Cabinet reshuffle: How the media got it completely wrong

Indian media and its “sources” have now become part of folklore. Many times, media puts out stories which are source based and it is eventually revealed that the stories had no basis whatsoever. This situation has worsened ever since the NDA Government has come to power as access-journalism has been stopped. Leaks have reduced and media persons are not allowed to get insider information.

In such a situation, it is natural that media clutches on to whatever little, unconfirmed information it gets. The news reporting regarding the cabinet expansion and reshuffle is a prime example of this. For the longest time media had been speculating on when the next cabinet reshuffle would take place. But no one got the timing right:

Business Standard claimed that the reshuffle would be prior to the Bihar elections i.e. Before October 2015

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The Sunday Guardian claimed that a reshuffle would take place shortly after the declaration of the Bihar Assembly election results i.e. After November 9 2015

NDTV claimed that a reshuffle would happen after the Winter session of Parliament gets over i.e after December 2015

Catch News claimed that a reshuffle would happen at the start of 2016 i.e. near 7th January 2016

Reuters claimed that the shake-up would take place after the annual budget i.e. after 29th February 2016

Indian Express pegged it to happen on the day the results of assembly elections in Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry would be announced, i.e. May 19th 2016

Later, Indian Express revised the date to June 30th

In short: CLUELESS. Media sprayed dates starting from pre-October 2015 till June 2016 but got none of them right.

Not only did they get the dates completely wrong, the speculations as to who would get which ministry, which ministers would dropped, or shifted or inducted were all haywire.

The Sunday Guardian claimed the following:

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh, Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan could be drafted in the Cabinet.

Rajnath Singh would move out of the Home portfolio and take the Defence Ministry. Shivraj Singh Chouhan or Raman Singh could come in his place in the Home Ministry.

Manohar Parrikar could be the new External Affairs Minister in place of Sushma Swaraj who could be either shifted to the Human Resources Development Ministry or the Information and Broadcasting Ministry.

Suresh Prabhu, the Railway Minister, may quit active politics and may be made a Governor.

Smriti Irani could be getting a plum assignment in the Cabinet, thereby relieving her of the HRD portfolio. If Sushma Swaraj gets HRD, she would be a candidate for Information and Broadcasting.

Catch News claimed that:

Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti , Upendra Kushwaha, Ram Kripal Yadav and Giriraj Singh could be replaced.

Radha Mohan Singh, may be given charge of a new ministry.

Minority Affairs Minister Najma Heptuallah, Women and Child Welfare Minister Maneka Gandhi might get new ministries to handle.

Reuters claimed:

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley may soon be moved out from the crucial ministry. Power and coal minister Piyush Goyal is likely to replace Jaitley who may be moved to the defence ministry.

This was followed up with rumours that since Parrikar’s Defence Ministry would go, he would return to Goa.

Zee News reported that a piece in Deccan Chronicle claimed:

Health Minister JP Nadda, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar and Minister of State in Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Giriraj Singh could be dropped and are expected to be drafted back to party work. Sources said Javadekar was being seen as too soft for the sensitive portfolio of environment minister.

Of course none of the above information from sources materialised.

In fact even after just a week before the actual reshuffle, media was still crystal ball-gazing as to who would get what.

On 30th June Indian Express claimed:

The PM could elevate Sanjeev Balyan, MoS for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, as minister with independent charge. As per a report on CNN News 18, controversial Gorakhpur MP Yogi Adityanath is likely to be inducted in the government.

Possible entrants are Jabalpur MP Rakesh Singh and Mangaldoi (Assam) MP Raman Deka. BJP vice-president Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, who recently became Rajya Sabha member from Maharashtra, is also being considered.

Minority Affairs Minister Najma Heptulla could be dropped from the government.

On 3oth June, the Financial Express with 2 separate posts, claimed that:

Yogi Adityanath, Sanjeev Balyan and Raghav Lakhanpal may bag a berth in the Cabinet.

Navjot Singh Sidhu, Rameshwar Teli, Bhagat Singh Koshyari may be inducted as ministers.

On 5th of July an IANS report said:

Ministers with independent charge likely to join the cabinet are Piyush Goyal (Power, Coal, and New and Renewable Energy), Dharmendra Pradhan (Petroleum and Natural Gas), Nirmala Sitharaman (Industries and Commerce) and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi (Minority Affairs).

The reports had other predictions which it got right (finally) but the above obviously did not materialise.

Over all, this episode which started in July last year with the first source-based report of a reshuffle, has shown how inept media reporting has become. Probably a tarot card reader would give better and more accurate predictions about the future. The media was so off the mark this time that even habitual liars like Barkha Dutt had to admit defeat:

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