Do not rush to write off Smriti Irani

Do not rush to write off Smriti Irani

By Virendra Kapoor | 9 July, 2016
Her insecurity and lack of people skills behind her move from HRD to Textiles

SHE IS HERE TO STAY

Despite her transfer from the rather high-profile HRD to textiles, Smriti Irani is set to remain an important member of the government. Her lack of people skills, more than anything else, might be behind her shift to textiles, which, incidentally, accounts for the second highest employment after agriculture.

A politician in the 24x7 television age with a constant social media clatter in the air, needs to be on guard 24x7. Having struggled her way up in life, graduating from the airy-fairy world of television soaps to hard-knuckled politics called for a virtual personality change. Smriti was slow to realise that constant aggression and offence was okay when she was the uncontested queen of family tear-jerkers.

In politics, you need soft skills, a pleasant smile on lips, even if you hide a dagger in the pallu of your sari. The problem with Smriti was that she brandished the dagger of oral defiance at the first available opportunity. Even when she was supposed to show her softer, kinder side to misguided but young students of the Hyderabad University or use persuasion and reason with those of the JNU, she behaved as a battleaxe, ready for a verbal joust with the most robust of student-anarchists.

Her authoritative performance in the two Houses of Parliament might have enthused the party faithful, but her belligerence further created enemies for her and her party. Though she was wrongly blamed for the suicide by an overwrought student, who happened to be a Dalit, her refusal to appreciate the complete transformation in the political context and situation after that tragic act was counter-productive.

Admittedly, the aggression in her personality was a factor of her socio-economic background. It was natural for her to feel insecure. She had made it after a long and bitter struggle. And made it in a man’s world. Whether it is films, television or politics, women remain at a disadvantage—for proof, note that JD(U) scoundrel who said that in textiles Smriti can at least cover her body—and are expected to play second fiddle to bosses who invariably happen to be men.

Her inferiority complex reflected in her taking offence even when none was meant. As in the case of the Bihar Education Minister who addressed her, as is the established norm, as “Dear Smriti Irani”. And she showed immaturity in being stand-offish and distant even with her own party colleagues. It was the self-same inferiority complex which prevented her to mix and be one with her own colleagues. “What if they find out my lack of knowledge about this or that issue?”, seemed to always prey on her mind while she played hard to get even for a little gupp-shupp with fellow politicians and scribes which could have helped shatter the wall of suspicion and distrust that stood between her and everyone else not part of her charmed circle.

Hopefully, the switch to textiles would make her soften her public persona, and to acquire the skill set of a pleasant and helpful person. Oozing power and authority would come naturally to anyone who is ensconced in an important ministerial gaddi. But success is invariably assured for those who know how to reflect friendliness, even ordinariness, while being actually powerful.

Of course, nothing is lost yet. Despite her lack of a formal degree, she is one of the best self-taught politicians around, who can hold her own against the ones boasting of double and triple Masters’ degrees. Honestly, as against a snooty and sneering—and venal, if we may add—Chidambaram, give us Smriti any day as a senior minister. In textiles, she has an opportunity to boost exports, which have been dwindling due to global slowdown and the growing challenge from Bangladesh, Vietnam, Thailand, etc. Above all, one sector where she can push the Prime Minister’s Skill India programme is textiles.

For someone who has watched her political career grow from the time she unsuccessfully contested the Chandni Chowk seat against Kapil Sibal in 2004, she has indeed come a long way. Contesting against Rahul Gandhi in Amethi in 2014, she gave the clueless dynast a huge fright. Unlike Rahul, Smriti is sure-footed, and magic on the stump. Any day, anywhere she is capable of making rings around that longest-serving apprentice in Indian politics. And in UP next year, she has the opportunity to fully blunt the so-called Brahmastra the Congress is desperate to deploy, namely, Priyanka Vadra. Smriti’s fiery oratory is a huge draw. Though this is not to undermine the oratorical skills of Sushma Swaraj, but being much younger and more aggressive, and with no baggage to defend, Smriti has a huge advantage. She can fire up the cadres and bring in the fence-sitters like no other woman leader in the BJP can. Amit Shah is bound to deploy her the most as he tries to free UP from the stranglehold of Mulayam and Mayawati.

RECYCLING THEIR OWN SCAMS

You feel sorry for the Congress. Honestly, we do. In its desperation to tar the Narendra Modi government with the same brush of corruption, indulging in which had led to it being flung out of power so mercilessly, it has now taken to resurrect scams of its own regime and try and pin the blame on the NDA government.

It was this March that the CAG presented its report, indicting Reliance Communications, Vodafone, Airtel, Idea and Aircel for under-reporting gross revenue by Rs 46,045 crore, and, thus, causing a loss of Rs 12,488.93 crore to the exchequer. The significant thing is the period when it occurred, that is, 2006-2010. None other than the UPA was in power then.

The new government on the receipt of the CAG report assigned six independent auditors to go through the books of the telecom operators. After they have done their job, and after due diligence, fresh demands, including penalties, will be imposed on the cheating companies.

Where, then, is the scam? Even that old Kolkata magician P.C. Sorkar did a far more convincing job, producing birds from his hat, than the clueless Congress leaders seem to be doing trying to throw mud at the NDA for their own money-making rackets.

THINGS THEY DO IN AN ELITE CLUB

The capital’s Gymkhana Club is easily the most elite watering hole in the country. Its eclectic membership boasts of who’s who from almost all walks of life, though it is dominated by diplomats, bureaucrats and faujis. Yet, when periodically elections are held for managing committee things that rival candidates do make a panchayat election, in comparison, look like a rather tame and dignified affair.

But that is not why we mention this club situated across the road from the Prime Minister’s House. The reason actually stinks. It seems a couple of weeks ago they found human solid waste in the club’s Olympic size pool. Clearly, some notable on the club’s rolls had defecated inside the pool. Period.

The pool was shut down. After a week-long thorough scrub was it opened again. Stern warning to members was issued: Do not to use the pool as a lavatory. And this from the capital’s elitist club.

KEJRIWAL THINKS AHEAD

Let us give credit where it is due. The Kejriwal Sarkar in Delhi must be commended for advance planning. It seems it has two separate full-page ads ready for release.

God forbid, should the monsoons be deficient, the ad would read: Modi Sarkar Ki Delhi Vasiyao key Khilaf Conspiracy: Delhi Mein Baarish Nahi Honay Di.

And in case the monsoon is normal, the ad reads: Kejriwal Sarkar Ka Delhi Vasiyo Ko Tohfa: Do Barso Baad, Delhi Mein Bharpoor Baarish.

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