Trust Modi-Shah: Jaitley thrown off high table, Smriti Irani failed

Swati Chaturvedi
Swati ChaturvediJul 06, 2016 | 13:04

Trust Modi-Shah: Jaitley thrown off high table, Smriti Irani failed

The BJP is now a two-man party. Narendra Modi is the most presidential prime minister India has ever seen and Amit Shah, his close confidant, has emerged as the most powerful president in the history of the party.

This was the message that was sent out on July 5 with the demotion of former HRD minister Smirti Irani and the cutting down to size of another powerful finance minister Arun Jaitley, who had the information and broadcasting portfolio taken away from him.


Two other ministers demoted were the controversial, men with the multiple birthdates: VK Singh and Jayant Sinha.

The rejig bears the definitive stamp of Shah who called all the new entrants and was sitting next to Modi as the clear number two in the swearing-in.

Arun Shourie had earlier described BJP as a "trinity" - no more. The gods have ruled against their own, Jaitley has been clearly ejected and reduced to a mere mortal.

Even though he retains finance by the skin of his teeth, his influence has dwindled.

This, as I have mentioned before, is part of a plan by the RSS to cut him down to size. Hence, the unchallenged attacks on him by Subramanian Swamy, which will now, no doubt, escalate as the monsoon session of Parliament approaches.

Jaitley has new deputies and his protégés such as Sinha, who modelled himself on the finance minister, has been demoted to civil aviation from finance.

Arun Jaitley. (PTI)

Not only does Jaitley have to suffer Swamy, but Swaraj loyalist SS Ahluwalia has been given parliamentary affairs and MJ Akbar, whom Jaitley, I'm told, dislikes, has been given an important job.


Jaitley, who was quasi-running the law ministry with all important officials and appointees as his protégés, now will see his influence leach away as another savvy, networking lawyer - Ravi Shankar Prasad - has replaced the puppet-like DV Sadanand Gowda. Prasad will not brook any interference.

Luytens watchers who measure even tiny indicators of influence and who adore Jaitley with the cachet of being among "friends of Arun" are quite shaken at the reduction of influence.

Modi still thinks Jaitley is useful to him, but is learnt to have expressed concern about his health after his bariatric surgery.

Analysing the import of the reshuffle reveals the following:

Modi's message to Irani and Singh has been clear: Don't project yourself as the face of "Moditva". When you have no constituency yet court controversy constantly, you will be demoted. Governance is not confined to being the torchbearers of the right-wing trolls as Irani and Singh may have realised by now.

Irani had constantly courted controversy and her bellicose behaviour including wagging her finger at Mayawati in Parliament shocked observers.


The attack on Mayawati in light of the Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula's suicide, where she misled the House on facts and dramatically offered her head if Mayawati was not satisfied, proved to be the last straw.

Shah did not just press pause on the ever-running soap opera. He cancelled the series.

Shah has always disliked Irani and her penchant for the dramatic. Two instances being the FabIndia case, where the former HRD minister alleged of a "spy cam" which managed to derail the BJP's national executive and her multiple affidavits in the fake degree case now inching towards a conclusion, which would inevitably embarrass the party.

Shah apparently has also told Modi that with the crucial UP elections next year they simply could not be seen as "anti-Dalit". Shah cited the eight UP surveys to find a suitable CM face for the party where Irani came in last, even after Kalraj Mishra.

Smriti Irani. (PTI)

Irani now has no chance of being projected as UP face. A top BJP leader told me that "you don't make a demoted leader captain".

Irani had a dramatic rise to the top, but as a Sangh veteran points out "she seemed unable to digest her own success".

The angry young woman without a pause or a cause morphing into a social media "yoddha" to troll journalists, has also gone down badly with Shah and the RSS, which decided to burst the original "soap bubble".

My sources tell me Shah will use Irani's undoubted theatrical abilities clinically in the UP elections to hound the Gandhi family on the campaign trail. But, that's about it.

Even Modi who had given her a long rope and tweeted her Vemula speech with the tag "Satyameva Jayate" was dismayed to discover later that the speech was replete with factual errors and actually made several false claims. A privilege motion is pending before both Houses against Irani for that speech.

Modi apparently also disliked the frequency and alacrity with which Irani dropped his name. Her feral attack on journalists and the ridiculous objection to the word "dear", which the Bihar education minister used to address her, took away from the gravitas of her status of holding a heavy weight portfolio.

The BJP leaders have been left aghast with her behaviour. Irani said, dramatically as is her wont, "judge me by my work".

Here she was judged, not just by the media who she claims loves to persecute her, but by Modi and Shah.

When Irani's stars were on the ascendant she fancied herself a threat to Sushma Swaraj and was heavily propped up by the external affairs minister's rivals.

Today, piquantly Anupriya Patel, who got a berth, is being projected by the same people as a rival to Irani.

The difference is that Patel is from an electorally significant caste in UP and has won an election.

Irani has no electoral base apart from Twitter, having lost both the elections she contested against Kapil Sibal and Rahul Gandhi.

Irani's successor Prakash Javadekar has a storied RSS pedigree and unlike Irani has risen from the ranks as a "swayamsevak". He ensured a 100 per cent environmental clearances for corporates and has been duly rewarded.

Javadekar's pleasant unassuming personality will ensure that the saffronisation of education, a core RSS agenda, will continue but, with much less controversial optics. The RSS insists Javadekar be appointed and Modi who found him a useful environmental minster also concurred.

This Cabinet has been modelled in the image of the two men who dominate politics and government today. They will brook no opposition, so it's time to say goodbye to the old-fashioned first among equals of the Westminster system.

Last updated: July 07, 2016 | 12:53
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