Modi effects a major shake-up in portfolios after taking in 19 new faces and dropping five
On Tuesday morning, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi inducted 19 new ministers of state (MoS) in his council of ministers, as expected, there were no major headlines. But true to his style and that of his right-hand man BJP president Amit Shah, by night, a major shake-up in the portfolios created a flutter in political circles.
While high profile Smriti Irani was shifted from the key HRD ministry to less significant textiles portfolio and replaced by the newly elevated cabinet minister Prakash Javadekar, finance minister Arun Jaitley shed the additional information and broadcasting (I&B) portfolio.
Irani’s two-year tenure in the HRD ministry was marked by controversies over Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula’s suicide in Hyderabad and the JNU row, and her shifting triggered speculation whether it was a tactical move to give a less important portfolio or to be left free to be the face of BJP campaign in UP Assembly polls due in 2017.
Some even drew parallels between Anupriya Patel, who took oath as minister, as she was also handpicked by PM Modi and is now being drafted into the UP election campaign. Solace for Irani could be that her new ministry also looks after National Institute of Fashion Designing. Sources here said the current rejig had the stamp of Shah on it, who had late night consultations with RSS leader Krishan Gopal.
Those newly inducted included BJP leaders SS Ahluwalia, MJ Akbar and Vijay Goel. Akbar will be the second minister of state for external affairs, along with VK Singh, probably to lessen the burden of external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj keeping in view her ill health.
While urban development minister M Venkaiah Naidu got Information and Broadcasting portfolio, he lost parliamentary affairs, which has been given to chemicals and fertilisers minister Ananthkumar.
The reshuffle also saw DV Sadananda Gowda being relieved of the Law and Justice portfolio which goes to information technology (IT) minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. Gowda has got Statistics and Programme implementation.
Jayant Sinha has been shifted from Finance to Civil Aviation in the minister of state rank, a post held by Mahesh Sharma, who will now look after only Culture and Tourism.
Five ministers of state were dropped, while a number of Dalit and OBC leaders were given ministerial positions apparently with an eye on assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand next year and Gujarat later.