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Smriti Irani is back in the big league of Modi ministers: The curious case of BJP's star politician

18 July, 2017 7:53 AM
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Smriti Irani is back in the big league of Modi ministers: The curious case of BJP's star politician

Almost exactly a year after she was removed from the high-profile HRD Ministry, Smriti Irani is back in the league of top ministers in the Modi government.

In July, 2016, she was moved out of the high-profile Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry and given the responsibility of the Textile Ministry. Narendra Modi's decision to downgrade Smriti Irani's portfolio was described by many as the surprise demotion of a leader considered close to the Prime Minister.

Almost exactly a year after her demotion, 41-year-old Irani is back in the big league. The TV actor-turned-politician has been given the additional charge of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry after M Venkaiah Naidu resigned from the post to contest for the Vice-President.

When PM Modi decided to bring in Prakash Javadekar in place of Smriti Irani as the HRD Minister last July, many said it was aimed at keeping his government away from unnecessary controversies that Irani had triggered during her stint.

Despite losing the high-profile 2014 Lok Sabha election against Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi from Uttar Pradesh's Amethi, Irani was given an important ministry to handle purely on the basis of her popularity within the BJP.

Being the youngest minister in Modi's Cabinet, Irani somehow managed to associate herself with one controversy or other.

Irani's two-year tenure in the HRD Ministry was marked by major controversies. Her remarks over Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula's suicide in Hyderabad sparked a massive row. Days later, protests erupted at Delhi's prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) when she defended the Centre's action against its "anti-national" activities'.

The minister came under severe criticism for her statements on Vemula's suicide at the University of Hyderabad in January last year. In reply to a debate in Lok Sabha, she had said: "This is how politics was played on this child and his dead body. Nobody allowed a doctor near him. The police has reported... Not one attempt was made to revive this child. Not one attempt was made to take him to a doctor. Instead his body was used as a political tool. Hidden. No police was allowed till 6.30 the next morning. Not me, but the Telangana police is saying this."

Vemula's mother Radhika slammed Irani, describing her statements as a "set of lies". Irani, as the head of the Board of Governors (BoG) of the Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan (KVS), then decided to replace German with Sanskrit, sparking yet another debate.

She was also under fire after her ministry suggested opening of separate dining area and mess for vegetarian students at the various Indian Institute of Technology (IITs) across the country.

Irani's educational qualification was challenged in court in 2014. In the complaint, Irani was accused of providing wrong information regarding her qualification to the Election Commission.

In his complaint, freelance writer Ahmer Khan had alleged that Irani had deliberately given discrepant information about her educational qualifications in affidavits filed before the Election Commission in 2004, 2011 and 2014. He claimed she had not given any clarification despite concerns raised on the issue.

However, a Delhi court later dismissed the complaint, saying it was filed to "needlessly harass" her since she was a Union Minister.


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