candidate. It is evidently clear that he did not figure first and was added later,” claim sources.

It was not immediately known why Joshi, first included in the first two lists of those seeking the job, eventually made it to the list and was included for the final interview.

A senior official of Lok Sabha Television, speaking from the office of Dr D Bhalla, secretary, Lok Sabha Secretariat, said the secretary’s office had no comments to offer on the selection process. A mail to Joshi remained unanswered.

Sources within the Sangh parivar also alleged that Joshi lacked experience required, had stayed away from mainstream journalism for long but still managed the job because of his connections with Mahajan.

“Some candidates were picked up because they were writing books on BJP leaders,” claimed the sources.

 Lok Sabha TV: Lower Houses politics trickle into channels appointments too

Representational image.

As if it was not enough, the loss-making channel invited Chandra Prakash Dwivedi, a veteran filmmaker who also portrayed the role of Chankaya in the television serial of the same name, as the chief interviewer on the panel, which also had a print journalist from Madhya Pradesh assisting Dwivedi conducting the interviews.

“It was strange because they asked nothing relating to a channel, its day to day operations and its profitability,” said one of the candidates requesting anonymity.

The selection process is over, and Joshi — who hails from Indore, also home to Mahajan — is firmly in the slot. Those backing him have argued that Joshi once worked with the state-owned Doordarshan, and private channels like Aaj Tak and IBN7 and has the necessary experience required for the slot.

But the “deserving candidate” versus “undeserving candidate” debate is still hot. Two of the contenders, Ravi Parashar and Sarjana Sharma, who had worked with Zee Telefilms and had the backing of the RSS, could be urged by the Sangh Parivar to lodge official protests, claim those in the know.

The RSS has already expressed its displeasure to senior officials of the interview panel for the chief editor and CEO’s job, arguing how the decision could backfire on the channel which always remained mired controversies over appointments. “There were many deserving candidates, mostly senior journalists, who could have been called for the interviews but strangely, they were not,” claim the sources.

Interestingly, Lok Sabha Television, for long, has been drawing attention for all the wrong reasons.

First, Rajiv Mishra, the editor-in-chief and CEO, who turned the channel into a profitable venture, lost his job after the NDA swept to power. Mishra had then alleged that his service was terminated because the then Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar was annoyed after the channel flashed the news of her losing from Sasaram on the counting day on 16 May, 2014. The sack was abrupt and strange, given the fact that the order was issued at a time when Kumar had just 48 hours left as the Speaker.

Then Seema Gupta, who had once worked with Zee Telefilms, was selected for the job. Within months, a host of seasoned producers were asked to leave because their programmes were seen critical of the ruling government.

But over the months, even Mahajan was miffed with what sources claim was Gupta’s alleged abrasive behaviour and the Lok Sabha Speaker expressed her dissatisfaction at the way things were run in the channel. But Gupta didn’t listen to Mahajan, she reportedly took orders from top leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party. In a bust up between her and a senior producer, Dhiraj Singh, over Lok Sabha Television feed given to Doordarshan without informing the producers, a series of e-mail exchanges between the two went public, showing how Gupta made it amply clear that she was taking instructions from two top ministers and that she should not be questioned. Singh, eventually, was asked to put in his papers and leave the channel.

But Gupta could not retain her job. Complaints about Gupta, claim sources, reached Mahajan who made some independent queries. And then, for the first time in the history of the channel, the Lok Sabha Secretariat issued an advertisement seeking a new editor-in-chief and CEO around the time Gupta was in office.

Interestingly, both Mishra and Gupta were among the candidates shortlisted for the final round of interviews, the list also including Rahul Mahajan, former head of E-24 channel, Kumar Rakesh, formerly of Dainik Bhaskar and Anuranjan Jha, formerly of IndiaTV. Mishra and Mahajan were placed right after Joshi in rankings for the final slot. Prominent names among those found ineligible included Sunit Tandon, the former head of Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC).

Updated Date: Jan 16, 2017 16:13:25 IST