Millennium Post

Mired in many controversies

For a government that takes great pride in transparency and seeks to avoid media-driven controversies, the Human Resource Development Ministry and its nodal minister, Smriti Irani remain the odd one out. Barely a day passes when some leading daily or the other does not come up with a story portraying Irani in poor light. One day it could be her decision to convert Christmas Day into an Atal Bihari Vajpayee divas, on another it could be a move to appoint some RSS loyalist in the education sector. Smriti Irani and controversy are increasingly becoming best friends.

Frankly, the HRD ministry has been a politically contentious ministry for some time. It has always been managed by political heavyweights. Murli Manohar Joshi and Arjun Singh to name a few. Kapil Sibal at the end of the day was a two term Member of Parliament when he began managing the ministry. By those standards, Smriti Irani is a lightweight. Anyway a strong political base has never been her real strength so far. She has always been used by the BJP as a convenient sacrificial lamb.

Taking on Kapil Sibal in Chandni Chowk and Rahul Gandhi in Amethi. To be fair though, in Amethi, she at least emerged as a real challenger. What gives her real power is her proximity to the top two in the Sangh Parivar, namely Prime Minister Modi and RSS Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat. What’s not know to many is her popularity among those who move around in Nagpur’s circles. Its an open secret that RSS is keen to reposition the mind of a thinking Indian. It wants to re-open the idea of India.

An essential part of this project is how to look at the likes of Guru Golwalkar, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee and other founding fathers of the Sangh. So far the RSS has been interpreted in India through the prism set by the Congress. Now with 282 members in Lok Sabha and a first full time Pracharak like Modi at the helm, the RSS realises that this is the time to go for the kill. It needed someone who was willing to play the benign role. Not someone who would think in terms of reasoning or arguing with Parivar elders, but someone who would be only too happy to take orders from above. Smriti fits that bill perfectly. She never misses an opportunity to ensure that she gets on the same stage as the RSS boss. Whether its a celebration of the Bhagwad Gita or the World Hindu Conference or any other event.  Due to her equation with the top two in the Parivar, an entire range of entrenched leaders of the BJP looks at her with some disdain. Its no coincidence that everything she does is being captured on main stream media.

It could be her desire to go to a palmist in Rajasthan or her decision to appoint her own OSD. Feeling the heat, she recently took to twitter, posting a series of tweets to clarify her position on her latest decision, whether she was asking schools to remain open on Christmas Day. But unfortunately for Smriti, her position, instead of getting clearer, is only getting further muddled.

So what should she do? Should she stop being the disciple of RSS or at least trying her level best to be one? Should Irani position herself as the modern girl who went to a Delhi convent school? Or should she think in terms of how to build bridges within her party? Its the latter option that needs to be looked at a little more closely.

Smriti Irani’s rise within the BJP is nothing short of meteoric. For those of us who have tracked her closely, let it be said that she works hard. But mere hard work doesn’t take you to the dizzying heights that she has already achieved. While she may have the support of the top two for the time being, things can change dramatically if the national political scenario changes. What is an asset today can very quickly be a liability tomorrow. Irani would do well to remember this one cardinal rule
of politics.

She perhaps is the one politician in the BJP who took on Modi and yet not only survived but has grown rapidly. She was the one who threatened to fast unto death post-2002 riots in Gujarat, blaming Modi. Later she retracted her position, but many thought that the damage had already been done. After all look at where LK Advani is today for daring to challenge Modi.  Age is on her side. But non-stop controversies and no solution is perhaps a bad strategy for a Minister who still remains popular, as everyone’s favorite “BAHU TULSI.”

The author is Consulting Editor, CNN IBN
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