But while the gameplan behind Basu's sudden transfer to the Department of Electronics (DOE) as secretary may be clear, would it be fair to dismiss Sarma as a mere rubber-stamp? No, feel television software producers. "Basu's contribution was tremendous, no doubt," says S.P. Singh, the former Navbharat Times editor who now heads TV Today's Hindi daily news show, Aaj Tak. "He withstood the onslaught of satellite TV with admirable skill. But Sarma might just carry on from where Basu left off. We still don't know the new DD chief, so we should give him a fair chance before jumping to conclusions."
The view from Bombay, too, seems similar. Says Amit Khanna, managing director of Plus Channel: "One can't say whether things will change drastically. Probably the new person who has come in will be even better. In any case, Basu was due for promotion and in government service you can't occupy a position forever." Film and TV serial-maker Basu Chatterjee, another admirer of the former acting DG, is also in favour of the wait-and-watch approach: "I have no idea what the new chief is like, but if he lives up to the standards set by Basu, DD will have much to gain."
But will Sarma do that? Uneasy speculation is rife in Mandi House even as the new acting DG goes about the task of acquainting himself with the organisation's dynamics.
Sarma, a 1968 batch, Andhra Pradesh cadre IAS officer who is also a joint secretary in the I&B Ministry, has already initiated moves to clear the air. He has held a formal let'sget-to-know-each-other meeting with his officials. These are the very officials—old DD hands like Urmila Gupta, K. Kunhi Krishnan, M.P. Lele and Jai Chandiram, among others—he will have to lean on for support until he learns the ropes himself.
Moreover, he is understood to have issued orders to his men not to project Rao blatantly, so as not to fall foul of the Election Commission's guidelines.
Of course, S.P. Singh is not willing to blame the new DD chief: "I don't think such things can ever be the handiwork of the director-general. He is too senior to deal with such day-to-day affairs. These are simply professional hazards that all journalists, even those in the print media, have to live with." But isn't he worried that private newscasts on Doordarshan might be increasingly targeted in the run-up to the elections? "Private newscasts, as a concept, are here to stay. The clock can't be put back now. It can only go forward," says Singh.
According to Mandi House sources, Basu had become "politically inconvenient of late". During his 32-month tenure, he lost no opportunity to assert his right to run Doordarshan on strictly professional lines. So, offhand instructions from people claiming to be speaking on behalf of the I&B minister would be tactfully deflected time and again. "He had set the Doordarshan agenda after much thought and was, therefore, in no mood to let anybody mess around with it," says a DD official.
Clearly, Basu wasn't the man who could be relied on to safeguard the political interests of Rao.
Yet, until Basu was suddenly shunted out of Mandi House, the firm belief among bureaucracy-watchers was that even after being promoted to the rank of secretary he would be asked to continue as Doordarshan DG until the retirement of I&B Secretary Bhaskar Ghose so that he could eventually take over as the ministry's top bureaucrat. In fact, even now, some officials feel that Basu's transfer to DOE is only a ploy, a short-term move. "It is an unwritten rule," says one official, "that an additional secretary is never promoted to the rank of secretary within the same ministry. So Basu has been moved out to facilitate his return as I&B secretary."
K. Bikram Singh, president of the North Indian Filmmakers' Association, whose serial Kahin Ek Gaon is currently being aired on DD's national network, is rather baffled by Basu's exit. "Bhaskar Ghose is going away soon. Basu should have been brought in because of his experience. He is, after all, a man with a broad vision," he says. He cites the precedent of Suresh Mathur, who was a joint secretary in the I&B Ministry and was brought back as secretary after a break.
Sangma, on his part, has reportedly told people close to him that he would like to continue making use of Basu's experience and expertise. But how he intends to do that is not clear. At the same time, a move is afoot to regularise Sarma as Doordarshan DG, which will make him the first full-fledged DD chief since Shiv Sharma retired in the early '90s. All incumbents since then, including Shashikant Kapoor, have served in an acting capacity.
Another line of thinking rules out the possibility of Basu returning to the I&B Ministry in the near future. Ghose, who is due to retire in less than a month, is likely to get a year's extension. The relevant file is already in the office of Margaret Alva, Minister of State for Personnel and Public Grievances, and a decision is expected within the next two weeks. And if Ghose gets an extension, it could well enable him to continue for at least two more years because the Fifth Pay Commission is expected to increase the retirement age to 60 years by mid-1996.
But will the new lease of life that Basu gave Doordarshan get the extension it deserves? It is now entirely up to Sarma to select the right buttons to press.
We at Outlookindia.com welcome feedback and your comments, including scathing criticism
1. Scathing, passionate, even angry critiques are welcome, but please do not indulge in abuse and invective. Our Primary concern is to keep the debate civil. We urge our users to try and express their disagreements without being disagreeable. Personal attacks are not welcome. No ad hominem please.
2. Please do not post the same message again and again in the same or different threads
3. Please keep your responses confined to the subject matter of the article you are responding to. Please note that our comments section is not a general free-for-all but for feedback to articles/blogs posted on the site
4. Our endeavour is to keep these forums unmoderated and unexpurgated. But if any of the above three conditions are violated, we reserve the right to delete any comment that we deem objectionable and also to withdraw posting privileges from the abuser. Please also note that hate-speech is punishable by law and in extreme circumstances, we may be forced to take legal action by tracing the IP addresses of the poster.
5. If someone is being abusive or personal, or generally being a troll or a flame-baiter, please do not descend to their level. The best response to such posters is to ignore them and send us a message at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT
6. Please do not copy and paste copyrighted material. If you do think that an article elsewhere has relevance to the point you wish to make, please only quote what is considered fair-use and provide a link to the article under question.
7. There is no particular outlookindia.com line on any subject. The views expressed in our opinion section are those of the author concerned and not that of all of outlookindia.com or all its authors.
8. Please also note that you are solely responsible for the comments posted by you on the site. The comments could be deleted or edited entirely at our discretion if we find them objectionable. However, the mere fact of their existence on our site does not mean that we necessarily approve of their contents. In short, the onus of responsibility for the comments remains solely with the authors thereof. Outlookindia.com or any of its group publications, may, however, retains the right to publish any of these comments, with or without editing, in any medium whatsoever. It is therefore in your own interest to be careful before posting.
9.Outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for how any search engine -- such as Google, Bing etc -- caches or displays these comments. Please note that you are solely responsible for posting these comments and it is a privilege being granted to our registered users which can be withdrawn in case of abuse. To reiterate:
a. Comments once posted can only be deleted at the discretion of outlookindia.com
b. The comments reflect the views of the authors and not of outlookindia.com
c. outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for the way search engines cache or display these comments
d. Please therefore take due caution before you post any comments as your words could potentially be used against you
10. We have an online thread for our comments policy:
You are welcome to post your suggestions here or in case you have a specific issue, to directly email us at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT