At the second edition of Words Count, a festival of words hosted by Varsha Chordia and Sabina Sanghvi and curated by columnist Advaita Kala, the minister refused to make any kind of announcement about contesting from Amethi at the elections.
“For the last hour everyone, wants to know whether I will be contesting from Amethi. But since the event is titled Words Count, in this case, Amit Shah’s word counts,” Irani said as the audience cheered and clapped.
While the minister held over an hour-long conversation and took on several questions from the audience, she asserted that she may quit her office in the event of ‘Pradhan Sevak’ Narendra Modi deciding to hang his boots, but never her family — the BJP organisation.
The minister replied in the negative to a query on whether the country would ever see a Pradhan Sevak Smriti Irani. She elaborated at length on why she entered politics. “I was very very lucky to work under a charismatic leader like Atal Bihari Vajpayee and am currently serving under Narendra Modi. That was my ardent desire and when the Pradhan Sevak Narendra Modi decides to hang his boots, that is the day I will leave Indian politics,” she said. She said she hardly knew she would serve in the Parliament when she entered politics.
“Narendra Modi made me an MP from Gujarat and during the MP elections for Rajya Sabha from Gujarat, he had proposed my name for candidature. When I seized the opportunity to serve as the HRD minister, nobody thought I was up to it except my leadership and when I was given textiles, I soon realised that implementation of several schemes was down by 10 to 20 per cent. We soon ensured that all schemes are implemented cent per cent and have a research centre at Ahmedabad where we assist ISRO in making satellites,” Irani added.
“I have been trolled by celebrated journalists, politicians and others. The basic intention to humiliate or sexually objectify you is that, it can break your spirit. I was taught early to forgive but not to forget,” she said.
Irani also answered questions on why the BJP’s role was not restricted to mere Congress bashing but focused on development work and shot back a query — which leader after Modi.
“We are not the Congress party. We present our leaders to the nation who then tells us who they will bless. As for announcing who after Modi – that is out of question, as he is going to be there for a very very long time,” she said.
She referred to Priyanka Gandhi as Mrs Vadra when asked about how she viewed her entry into politics, Irani said it is an independent country where one could choose for himself or herself.
She admitted to an incident when asked by Kala whether she had introduced herself as Smriti Irani to Priyanka Gandhi when they were together in an aeroplane. “Yes I was with Kavita Rao from the Telangana Rashtriya Party and there was silence in the cabin. Perhaps the airhostess was also uncomfortable and I did turn from my seat and introduced myself as Smriti Irani,” she said.
The Union minister applauded the party’s role in supporting 33 per cent reservation for women but insisted that ticket distribution is seen from the perspective of winnability of the seat. To say women cannot win on the basis of that would be wrong — at the time the organisation decides who is the best person to solve the responsibility of that constituency. Whether it is man or
woman, the talent and capability of the person is considered, she said.
To an anonymous question about the Mahagatbandhan of Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav in Uttar Pradesh, Irani said that last time, too, when the elephant sat on the cycle, it got punctured.
Referring to the development work being undertaken at Amethi, despite not winning the constituency, she reiterated that was the difference between the BJP and the Congress and added that after all these years, there is still no movie hall in Amethi. “The ‘josh’ for elections in 2019 is very high. Our opposition is trying to unite but we have an alliance with the people of the country and our work on the social economic development front will ensure that people will come out in great numbers and give us an opportunity to serve. Phir ek baar Modi sarkar,” she said to loud cheers from the audience.