New Textiles Minister puts a brave face, goes philosophical
A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi effected a massive restructuring of his Council of Ministers, the repercussions of the exercise continued to play out.
The biggest shocker of Tuesday’s Cabinet rejig was the transfer of the Human Resource Development (HRD) portfolio from Smriti Irani to Prakash Javadekar, who had also been elevated to Cabinet status.
The dramatic nature of that change did not disappoint in its consequences. On Wednesday morning before he took charge of his new Ministry, Mr. Javadekar visited his slighted colleague at her home, and said that he would do his best, “to continue the good work Smritiji has done.”
Then rather contrarily he said that he was “a product of student agitation, so we will always talk with everybody. So with dialogues in place, there will be no necessity of agitation” — a nod to his predecessor’s trouble with student groups in Jawaharlal Nehru University and the University of Hyderabad.
Causes advanced for Ms. Irani’s exit from the HRD Ministry range from her run-ins with academics like Anil Kakodkar and former director of IIT, Delhi, R.K. Shevgaonkar, to the fact that more than six secretaries, 10 additional secretaries and 12 joint secretaries had applied for a transfer out of the Ministry due to her style of functioning, all the way to her warm equations with the RSS that were discomfiting to the top leadership in her party.
Ms. Irani herself, as she took charge in her new Ministry of Textiles at Udyog Bhavan, answered the speculation rather philosophically, quoting a Kishore Kumar number from the film Araadhana, “kuchh toh log kahengey, logon ka kaam hai kehena (people will talk, it is their predilection to do so),” on all the speculation over her demotion.
The passion play of handovers of important Ministries played out elsewhere as well. At the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, M. Venkaiah Naidu took over from Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who had, sources said, opted to shed this portfolio in favour of holding on to Finance.
Justifying the enlarged size of the Council of Ministers, Mr. Naidu said: “The Constitution allows 15 per cent of the strength of the Lok Sabha for the Cabinet of the Prime Minister. We are well within that and it is a huge country. We have inherited huge problems and it needs a huge effort. The Prime Minister’s focus is more on delivery. It needs effective coordination, monitoring, that is why these inductions are made,” he said, adding that “Prime Minister Modi is the hope of the nation.”
At the Law Ministry, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, back in his old office after losing it in the November 2014 reshuffle, took charge.