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Smriti Irani shifted from Education to Textiles, Jaitley sheds I&B; Akbar MoS External Affairs
Tuesday July 5, 2016 11:23 PM, Agencies

[President Pranab Mukherjee administering the oath as Minister of State to M.J. Akbar at a Swearing-in Ceremony, at Rashtrapati Bhavan, in New Delhi on July 05, 2016.]

New Delhi:
In a major rejig of the Narendra Modi council of ministers following an expansion on Tuesday, Smriti Irani was replaced as Human Resource Development Minister by Prakash Javadekar, while Ravi Shankar Prasad was divested of Communications but allotted Law and M. Venkaiah Naidu given additional charge of the I&B Ministry.

Irani has been made Textiles Minister, replacing incumbent Santosh Gangwar who will be now be Minister of State for Finance. Former bureaucrat Arjun Meghwal, who was inducted in Tuesday's expansion, has also been made Minister of State in this crucial ministry, headed by Arun Jaitley.

The shifting of Irani, whose two-year tenure in the Human Resources Development(HRD) Ministry was marked by controversies over dalit scholar Rohith Vemula's suicide in Hyderabad and the JNU row, triggered speculation whether it was a tactical move to give a less important portfolio or to be left free to be the face of BJP campaign in UP Assembly polls due in 2017.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi inducted 19 new faces, including BJP leaders S S Ahluwalia, M J Akbar and Vijay Goel, while elevating Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar in the second expansion of his government ahead of political battles in Uttar Pradesh and other states. Akbar will be the second Minister of state for External Affairs along with V K Singh.

As Law Minister, Prasad replaces D.V. Sadananda Gowda who has been moved to the low-profile Statistics and Programme Implementation ministry.

Vijay Goel will be the new Minister of State (Independent Charge) of Sports and Youth Affairs. The portfolio was being held as additional charge by Minister of State in the PMO Jitendra Singh after incumbent Sarbananda Sonowal resigned after leading the Bharatiya Janata Party to its first-ever election victory in Assam and became Chief Minister.

M.J. Akbar has been appointed MoS External Affairs.

Jayant Sinha, who was junior minister in the finance ministry, now becomes Minister of State for Civil Aviation, while Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha will hold the Communications portfolio too as Minister of State (Independent Charge).

Mahesh Sharma, who was earlier MoS Civil Aviation under Ashok Gajapati Raju, has been left with his independent charge of Culture & Tourism.

Five ministers of state were dropped in the second exercise undertaken by Modi in a little more than two years since he took over in May, 2014 which saw a number of dalit and OBC leaders being given ministerial positions apparently with an eye on assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand next year and Gujarat later.

After the dropping of five ministers, today's expansion took the total strength of the Council of Ministers to 78, just keeping it under the constitutionally allowed maximum.


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