A day after she was shifted to the ‘unglamorous’ textile ministry in a cabinet reshuffle, former human resource development minister Smriti Irani thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday for giving her the “opportunity to serve the country”.
“It is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream to boost textile industry. I look forward to working for it,” she said, stressing her new portfolio signified the “faith” shown by the PM.
Asked if the change was aimed at giving her more time to focus on next year’s assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, she quoted a line from a popular Hindi song: “Kuchh toh log kahenge,logon ka kaam hai kehna (people are bound to say things because it is their job to say something).”
There were speculations over the high-profile minister’s portfolio change: whether she was demoted or there was something in store for her in politically crucial Uttar Pradesh, where India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party is trying to dislodge regional forces that have alternated power for almost a decade.
“I am happy that I have been given an opportunity especially when a special package (of Rs 6,000 crore for the apparel segment) has been announced for the sector,” Irani said, and added a new national textile policy “will soon see the light of day”.
Irani, who faced several controversies as the HRD minister, also thanked officials in a Twitter post “for the consistent support in realising” Modi’s vision of “ensuring quality education for all”.
“In last 2 years all initiatives of @HRDMinistry have been towards increasing learning outcomes for students & improving quality of education (sic),” she posted on Twitter.
In her new role, Irani will replace Santosh Gangwar, who will be now the minister of state for finance.
Look forward to working with officials at @TexMinIndia for strengthening the very important Textile & Apparel Sector of our country.— Smriti Z Irani (@smritiirani) 6 July 2016
Earlier in the day, she changed her Twitter bio to reflect the --- from human resource development minister to “Union Minister Government of India”.
As the HRD minister, Irani faced protests over the Jawaharlal Nehru University sedition row and the suicide of Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula at the Hyderabad University. Rivals alleged her ministry was interfering in the functioning of prestigious institutes and was trying to saffronise education.
Prakash Javadekar, whose elevation to the cabinet rank on Tuesday took many by surprise, will replace Irani as the HRD minister.
Hours before Irani’s posts, Javadekar said dialogue was the key to avoid agitations and asserted education was not a subject for party politics.
He said he was open to suggestions and consultations with everyone, and lauded the “good initiatives” taken by Irani. Javadekar said he will also speak to Irani to take her initiatives forward.
(With agency inputs)