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regular-article-logo Tuesday, 27 February 2024

Smriti Irani included in Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs

Move signals at her renewed importance in the current regime after a prolonged trough

J.P. Yadav New Delhi Published 14.07.21, 01:52 AM
Smriti Irani

Smriti Irani File picture

Women and child development minister Smriti Irani has for the first time been included in the Prime Minister-helmed Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs, signalling her renewed importance in the current regime after a prolonged trough.

The government reconstituted various cabinet committees after the ministry expansion and shuffling of portfolios on Monday night.

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The Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs headed by the Prime Minister is seen as the core group of the administration, empowered to discuss and take a call on the political issues confronting the government.

Although first-time central ministers such as Bhupender Yadav, Mansukh Mandaviya and Sarbananda Sonowal have also made it to the select group, it was the appointment of Smriti that was noted the most.

Smriti, an actress turned politician, had been seen as a rising star when Narendra Modi made her human resource development minister in his first government in 2014. Her glory days, however, were short-lived and she was shunted out just after two years in office and given charge of the low-profile textile ministry. In BJP circles, this was seen as a big demotion and it was widely believed that she had lost Modi’s trust.

Despite staging an electoral stunner in 2019, when she defeated then Congress president Rahul Gandhi in his family bastion Amethi, Smriti couldn’t regain her high point. She was rewarded with the charge of two ministries — women and child development, besides textile — but it was not as flattering as her start in 2014.

In the latest shuffle too, she lost the textile ministry and had to settle for only women and child development.

Smriti getting a place in the cabinet’s political affairs committee may not have restored her glory but has certainly underlined her maturity and political importance, BJP leaders feel. She is likely to be deployed extensively in the campaign for the Uttar Pradesh elections early next year.

“Only the core ministers get a place in the political affairs committee. It’s a prestigious appointment and Smritiji should be proud to have made it,” a BJP leader said.

After the Cabinet Committee on Security, which only has the Prime Minister and the other four top ministers, the political affairs committee is regarded as the second most important core group of the government.

The 12-member political affairs committee has Prime Minister Modi at its helm while the others are Amit Shah, Rajnath Singh, Nitin Gadkari, Nirmala Sitharaman, Narendra Singh Tomar, Smriti, Piyush Goyal, Pralhad Joshi, Sonowal, Giriraj Singh, Mandaviya and Yadav.

The exclusion of Rajnath from the political affairs committee in 2019 had created a flutter. He was, however, quickly re-inducted.Apart from Smriti, the inclusion of first-time ministers Yadav and Mandaviya, who has been given charge of the crucial health ministry besides chemicals and fertilisers, points to the new lot of leaders being promoted by the current regime.

These leaders appeared to have made it to the important committee after six senior ministers were dropped in the reshuffle, including Ravi Shankar Prasad, Prakash Javadekar, Harsh Vardhan and Ramesh Pokhriyal.

In BJP circles, the reconstitution of the cabinet committees was also seen as offering clues to the leaders who could fill the vacancies in the party’s highest decision-making body, the parliamentary board.

There are five vacancies in the parliamentary board and speculation is rife that either Smriti or Sitharaman could be picked to fill the void created by the passing of Sushma Swaraj.

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