Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday night removed Smriti Irani as the Information and Broadcasting Minister and gave the portfolio to Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore in a minor but significant reshuffle of his cabinet, in which Railway Minister Piyush Goyal was given the additional charge of the finance ministry.
Irani, whose nearly one-year tenure in the I and B Ministry was mired in controversies, was replaced by her deputy Rathore who has been made the minister of state with Independent Charge, according to a Rashtrapati Bhavan communique.
The reshuffle comes a day before the Karnataka assembly election results.
This is the second time that Irani has been removed from a key ministry as she was earlier shifted out of the human resource development ministry to the relatively low-profile Textile Ministry. She remains the textile minister.
The communique said Railway Minister Goyal will ‘temporarily’ handle the finance and corporate affairs ministries till Arun Jaitley recovers from his kidney transplant.
Jaitley underwent a successful kidney transplant at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi on Monday.
It said S S Ahluwalia has been relieved from the charge of minister of state in Drinking Water and Sanitation Ministry and assigned a new portfolio of Electronics and Information Technology, the communique said.
Alphons Kannanthanam has been relieved as Minister of State in the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. He continues as minister of state for tourism.
In July last year, Irani had assumed the charge of Information and Broadcasting Ministry after M Venkaiah Naidu had resigned following his nomination as National Democratic Alliance’s vice presidential candidate.
She had courted various controversies including the latest one last month on a notification relating to fake news.
The I&B ministry had issued an order last month with provisions of punishing journalists found involved in generating fake news.
The order was widely criticised by a large section of the media which called it a brazen attempt to curb press freedom.
It was later withdrawn on the directive of Prime Minister Modi.
Photograph: PTI Photo