In a reshuffle of portfolios effected on Monday by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Smriti Irani was moved out of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry and Rajyavardhan Rathore, who had been a Minister of State in the Ministry since November 2014, was given its independent charge.
Rathore is also Minister of State (Independent Charge) of Youth Affairs and Sports. Similarly, Railway and Coal Minister Piyush Goyal has been given temporary charge of the Finance and Corporate Affairs ministries until Arun Jaitley recovers from his illness. Jaitley had undergone kidney transplant surgery at AIIMS in Delhi earlier in the day.
According to a Rashtrapati Bhavan Communique issued late evening, S.S. Ahluwalia has been assigned the portfolio of Minister of State, Electronics and Information Technology in place of Alphons Kannanthanam. Ahluwalia has been relieved of the charge of Minister of State, Drinking Water and Sanitation.
It is the fifth reshuffle of the Union Council of Ministers effected by Modi and came days ahead of the fourth anniversary of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government when it is planning a major media outreach. Irani had earlier been shifted out of the Human Resource Development Ministry and appointed Textiles Minister. She was appointed Information and Broadcasting Minister in July last year after Venkaiah Naidu stepped down to contest the vice presidential election.
Irani’s tenure at the Information and Broadcasting Ministry had seen some controversies. Modi had given directions to withdraw the ministry’s order in April that threatened to take away the accreditation of journalists involved in producing “fake news”.
The order, which was withdrawn within hours, had warned that journalists would be denied access to the government even on mere accusation of spreading fake news and could lose their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 ministry also saw tussle 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 with several awardees protesting against the whittling down of the number of those to be honoured by the President to 11. The Rashtrapati Bhavan had also reportedly conveyed its unhappiness to the Prime Minister’s Office over the way office of President was dragged into the controversy over award ceremony. Some media associations had also expressed their reservations over the way the ministry had reconstituted two journalist-related bodies under its purview.