Two days before the completion of four years of his government, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reshuffled the cabinet portfolios, late on Monday evening. In a press communique, the Rashtrapati Bhawan said that Piyush Goyal, who also holds the portfolios of Railways, Coal and Power, has been given the additional responsibility of Finance and Corporate Affairs during Arun Jaitley's period of indisposition.
Interestingly, Goyal's elevation as finance minister comes days after he was accused of not disclosing the sale of his company to Piramal Group to PMO in his declaration.
Smriti Irani was relieved of her duties from Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. S S Ahluwalia was relieved from the Ministry of Drinking Water & Sanitation so that he could assist Ravi Shankar Prasad as the Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology. Alphons Kannanthanam, was relieved from Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.
Jaitley has been a patient of chronic diabetes and underwent a kidney transplant at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Delhi on Monday. He had been clearing files from home after he had complained of Kidney related problems and chest infection in April.
The latest reshuffle has also questioned the performance of the ministers who were more engaged in stoking controversies. It is the fifth reshuffle after Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) assumed power in 2014.
The reshuffle seems to have reduced the stature of Smriti Irani within the government. Irani was relieved from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and her junior Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore will now be heading the ministry independently. The 10-month-tenure of Irani at the ministry was marred by controversies leading to interventions from the Prime Minister's office.
One of the recent ones was triggered by the National Award Winning artists who boycotted the ceremony after they were informed about the President Ram Nath Kovind's absence from the event. The award-winning ceremony is organised by Ministry of Information and Broadcasting annually. Despite advance notices from President's office about his availability for only one hour, Irani's ministry, in its invitation to the artists, said that the President will be honouring all of them.
Similarly, Prime Minister's office struck down the notification from Irani's ministry which sought cancellation of accreditation of journalists for disseminating "fake news". The notification failed to define fake news. Journalists accused Irani of gagging the media. The notification rested the responsibility of determining fake news with Press Information Bureau, that had incidentally circulated a fake picture of PM Narendra Modi surveying Chennai floods.
Irani brought embarrassment to the government when she ordered to stop the salaries of Prasar Bharati's employees