Smriti Irani demoted, Piyush Goyal finance minister till Jaitley returns
Hours after Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had a kidney transplant, the government announced a major cabinet reshuffle. Railways and coal minister Piyush Goyal gets the finance portfolio in the absence of Jaitley, while he recuperates from his surgery.
The big surprise, however, in the late Monday evening announcement was the information and broadcasting portfolio being taken away from Smriti Zubin Irani - who will now be left with just the textiles portfolio.
Rajyavardhan Rathore gets independent charge of I&B ministry as minister of state. Irani's career has seen a see-saw graph, being demoted from human resource development (HRD) to textiles, to being promoted to I&B and now back to square one.
In fact, controversy has become second nature for Irani, who was at daggers drawn with not just the public broadcaster Prasar Bharati, but also private broadcasters, and the media as a whole.
The tipping point, however, was the snub by artistes to Irani at the 65th National Film Awards ceremony. President Ram Nath Kovind was to present the awards only to a handful of the recipients.
The rest were to receive awards from Irani and Rathore - a decision that led to about 60 awardees boycotting the function. The ministry had led them to believe that the President would be bestowing the award.
The awardees were unhappy, so was the President, at being dragged into an unseemly controversy. Irani did not endear herself to the media either.
A circular on fake news was issued by the I&B ministry, which unilaterally took upon itself the powers to punish any media house 'peddling fake news'. While many in the cabinet gleefully welcomed the move, Irani got a rude shock when a tweet from the Prime Minister's handle informed her that the circular was being withdrawn.
While most celebrated this as a snub for Irani, political pundits questioned whether this wasn't, after all, a well-orchestrated move to make the Prime Minister look good.
Irani has been making headlines not so much for her "newly acquired" sartorial taste, as twitterati Madhu Kishwar unkindly put it, but for her running battle with the Prasar Bharati.
CEO A Surya Prakash refused to clear a payment of Rs 2.90 crore to a private Mumbai firm that covered the opening and closing ceremony of the recently concluded International Film Festival, a role traditionally reserved for Doordarshan.
In return, Irani actually stopped salaries for January and February for 5,000 employees of AIR and Doordarshan and the payments had to be released from its Contingency Fund.