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Kulkarni on facelift mission

New Delhi, Nov. 27: With two years to go before the next general elections, Sudheendra Kulkarni, officer on special duty in the Prime Minister’s Office, has been appointed media adviser to spruce up the government’s image.

Kulkarni, a former journalist, will be attached to the information and broadcasting ministry and will help acting press information officer (PIO) Sahib Singh to project the government’s point of view better.

Both within the party and the government, there is a growing feeling that the work done by the NDA coalition should be adequately reflected in the media.

The new post will be an additional responsibility for Kulkarni, who will continue to hold his job in the PMO. He is primarily the speechwriter for Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee. Kulkarni is said to be behind Vajpayee’s Kumarakom musings, which set the ball rolling for the thaw with Pakistan last year and set the stage for Pervez Musharraf’s visit to India and the Agra summit.

The media adviser’s work will be to liaise between the PMO and the Press Information Bureau and give a fillip to Sahib Singh’s efforts to showcase the achievements of the BJP-led coalition. “The press information officer has to deal with several things and may not have enough time to devote equal attention to all issues,” a senior official said.

Though attached to the information and broadcasting ministry, Kulkarni will work mainly with the PIO.

“It should not be read as an attempt to scuttle Sushma Swaraj’s authority,” a senior official explained.

Sources close to the Prime Minister said there is a general feeling that a positive spin needs to be given to media coverage of the government’s achievements.

The NDA coalition has been wracked by a series of scandals, the most notorious being the Tehelka expose in defence deals, which continues to grip the nation.

Kulkarni’s appointment has caused some misgivings among officers and staff of the Press Information Service. “This government had so far not ever utilised the office of the press information officer adequately. Unless the person heading the Press Information Bureau gets access to information from the various government departments, what can he or she do' It is easy to blame our service,” said an official who did not wish to be identified.

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