In a major Cabinet reshuffle a year ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Smriti Irani has been removed out of the Ministry for Information and Broadcasting. Minster of State, I&B, Rajyavardhan Rathore will take independent charge of the ministry now. Also, Union Railway Minister Piyush Goyal will be handling the additional portfolio of the Ministry of Finance, which had been with Arun Jaitley since 2014.
Jaitley has been suffering from a kidney ailment and underwent a kidney transplant at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi on Monday.
Piyush Goyal will be reportedly handling the Finance portfolio until Jaitley recovers.
According to a press communiqué issued from the President’s Secretariat, the President of India, as advised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, directed the reallocation of portfolios among the members of the Union Council of Ministers.
Smriti Irani will now handle the textile ministry only.
In another reshuffle in the Union Cabinet, KJ Alphons, a Minister of State in the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, will now only handle the tourism ministry. SS Ahluwalia will look after the electronics ministry.
READ | Controversies dogged Smriti Irani’s 10 months in I&B Ministry
This is the second time Smriti Irani has been removed from her ministry. She was earlier the HRD Minister and was replaced by Prakash Javadekar.
Irani recently faced controversy over the I&B Ministry’s contentious guidelines on fake news, seen as “muzzling” the free press. On an order from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the ministry had to cancel the guidelines.
The order, which was withdrawn within hours, had warned that journalists would be denied access to the government even on mere accusation of spreading fake news. Journalists could also lose their accreditation for a limited period or permanently.
The ministry’s move to form a committee with representatives from various ministries to draft regulations for digital media companies had faced opposition from journalists.
The I&B ministry was also at loggerheads with Prasar Bharati, which runs Doordarshan and All India Radio, over its moves to appoint an Indian Administrative Service officer to its board and fill two key editorial posts with journalists on high salaries.
The 65th National Film Awards ceremony was also marked by controversy, after it was announced that only 11 of the awardees would be honoured by the President, and Irani and Rathore would give away the awards to the rest.
Several awardees boycotted the awards ceremony in protest.
The Rashtrapati Bhavan had also reportedly conveyed its unhappiness to the Prime Minister’s Office over the way President’s office was dragged into the controversy over the award ceremony.