Smriti Irani, Union minister of textiles and Rajya Sabha MP, is contesting the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections from Uttar Pradesh’s Amethi. She is contesting against Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who is the MP from the seat.
Irani contested the Lok Sabha polls for the first time in 2014 from Amethi and lost to Gandhi by 1.07 lakh votes. Amethi is considered a Congress bastion and the seat has been held by multiple members of the Gandhi family including Rajiv Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi.
Irani has been a vocal critic of Gandhi and has criticised dynastic politics, toeing the line of the BJP. This year, since Gandhi is also contesting from Kerala’s Wayanad (considered a Congress stronghold), Irani took several digs at Gandhi
“Had Rahul worked for Amethi, the condition of Congress would not have been so miserable. Its party workers would not have deserted it. Till now Rahul Gandhi had been a missing MP, but now he has become a missing candidate as well,” Irani said.
Irani was made the Minister of Human Resource Development in 2014 but then shifted to the textiles ministry after multiple controversies including Hyderabad University scholar Rohith Vemula’s suicide and the JNU “anti-national” row. She was then given additional charge of the I&B ministry in 2017 but removed after a cabinet reshuffle in 2018. There was also a massive controversy over discrepancies in her educational qualification when she was made HRD minister, which resurfaced recently when she filed her nomination for Amethi.
Irani, who shot to fame as an actor, playing Tulsi in Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, joined the Bharatiya Janata Party in 2003 and became the vice-president of its youth wing in 2004. She became the All India President of the women’s wing of the party in 2010. She was elected to the Rajya Sabha from Gujarat in 2011.
Irani has been known to make controversial remarks on many issues, including those related to women’s rights and sexual harassment. She had refused to take a stand after MJ Akbar was accused of sexual assault by multiple women during the #MeToo movement in India. She also supported keeping women of menstruating age out of the Sabarimala temple, saying, “I am nobody to speak against the Supreme Court verdict as I am a serving cabinet minister. But just plain common sense is that would you carry a napkin seeped with menstrual blood and walk into a friend’s house. You would not.”