Information & Broadcasting Minister Smritri Irani has been dumped in the latest Cabinet reshuffle. Photo:  AFP
Information & Broadcasting Minister Smritri Irani has been dumped in the latest Cabinet reshuffle. Photo: AFP

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi reshuffled his cabinet on Monday and removed controversial minister Smriti Irani from her post as Information and Broadcasting Minister.

This is the second time Irani has been removed from a key position, probably because of her proclivity for controversy.

In her less than 10 months as Information and Broadcasting Minister Irani allegedly held back funds for Prasar Bharati – India’s largest public broadcasting agency – over a fight with the autonomous body’s board of directors.

One of her most controversial decisions was an order to “blacklist” journalists allegedly reporting “fake news”. After a major backlash, and criticism that the law may be used to discount and punish genuine reporting, the government withdrew the order shortly after it was announced, reportedly at the behest of Prime Minister Modi.

According to English daily The Hindu, a “top functionary” in the government said that they were “fed up with constant controversies generated by her” and “felt embarrassed at every controversy she created.”

Irani was appointed the Human Resource Department Minister when Modi took charge as Prime Minister in 2014. After a slew of controversies, she was moved to the Textile Ministry in 2016. A year later, Irani was elevated again and given additional charge of the I&B Ministry.

She now has the sole charge of the Textile Ministry. Replacing Irani is former Olympic silver medalist Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, her minister of state, and the Sports Minister.

Finance Ministry crippled

Railways and Coal Minister Piyush Goyal, meanwhile, was given temporary charge of Finance and Corporate Affairs ministries. Goyal will fill in for Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who underwent a kidney transplant on Monday.

“During the period of indisposition of Arun Jaitley, minister, the portfolios of minister of finance and minister of corporate affairs held by him, [will] be temporarily assigned to Piyush Goyal, in addition to his existing portfolios,” a press release by the office of President Ram Nath Kovind said.

Jaitley has been officiating from home since April, when he first announced he was undergoing treatment for kidney-related problems and infections.

Then, on May 5, Finance Secretary Hasmukh Adhia went on a 16-day “yoga meditation holiday,” further hindering the ministry’s work. Adhia is expected to return on May 20.

Goyal enjoys a decent reputation as a minister, especially on the back of his work as the Minister for Power, his portfolio until he was appointed Railways Minister in September 2017.

Two other minor changes were made to the Cabinet – BJP national vice-president SS Ahluwalia was made the new Minister of State for Electronics, and Tourism Minister Alphons Kannanthanam, who held the portfolio earlier, was relieved of his duties.

This will likely be Prime Minister Modi’s final reshuffle before the 2019 general election.