Smriti Irani has been fired as India’s Minister for Information and Broadcasting. She is replaced by her deputy Rajyvardhan Rathore, but retains the textile ministry portfolio.
Irani, a former actress, had been in the job for only ten months. Rathore, a former professional shooter, will be the fourth person to head the I&B Ministry job since 2014, following Arun Jaitley, Venkaiah Naidu and Irani, since July last year.
Irani had been expected to attend the Cannes Film Festival, but her trip was cancelled only two days before her scheduled travel. Indian officials in Cannes explained her absence, and the attendance of Censor Board chief Prasoon Joshi in her place, by pointing to her role in regional elections back home.
Irani’s tenure in the I&B job had been plagued by controversies and problems. A decision to award management of International Film Festival of India in Goa to the National Film Development Council might have drawn applause if the NFDC had been given more notice and if Irani’s ministry had not interfered with the selection of films – “Sexy Durga” and “Nude” were both dropped from the lineup.
In March, it emerged that public broadcaster Prasar Bharati was being starved of funding for two months, in what was perceived as an act of retaliation.
In April, Irani’s ministry proposed legislation that would make fake news illegal. The idea was quickly withdrawn after protests from journalists that the new law would be used in a partisan fashion and be the death of news reporting.
The prestigious ceremony to present the prestigious National Film Awards also descended into chaos. When the awards president broke with tradition and decided not to hand out the prized personally, a contingent of 70 film makers organized a boycott.
The ministry also removed Nina Lath Gupta from her position at the head of the NFDC, and accused Gupta of mismanagement. In recent days, following a legal challenge, all accusations against Gupta were withdrawn.
Irani, who had previously been a favorite of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was recently cleared of misrepresenting her educational qualifications. But taken together with earlier controversies at the Human Resources Development, Irani has shown herself to be accident prone.
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