On 6th July 2016, the parliament came to a standstill as the news of cabinet reshuffle broke out. Prime Minister Narendra Modi shocked everyone with this unprecedented change. Major changes took place, Prakash Javadekar was shifted to Human Resource Development (HRD), M Venkaiah Naidu to Information and Broadcasting, newbie Anil Dave got the Environment Ministry, among others. However, the shift of Smriti Zubin Irani from the “high profile” HRD ministry to the relatively “low key” Textile ministry was the one most talked about. The shift has been considered a major one.
Why did the shift from HRD to textile take place?
It’s pretty clear that the HRD minister wasn’t well liked. The moment she was appointed, she wasn’t favoured by the public at all. But a few stints might have led to her shift.
- Disagreements with the PMO
To be precise, the shift was due to an increasing number of disagreements between Smriti Irani’s ministry and the PMO. The two didn’t see eye to eye over a lot of provisions regarding education, one of them being the “degree of autonomy” certain universities should be allowed to have. The shift has come at a crucial time, when important measures to improve the quality of education like the new National Education Policy, which is said to do away with the “no failure” system, among others, was about to be unveiled.
- Bad publicity
Smriti Irani has had her part of bad publicity. The replacement of German with Sanskrit as a third language in Kendriya VIdyalayas, resignation of two of IIT director and chairman, the JNU fiasco, AMU’s minority status issue, and the list goes on. But the most crucial was her handling or rather mishandling of the HCU scholar Rohith Vemula’s suicide, which still hangs over the party.
For BJP, the Dalit vote in the upcoming 2017 UP assembly polls is crucial for a win and to prove their inclusion of the said community, the party has launched rallies and roped in Ramdas Athawale, a prominent Dalit leader from Maharashtra. Therefore, Smriti Irani’s shift then can be seen as a way to mend things and to send a message across, all a part of a big picture.
The good that she did.
Under her, the Global Initiative of Academic Network was launched, which allows recruitment of scholars from abroad and a ranking framework for education institutes and universities. She also appointed various long due Vice Chancellors to institutes and built around 4 lakh toilets under the Swachh Vidyalaya project.
What remains unfinished?
It lies upon Prakash Javadekar, Smriti’s successor and the former Minister State for Environment, Forests and Climate Change, to deal with her half done deeds which include appointment of chairman of CBSE and directors of a few IIMs, finalising the education policy, establishing a National Academic Depository( a common database for schools), a Vedic Education Board, and review school education curriculum, and draft a new language policy, as reported by The Indian Express.
How the nation reacted?
As soon as the news of Smriti Irani’s shift broke out, people didn’t shy away from expressing their opinion, with jokes like “Aaj fir beti ke hath se kitaab chheen kar silai machine thama di gai hai.” trending on social media, Twitter, yet again, proved to be the favourite one. Here are a few of the tweets.
Smriti Irani shunted out of HRD ministry is the single biggest reform done by Modi for the educational system of India.
— manish sharma (@manusharma0145) July 5, 2016
No HRD feelings, Prakash Javadekar to Smriti Irani, probably.
— Rituparna Chatterjee (@MasalaBai) July 5, 2016
— Rofl Gandhi (@RoflGandhi_) July 5, 2016
From Education minister to Textile minister.
Title of Smriti Irani's biography could be "From KYA PADHA To KAPDA".
— billoo (@MohitParmarr) July 5, 2016
Life isn't perfect but your outfit can be. ~ New Tagline of Textile Ministry. (2016) pic.twitter.com/xdPw7bNePF
— History of India (@RealHistoryPic) July 6, 2016