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Smriti pays price for run of controversies

delhipaper Updated: Jul 06, 2016, 12:16 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent

NEW DELHI: Smriti Irani’s shift from the high-profile human resource development ministry to the distinctly unglamorous textiles ministry came as a clear indication that Prime Minister Narendra Modi wanted his ministers to keep a low profile, avoid unnecessary controversies, and not play to the gallery.

While Irani, 40, had some successes in the HRD ministry, including tie-ups with foreign universities, she was dogged by controversies, often leading to friction with the academic world.

It is hard to pinpoint when Modi decided Irani had gone too far, but sources in the HRD ministry told HT the first trigger was her run-in with nuclear scientist Anil Kakodkar, who was chairman of the board of governors at IIT Bombay, over the selection of directors of three IITs in March last year.

Then came the controversies over PhD scholar Rohith Vemula’s suicide in January and the arrest of student leader Kanhaiya Kumar on sedition charges in February.

In both cases, Modi was against escalation of the issues beyond the affected campus.

The ministry’s decision to allow students to grade university teachers was opposed by unions and subsequently dropped.

Though Irani stayed on the right side of the RSS and often attacked Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi over a lack of development in Amethi, her decision to hoist the national flag at 40 government-funded universities did not go down well, as it created tensions among students of NIT, Srinagar — and yet another controversy.

Somewhere down the line, the minister exhausted the PM’s patience. The political high-flier hasn’t quite crashed to earth but she has definitely had her wings clipped.

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