Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday temporarily assigned charge of the ministries of finance and corporate affairs to railway minister Piyush Goyal till Arun Jaitley recovers from a surgery for kidney transplant, while controversy-scarred Smriti Irani has been divested of the high-profile I&B ministry and sports minister Rajyavardhan Rathore has been given the charge of the ministry.
Irani’s remit has now shrunk to the textiles ministry, in what is being seen as a second setback for the young politician who had earlier lost the crucial human resource development ministry. The fresh demotion comes in the wake of a string of contentious measures by the I&B ministry during her tenure. There had been speculation about her departure from the ministry since the PMO, in an unusual public rebuke, ordered the reversal of the ministry’s controversial guidelines purportedly meant to tackle “fake news”. Sources close to Irani had insisted that the guidelines were never issued and blamed the fiasco on bureaucrats, but her removal suggests that the PMO thought otherwise.
Odds appeared to have lengthened further against her continuation after her recent run-in with Rashtrapati Bhavan over the handling of the national film awards function. The episode saw the President’s office conveying its unhappiness to the PMO, tipping the scales against the young minister who also took on Prasar Bharti and officers belonging to the Indian Information Service. Interestingly, Rathore will be the Modi government’s fifth I&B minister in four years. Irani's tenure lasted less than a year.
Yet another boost for Goyal
In stunning contrast, the new responsibility marks yet another boost for Goyal. With the addition, although temporary, of the responsibilities of finance and corporate affairs, he will have a sprawling jurisdiction along with railways and coal. In his new role as finance minister, Goyal will join the Cabinet Committee on Security, an important club which consists of the Prime Minister and the ministers of home, external affairs and defence.
Jaitley, who successfully underwent a kidney transplant, will be a “minister without portfolio until he recovers”. Top sources in the government emphasised that Goyal has been given charge of finance and corporate affairs as a stop-gap arrangement until the time Jaitley recovers. Rashtrapati Bhavan also said that SS Ahluwalia would be the junior minister for electronics and information technology