New Delhi: Is Union Minister Smriti Irani BJP’s ‘go-to’ person for countering the Congress?
For a person who has had her own ups and downs in the government – from being the HRD minister when Narendra Modi became Prime Minister to being shifted to the less fancied textiles ministry – she appears to have emerged as BJP’s swordarm to take on the Opposition, mainly the Congress, to convey the party’s viewpoint on raging controversies.
Of late, Irani is the chosen spokesperson to attack the Congress as she is seen to be combative, quick-witted, sharp and articulate.
Irani, who challenged Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in his Amethi bastion in the last Lok Sabha election, is never at a loss for words and has been at the forefront of the BJP’s attack on allegations pertaining to members of the Nehru-Gandhi family.
With the Congress persistently raking up the controversial Rafale deal, she has articulated the party’s viewpoint on several occasions.
She was fielded by the BJP on Friday to counter former Finance Minister P. Chidambarm’s attack on the BJP following a newspaper report over the deal to purchase fighter jets from France.
Earlier in the week, she took on Rahul Gandhi after he sought to mock Prime Minister Narendra Modi over receiving the Philip Kotler Presidential award.
While Gandhi had said sarcastically that the award was so famous that it had no jury and had never been given out before, she hit back saying late Prime Ministers Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi were honoured with Bharat Ratna during Congress regimes by their own governments.
“The allegation had been made by a person whose illustrious family decided to confer the ‘Bharat Ratna’ on themselves,” she said.
During the debate in the Lok Sabha in the winter session on the triple talaq bill, an important issue for the BJP, the party fielded Irani as one of its key speakers.
She also hit out at Rahul Gandhi during the debate on the Rafale deal over his claim that Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had “lied” and Modi was an “incompetent man”.
When the Congress attacked BJP chief Amit Shah over the alleged 16,000-fold increase in its turnover of a company linked to his son, the BJP fielded Irani to defend him.
She was among first leaders to attack Rahul Gandhi over reports of his rising popularity on Twitter.
Irani, who was then the Information and Broadcasting Minister, took to Twitter, suggesting that the retweets were from fake accounts abroad.
She has articulated the BJP’s viewpoint on all issues raised by the opposition including demonetisation, jobs and the problem of farmers.
Irani, who is the youngest member in the Modi cabinet, continues to visit Amethi and is likely to again challenge Gandhi in the electoral fray.
She made arrangements for sending senior citizens from Amethi to the Kumbh earlier this month. She keeps the party cadre in the parliamentary constituency motivated by keeping in touch with them.
Irani, who joined BJP In 2003 and entered Rajya Sabha in 2011, got a big elevation when she was appointed Human Resource Development minister soon after the formation of the BJP-led government in 2014.
Almost immediately afterwards, was in the midst of a controversy over an incident at a famous apparel store in Goa during a party conclave that attracted unnecessary attention. She was dropped from the National Executive and shifted from the HRD after her controversial statement during a raging row over the death of Rohit Vemula, a Dalit scholar of Hyderabad University.
She was shifted to the Textiles ministry in 2016 that led to speculation that her influence within the party had waned. There was similar speculation when she was moved out of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry after almost a year.
But all that speculation has proved to be unfounded. Irani has been, and continues to be, the key face of the party articulating its viewpoint and taking the battle to the opposition camp.
“Her journey so far has been very inspirational and she has worked hard. She has never refrained from struggle and has taken the plunge whenever asked to. She is a fighter. She has a very good command over language and there is clarity in her thoughts. Her moving ahead is also an inspiration for other women,” Vijaya Rahatkar, chief of the BJP’s women’s wing, told IANS.
Irani, who joined politics after working in television serials, took on Congress heavyweight Kapil Sibal in the Chandni Chowk seat in 2004 Lok Sabha polls and lost. She has served the party in various capacities, including as BJP national secretary and president of the BJP’s Mahila Morcha.
“She is a firebrand leader with very good political acumen. She has had a long journey and has kept improving. She has proved herself in all the positions she has held,” party leader Vinay Katiyar said.