By Saket Sharma
In 2014, Prime Minister surprised many political pundits when he handed Human Resource Ministry to Smriti Irani. A move which many thought is more of an award for Smriti Irani, for all the work she did as a BJP spokesperson earlier. The way she handled herself against political giant Rahul Gandhi in his home constituency Amethi in Lok sabha elections or all the flack she received from other parties for supporting NaMo in elections. She was termed as ‘the wall of defense for BJP’ by then Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar.
Still, her rise to the top too soon is not predicted by many, even party insiders were little shocked by the decision made by Narendra Modi. The choice, which raised eyebrows because of Irani “degree deficit” was seen as the launchpad for a big political career. The government launch defense of the feisty Irani whenever she was under attack from political opponents only reinforced the estimate that she could be headed for an even bigger role.
Irani started her BJP career as a vice president of BJP Maharashtra Youth Wing in 2004, and in just mere 10 years in her political career, she became National Secretary of BJP, All India Women Wing President, Member of Rajya Sabha and most importantly All India Vice President of BJP in 2013 before she sworn an oath as an HRD minister in 2014, which is commendable for a women who generally associates with the term ‘outsider’ in the party.
However, things didn’t turn out as smooth as her ‘Astrologist’ had predicted earlier for her. In 2 years, HRD Ministry led by Smriti Irani arguably turned out to be the most controversial department for Modi government. Her feisty role in contentious issues like Jawaharlal Nehru University scandal or her approach to calm down Ramayana-Quran book issues was considered good by many but Mrs. Irani does have a fair share of critics, both inside and outside of the party. Officials would often prefer to dodge her, with a few choosing to leave the ministry altogether.
In the last few months, the HRD ministry and Niti Aayog were locked in a bitter battle about issues like accreditation and other issues. Irani saw it as interference and made it clear to senior Aayog officials. For some reason, maybe to win the Sangh’s support, Irani had turned dead against the private sector. So much so that when she agreed to make deemed university regulations less stringent, the buzz was that it could be because of pressure from a powerful education lobby close to BJP. The IIM bill remains in limbo because of a long-standing fracas with the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). The HRD ministry’s stake was that the government needed to have some say in running of IIMs, just the way it is the case with IITs but the PMO had other ideas.
In the last few months, Irani was consciously trying to turn a new leaf by being amiable, but her temperamental nature had already done enough damage. Irani’s problem was, and still is, that she has just one response for every situation: Fight. A savvy politician, as Kautilya pointed out, needs to be adept in saam, daam, danda (punishment) and bheda to succeed. Irani, unfortunately, knew only how to use her Twitter handle as danda. That is what happened when she got attacked by various media houses and trolls.
Rather than taking calm approach she often uses aggressiveness to prove her point, her fight with the famous newspaper ‘The Telegraph’ over ‘Aunty National’ Issue is one of the few examples. A famous saying in politics is ‘You shouldn’t be a friend or a foe to media’ but sadly Irani didn’t listen to it and opted out to become a lone wolf fighting media questions left and right and further degrading herself and party status in the process.
Former Environment Minister Mr. Prakash Javadekar is now our new HRD minister, Mr. Javadekar is known for his clean image and his work in ‘Swach Bharat Mission’. Smriti Irani is now an in charge of ‘Textile Ministry’ a somewhat small sector as compared to her previous HRD. Earlier Smriti Irani has said ‘review me for my performance’. Now looks like NaMo is not so happy with her performance.Well, we can just wish both of them good luck!