New Delhi, May 24 (GCCurrentAffairs) Politics seldom has memories. A new reputation most often drives out an old one.
Two decades back on the ‘idiot box’ came in a lanky, smiling but a virtuous Bahu. Two decades later, she is a giant slayer having breached Amethi – the bastion of Nehru-Gandhi family.
Smriti Irani is certainly one of the memorable news makers of 2019 general elections.
She humbled Rahul Gandhi by a margin of 55,120 votes.
Last time, Amethi was lost by Congress was in 1998 when Sanjay Singh had won on BJP ticket. But Singh is also known for his ‘nexus’ with the Parivar.
Irani’s win shows her determination and of course the trust and the ‘power of the assignment’ vested in her by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. No win is complete, if you do not make the king run from his fiefdom.
That’s exactly what happened in Amethi. The Congress has lost many battles, won many battles. But it is first time a ‘Gandhi’ has lost in Amethi and that too against a TV actress whose educational qualification bothered Congress poll managers more than her ‘political grit’.
Here the message seems to be – in politics no one is invincible. It is in this context, Irani has tweeted: “Ek Nayi subah Amethi ke liye, ek Naya sankalp (A new has emerged for Amethi. One new mission)”.
On February 26, 2016 – as Union HRD Minister Ms Irani made an elaborate statement on Rohit Vemula death issue.
She had cornered the opposition members in Parliament. The big tribute to her speech came from Prime Minister when he tweeted ‘Satyemeva Jayete’ along with the video of Smriti’s speech.
Last time, Mr Modi had tweeted ‘Satyemeva Jayete’ was on December 26, 2013 when a Ahmedabad court gave him clean chit in Gulbarg Society case of 2002.
Lambasting politics of opportunism played by Congress president, Ms Irani had said – “Rahul Gandhi made the most of the opportunity and visited the hostel twice, something which he had never done before. Have you ever seen him visiting the same place twice? Did he do the same when 600 students died in the Telangana movement? Rohit blamed no one, yet Rahul tried to use this child as a political tool. That is the tragedy”.
Rahul Gandhi has been vanquished in Amethi, but of course the Congress president can continue to remain in the Lower House of Parliament because he contested and won another seat in Kerala.
Importantly, however, most BJP watchers say Amethi win has certainly enhanced Smriti Irani’s political status.
In 1998, BJP had reposed that faith in Sushma Swaraj to beat Sonia Gandhi in Bellary in Karnataka.
Ms Swaraj was humbled. In 2014, even Smriti Irani was humbled against Rahul Gandhi and only in her second attempt she achieved the feat.
Ms Irani – who enjoys Prime Minister’s confidence was given the high profile and prestigious portfolio of Human Resource Development Ministry in 2014.
In July 2016, however – three months after her fiery speech on Rohit Vemula episode and ‘Tukde Tukde gang’ debate, she was shunted out and made Textiles Minister.
The interpretation was that it was a royal snub from Mr Modi. Ms Irani was again given the high profile portfolio of Information and Broadcasting in 2017.
But she started making news occasionally for ‘wrong seasons’.
In April 2018, a government order – ostensibly at the personal initiative of I&B Minister Smriti Irani has said that that a journalist’s accreditation would be suspended once a complaint of fake news was registered against him or her. Press Council of India (PCI) and News Broadcasters Association (NBA) could – however- review the complaint and if found that the news was indeed fake, he or she could also lose accreditation for a limited period or permanently.
Journalist associations criticised the move and a joint statement from Press Club of India, Indian Women’s Press Corps, Press Association and Federation of Press Clubs of India expressed their “deep concern”.
The Prime Minister had to intervene and the order was withdrawn.
In a brief reshuffle, Ms Irani was diverted of the portfolio and the responsibility passed on to Col. Rajyavardhan Rathore.
Several BJP watchers say while there is no doubt that having won Amethi, Ms Irani could be rewarded with more juicy and powerful portfolios – they also say she needs to check or alter her ‘temperamental style of functioning’.
In Lok Sabha during the debate, Ms Irani had shouted down Prof Sugata Bose of Trinamool Congress – waving hand at him and saying “Boshun Boshun”.
An author and historian Bose, who has taught and worked in the United States since the mid-1980s, certainly felt hurt.
Her party colleagues also often say – “She (Smriti) is rather a complex personality. Often very soft and suave, will speak to Bengali BJP workers in Bangla but suddenly sound rude”.
Nevertheless, there is no denying the fact that the 1976-born Smriti Irani will be a woman to watch in national politics in the new decade to come.
Certain elementary facts about her life – that her grandfather was an RSS volunteer and she was born to a Bengali mother, Shibani Bagchi, and a Punjabi-Maharashtrian father, Ajay Kumar Malhotra could be assets in future politics.