Pune, Feb 4: Will we ever get to see Pradhan Sevak Smriti Irani (Prime Minister Smriti irani?) it was a question that was meant to stump her. But her answer stumped all, adding fuel to all the fire about the stories of Union Textiles Minister Smriti Irani’s growing proximity to the top duo of Narendra Modi-Amit Shah within the Bharatiya Janata Party. “The day the Pradhan Sevak (Prime Minister Modi) retires from politics, is the day I will hang my shoes in politics,” she said without batting an eyelash, a remark that went down well with the galleries, as, it was meant to. She further added, “I have had the good fortune to work under two of the most charismatic and dynamic leaders of our times, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. I have no other aspirations.”
Irani was speaking on “Scripting her story: From Star to Star Campaigner” at the second edition of Words Count, a public interaction platform organized by award-winning screen writer, author and columnist Advaita Kala in Pune on Sunday evening.
“People keep trying to say that the morale in the ruling party is low, what with talk of a Mahagathbandhan, (Grand Opposition Alliance) but if you meet any member of the current cabinet, we would all say the Josh is High Sir,” she said using the dialogue from the recently released film Uri-The Surgical Strike—a dialogue being quoted by most BJP ministers in public interactions today.
Asked whether the recent Akhilesh Yadav-Mayawati SP-BSP alliance in Uttar Pradesh will impact electoral equations in the state, she remarked, referring to their party symbols, “Earlier too when the Elephant had tried to ride the cycle, he had only ended up puncturing it and failing miserably, why should this time be any different?”
Asked who were her ideal women in politics, Irani listed her icons as BJP leader Sushma Swaraj and the current Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Sumitra Mahajan, as her role models. “They came into politics at a time when there were hardly any women on the scene. It must have been a very tough life-work balance to maintain and thus they are my ideals. “ Obviously Saronjini Naidu, Annie Besant, Indira Gandhi and Margaret Alva, all with affiliations to the Congress,) Seem not to figure on her list.
While Amethi, the key Gandhi parliamentary constituency from where Irani fought the 2014 election and lost, kept coming up in the discussion, the minister laughed and waived away any questions asking her is she would be contesting again from the constituency which has been the stronghold of the Gandhis since time immemorial. “ That is for Amit Shah and the BJP Parliamentary Board to decide. How can I decide whether or not I will be fighting elections from Amethi. All I can say is that in 2014 when I ran as BJP candidate from Amethi, people said, Smriti Irani, WHO? In 2019 that will not be the case for sure,” she quipped.
From model to beauty queen to TV star to politics, she seems to have seen it all. So what is it that keeps her going, one is wont to ask?
“I have never waited for life to happen. I have gone full force and taken it head-on. The pursuit of something new has always been an interesting and exciting goal for me. And I have never regretted moving from active media to a political career. I decided that the move to one will not be at the cost of the other, once a sanghi (RSS) always a sanghi,” she stated. Reacting to queries about being trolled over her education and her political acumen questioned, Irani answered, “ I have been trolled, not by random people but celebrated journalists, politicians—I understand it is a move to break my spirit and I did not succumb to the pressure. I did not let them break my spirit and succeed in that endeavor. I was taught as a woman to forgive, so I did that, but I will not forget,” she retorted.
Amethi and the Gandhi family, seemed to be her favourite topics, peppering her dialogue with charges of usurping kisan land on Rahul Gandhi and siphoning funds mean for rural development and admitting to being snubbed by Mrs. Vadra (Priyanka Gandhi) on a flight. “It is ironic that the same party that baton charged farmers protesting in Gauriganj is now talking of farmers interest and loans for them.” However much she may deny her interest in the family and the constituency. I have continued working for Amethi despite losing the poll battle. It is time not for Women’s development but women-led development and I am trying to usher that change in Amethi,” she said, talking about the “largest-ever outreach programme that the BJP plans to unleash on the eve of elections 2019. We will be personally reaching out to 10 crore people through 11 crores party workers through a person to person interface.
Lead Image Courtesy: Rohan Ambike. Reporting and images by Shirin Abbas