In an unexpected turn of event, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made some small but decisive changes to his Cabinet.
On Monday evening, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry has let go of Union Minister Smriti Irani. The position is now handled by her deputy Rajyavardhan Rathore, who was the junior minister in the department, with independent charge.
Ms Irani was given the vital Information and Broadcasting portfolio as an additional charge last July, when Venkaiah Naidu resigned after emerging as the NDA’s pick for the post of the Vice-President. She will retain charge of the textiles ministry, which she has been handling since July 2016.
This is the second time Ms Irani is being moved out of a key ministry. The 42-year-old, who started as the Human Resource Development Minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet, was transferred to the textiles ministry, seen as a less glamorous assignment, after two years.
The transfer came after several controversies during her tenure, including anger across campuses after Dalit student Rohith Vemula killed himself in Hyderabad after alleging persecution by university officials over his caste.
Irani’s 10-month tenure in the Information and Broadcasting Ministry was marked by a major controversy in March over a proposed rule that envisaged severe punishment for journalists on the accusation of fake news. The rule — which suggested withdrawal of accreditation — was cancelled by PM Modi after it was widely attacked as an attempt to curb the freedom of the press in an election year.
Beside Smriti Irani’s removal, other changes too took place in the Cabinet.
President Ram Nath Kovind’s office said Railway Minister Piyush Goyal will also handle the Finance Ministry till Arun Jaitley, who underwent a kidney surgery today, recovers.
The office also said SS Ahluwalia, who was the junior minister for drinking water and telecom, will be the minister of state for the Department of Electronics and Information Technology. He replaces Alphons Kannanthanam, who will retain charge of tourism ministry.
The last big reshuffle in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet — which involved nine ministries — took place in September. The biggest change was in the Defence Ministry, with Nirmala Sitharaman becoming the country’s first Defence Minister. Besides, Piyush Goyal took over Railways from Suresh Prabhu.