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My first look at Smriti Irani the politician was at a debate on whether the government should be run directly by the people at Calcutta Club in Kolkata a month ago. The panel comprised Meera Sanyal and Shazia Ilmi of AAP, Derek O’Brien and Mithun Chakraborty of TMC, Sanjay Jha of Congress, writer Ruchir Joshi and Gen. J.J.Singh, apart from Irani. That day, my impression of Irani changed drastically. She has made the transition from being a small screen TV star to being a party-spokesperson on the big stage in a very dignified manner. Smriti made a huge impression with her concise and logical speech. She switched her career and is now pursuing the one she has chosen with single-minded devotion. That is her biggest strength and she commands respect in party circles due to that. It is one of the two reasons – the other being that she is a known face – for which she has been chosen to challenge Rahul Gandhi from Amethi. Immediately, her war cry echoed that Rahul is a challenge for Amethi.

Rahul Gandhi, on the other hand, despite being a scion of the family whose members have been prime ministers of India for a total of 37 years and whose party has ruled India for 54 years out of the 67 years the country has been independent, does not inspire confidence, let alone command respect. His body language is defeatist and his oratory ordinary. He has never held any position in government and the government of his party also does not have much to show for its ten years in power. He has a lot to answer to the people of Amethi. In the 2012 UP Assembly Elections, the Samajwadi Party won in three of the five segments in this Lok Sabha seat. With the Modi factor in play this time, the going is even tougher.

Amid great speculation on the BJP’s candidate from Amethi, Smriti Irani had been nominated. The Indian Republic conducted an online This or That Poll, where about 80 per cent of the votes went in favour of Smriti Irani while 20 per cent went to Rahul Gandhi.


Rahul has been representing Amethi for the last ten years. During this time, not much development has been done in the constituency. In the first MP report card study undertaken by India Today magazine in partnership with Satark Nagarik Sangathan (SNS) and Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), shows that Rahul Gandhi is placed at 17th place from the bottom. His attendance was just 43 percent and a dismal 14 percent in the Standing Committees where he was a member, showing his disinterest in their working. Worst was that he did not ask a single question in the five years of the 15th Lok Sabha. He also spent only 54 percent of his MPLAD funds. The study gave him a performance score of just 3.5 out of a maximum of 10. Coupled with the fact that he did not hold any ministerial post, this makes him a very weak incumbent. He has been holding primaries for selecting candidates in many constituencies. By his own parameters, if one such primary was held in Amethi, Rahul would have not been selected.

Smriti Irani has been a model parliamentarian. She has asked 355 questions and has been given assurances by the government on 21 of them. She made special mentions on 10 occasions. She is an active member of the Coal and Steel Committee. She has been a part of parliamentary delegations abroad. Only in her MPLAD fund spending has she lagged behind Rahul, but emerging as the more seasoned parliamentarian. The MP report card did not include Rajya Sabha members, so her performance cannot be measured on the same scale. She also takes her role as vice president of the BJP seriously. She lost to Kapil Sibal from Chandni Chowk in New Delhi but unlike other celebrities did not lose interest and instead held on to allotted party work.

It is difficult to counter entrenched loyalties, but this time anti incumbency is going to make it very difficult for the Congress bastion to hold onto their forts. Obviously, the Congress is going to leave no stone unturned in ensuring a victory for the shehzada. But the UP election results give hope to the opposition. Above all, the Modi factor will be massive as he is certain to campaign for her. Kumar Vishwas of Aam Aadmi Party is the joker in the pack, and the real fight lies between Rahul and Smriti. As of now, it looks pre-disposed towards Rahul but with several days in campaigning, the results could swing in Smriti’s favour.

Clearly it’s a tough game for the fiery woman, but in the interview she gave to IBN live, she came across as a determined, logical and most importantly a dignified woman. Credit must also be given to Rahul Gandhi for not stooping to the levels reached by Khurshid, Sibal and the ilk. At least in Amethi, it is going to be a fight between dignity and dynasty, determination and loyalty, logic and lethargy; albeit all in good intentions. The crassness of campaigning can be left for Kumar Vishvas to deal with. But truth be told, neither Smriti nor Vishvas have an easy task before them. For the climax, watch elections 2014!

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