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Modi cabinet reshuffle: Piyush Goyal made acting finance minister, Irani removed from I&B

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Goyal will handle the ministry until the time Arun Jaitley recovers from kidney transplant, Irani reportedly pays the price for controversies.

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has effected a small but significant cabinet reshuffle on the eve of the Karnataka election results.

Railway minister Piyush Goyal has been put in charge of the finance ministry till Arun Jaitley recovers from the kidney transplant he underwent at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences Monday. Jaitley has been ailing for some time now, and has been working from home.

However, it was felt that while Jaitley recovers, an important ministry like finance cannot be left without a head. And in Goyal, Modi has deployed one of his most trusted ministers to do the job.

Irani removed from I&B, Rathore elevated

Another important change is that Smriti Irani has been relieved from the information and broadcasting ministry, with minister of state (independent charge) for youth affairs and sports Rajyavardhan Rathore taking over.

This is the second time Irani has lost a portfolio, having earlier been removed from the HRD ministry and put in charge of textiles. She was later given additional charge of I&B.

Irani has had constant run-ins with controversy since she became a minister, and this is one of the major reasons the PM has changed her portfolio twice, say sources. As HRD minister, she was constantly in the news, thanks to allegations of meddling with premier education institutions such as the IITs and IIMs.

As I&B minister too, Irani made moves that seemed designed to control the media. The ministry issued an order to cancel the PIB accreditation of journalists blamed of spreading ‘fake news’. The Modi government faced a tremendous backlash, and the order had to be rolled back, with even the PMO said to be unhappy. Rumors that she’d be shunted out had started back then, because Modi, entering the final year of his government, can’t afford to deal controversies in a portfolio as key as I&B.

Read more about her other controversies as I&B minister here and here.

For Rathore, it’s a significant elevation. He had been the junior minister for I&B early in his tenure, before being given independent charge of youth affairs and sports.

Sources say he has been rewarded for his good connect with the people, and working efficiently and inclusively. In his short span as sports minister, Rathore’s work has been widely appreciated within and outside the government.

Other changes

Senior BJP leader and minister of state S.S. Ahluwalia has been sent from the drinking water and sanitation ministry to the ministry of electronics and information technology. He replaces K.J. Alphons, who holds independent charge of the tourism ministry.

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