Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to shift Smriti Irani from human resource development to the textiles ministry was widely perceived as a demotion, given that the education sector is more high-profile.
But the firebrand Irani may yet be able to find her way back to the spotlight. Her first opportunity will be on the political stage, as a campaigner in the assembly elections early next year.
“I think as a woman with star value she would definitely have a positive impact if she campaigns here in UP in state elections,” said Vinay Katiyar, a BJP veteran from UP.
One possible hindrance here is her frosty relations with the BJP president, and architect-in-chief of the party’s political campaigns, Amit Shah.
Still, if she is able to draw big crowds, and help the BJP score victories in the state elections, especially in UP, that would go a long way to reviving her political fortunes.
In the longer term, the textiles ministry might give her an opportunity to prove her administrative mettle, away from the media glare.
Though the portfolio has traditionally gone to relatively low-profile figures -- her predecessor was a minister of state with independent charge -- the NDA government has given a renewed thrust to the textiles sector. The recent announcement of a special package of Rs 6,000 crore is expected to generate one crore jobs, especially for women.
There is a huge opportunity awaiting her and she appeared to be conscious of it on Wednesday.
After taking charge of the new portfolio, the minister said, “I am happy that I have been given an opportunity especially when a special package has been announced for the sector. This signifies that my party and especially the Prime Minister has faith that I have the capacity to implement the roadmap that was projected through the Cabinet for the rest of the country”.
She also added that she is hopeful that the much-awaited new national textile policy “will soon see the light of day”.
The textiles ministry may be less glamorous compared to the HRD ministry, but it is no less significant.
$100 billion is the size, by revenue, that the textile and apparel industry in India is projected to reach by 2016-17, from $67 billion in 2013-14. Forty-five million people are employed directly in the textile industry, making it the largest employer after agriculture. The new textile policy aims to create 35 million additional jobs.
If the high-profile minister keeps her head down to work, she might have many concrete results to show in terms of achievements as a minister.