New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government is likely to appoint A. Surya Prakash, a columnist and distinguished fellow at the Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF), a New Delhi-based think tank, as chairperson of Prasar Bharati, the body that operates state broadcaster Doordarshan and All India Radio (AIR), people familiar with the development said on condition of anonymity.

“It is a strong possibility that A. Surya Prakash will be appointed as the chairperson of Prasar Bharati although a final decision has not been taken yet," said a senior leader of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) who spoke on condition of anonymity.

A senior official at the information and broadcasting ministry said a final decision on the appointment of a chairman is yet to be taken. He also asked not to be identified.

The appointment has always been a political one and the government of the day usually appoints a veteran journalist to the post of chairman. The post is a part-time one. The board is supposed to run Prasar Bharati but as former chairperson Mrinal Pande pointed out in Mint on 30 May, it has no power to transfer assets or recruit people. Its employees report not to the board, but to the central government, she added.

The post has been vacant for the past five months after Pande, a journalist and former editor of the Hindi-language daily Hindustan, finished her term as chairperson on 30 April.

A possible revamp of archaic state broadcaster Doordarshan is expected to start once the new board at Prasar Bharati is in place.

While Surya Prakash is the frontrunner, the other people being considered for the post are O.P. Kejriwal, former chief executive at Prasar Bharati during 1998-99; Balbir Punj, a former journalist and member of the BJP; and Swapan Dasgupta, also a senior journalist.

The information and broadcasting ministry submitted these names to the office of the vice-president, last week.

The Vivekananda International Foundation, set up under the aegis of the Vivekananda Kendra, is supported by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological parent of the BJP. National security adviser Ajit Doval—appointed on 30 May—is a former director of the foundation.

Surya Prakash has closely worked with senior leaders of BJP and RSS.

In 1998, Surya Prakash wrote a series of articles for The Pioneer about Congress leader Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origins. In 2004, he edited a book, Sonia Under Scrutiny – Issue of Foreign Origin. This book was published by India First Foundation.

His columns appear in The Pioneer, Dainik Jagran, Eenadu, Samyukta Karnataka and The Indian Republic. In the past, Surya Prakash has held key positions in several print and electronic media organizations.

A committee headed by vice- president Hamid Ansari along ​with Bimal Julka, secretary, information and broadcasting, and Markandey Katju, chairman, Press Council of India, will make a decision on the appointment in due course.

Jawhar Sircar, chief executive at Prasar Bharati, welcomed the move to appoint a chairman.

“Since there has been no chairman at Prasar Bharati for the past five months, we are eagerly waiting for the new chairman and board members so that work can progress," Sircar said, adding that he had no clue about the identity of the next chairperson as he had not been consulted on the matter.

There are four more vacancies on the board of Prasar Bharati.

vidhi.c@livemint.com

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