Playing to the galleries


In the week ahead of International Women's Day, it took a woman—Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan—to tell another, in this case, the Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani, not to get emotional. Mahajan was not alone in finding Irani overly emotional. On February 24, many who watched the Lok Sabha debate on the JNU issue were taken back in time—to Irani's days as a soap star of the yore. But with a caveat. That she has definitely graduated from bahu to saas—daughter-in-law to mother-in-law. Passionate. Emotional. Equally, she was dramatic, theatrical, filmy, TV-serialish! Not surprising that many YouTube versions of her speech, complete with spoof, have gone viral. No marks for guessing the signature tune! That of the serial where she played Tulsi Virani. “My name is Smriti Irani. I dare anyone to ask me what my caste is”, she thundered.

The BJP has had many outstanding speakers. But without exception, they have known how far to go and where to stop. And more than that, to stay within the context. So, Irani may go down as the first one to resort to chest thumping or breast beating.

The other thing about Irani's speech, was the fact that she did not have her say. She only lashed out at Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi—to whom she lost in Amethi during the Lok Sabha polls, and appears not to have forgotten that. Her anger must be the more because even the Modi tidal wave of the summer of 2014, failed to work for her. Did he [Rahul] visit the homes of the 600 students who died in the Telangana movement, she asked. A seasoned politician would know that such visits are done more by those in the opposition, so no one really takes that point with anything but a sack full of salt.

The BJP's most eloquent woman leader is, without a doubt, Sushma Swaraj. Swaraj displayed some theatrics and drama and emotions, but not in Parliament. She announced before the media that she would tonsure her head, wear a white saree and sleep on the floor if Sonia Gandhi becomes the Prime Minister of India: that was when Sonia actually took Dr Manmohan Singh to the Rashtrapati Bhavan to tell the President that he was their candidate for the top job. After that news broke out, Sushma stayed away from public glare, for quite some time!

But then, Irani is not Swaraj, but a former TV star. The media may call her “Aunty National” or say “Kyonki Mantriji university nahin gayee thi”, but she could not care less. She has a Gandhi scion to hound, no less.

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The Week

Topics : #opinion | #Smriti Irani

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