New Delhi, Aug. 27: After investing hundreds of man-hours from some of the country’s most powerful people, the Centre’s grandiose set-top box regime for cable television is teetering on the brink — its deferment of the regime for Delhi has sparked off demands in Mumbai and Calcutta for similar treatment.
Union information and broadcasting minister Ravi Shankar Prasad is in such discomfiture now that the most vocal advocate of the conditional access system (CAS) has withdrawn and refused to comment on whether it will take off with less than a week remaining for the September 1 rollout.
Prasad’s discomfiture has been brought about by the Prime Minister and his party negating all that he has done since Delhi BJP chief Madan Lal Khurana had his way and forced CAS to be deferred till elections are held in the capital.
Adding to the discomfiture is the Shiv Sena, whose leader Bal Thackeray said in Mumbai again today that CAS cannot be implemented.
Painting Prasad into a corner in Delhi was Thackeray’s representative and Sena Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Nirupam, who met the minister and argued for CAS to be shelved.
“Our leader Balasaheb has always said that CAS must first be implemented in Delhi and then in Mumbai and elsewhere. Now that it has been deferred in Delhi, our party has already announced in Mumbai that CAS has been withdrawn,” Nirupam said emerging from a meeting with Prasad.
Asked for Prasad’s reaction to his argument, Nirupam said the minister pleaded with the Sena for CAS to be tested out in Mumbai for at least a month. Nirupam believed that CAS has been all but dismantled.
“The final burial will take place after our leader (Thackeray) speaks to Advaniji over telephone in the course of the next four days.”
Prasad himself has told his officers that he is keen on CAS being rolled out in the three other metros — Mumbai, Calcutta and Chennai. In Calcutta and Chennai, the ministry has been more confident because there was no real concerted opposition to the move unlike as in Mumbai and Delhi.
In fact, Nirupam had sought Mamata Banerjee’s help and wanted the Sena to make common cause with the Trinamul Congress on opposing CAS.
“I asked Mamata what her stand on CAS is. She replied: ‘But, Sanjayji, will you explain to me what CAS is about’' I told her that since she did not know, it did not matter,” Nirupam said.
PTI adds from Mumbai: Thackeray today said he is still not in favour of CAS in the metropolis and wondered “why the government was marketing the new system”.
“I have already told Union information and broadcasting minister Ravi Shankar Prasad that implement CAS first in New Delhi. If it is successful there, then introduce it in Mumbai,” Thackeray told reporters when asked about the new regime.
“Let people decide whether they want CAS or not. Why is the government marketing it'” the Sena chief questioned.
Thackeray, who had bitterly opposed CAS earlier saying that the government will have to pay a heavy price for its introduction, today said, “the interests of consumers and cable operators should be safeguarded at any cost”.