Smriti Irani on Thursday recorded an electoral win that is likely to go down in the annals of India's history as she defeated Rahul Gandhi - the prevailing Nehru-Gandhi scion - in his own constituency and family bastion Amethi, in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. In an exclusive interview with Arnab Goswami, Editor-in-Chief of Republic Media Network, Smriti Irani spoke about how she felt after breaching the Congress bastion, her plans for Amethi, and in the upcoming Modi government.
Headline aside, the Amethi victory's scope becomes even more apparent once considers that the SP-BSP gathbandhan didn't contest the seat this time around and also, that the Congress had 'unleashed' its trump card Priyanka Gandhi Vadra into its campaign. The newly-appointed Congress general secretary for Uttar Pradesh East had infamously said 'Smriti who' while remarking on the same contest five years ago when the BJP leader was at the losing end. When asked about the remark, Smriti Irani said:
"Yes, there are people who may be born in more privileged surroundings, but we can't hate them for that. You can, however, perhaps get angry if entry-levels aren't equal. They never knew my name 5 years back. When you are born in an established family, it's not needed that they know every Tom, Dick and Harry."
She added that Rahul Gandhi or Priyanka Gandhi Vadra were not her focus.
On May 23, as the counting was underway, Rahul Gandhi conceded defeat. However, Irani chose to speak to the country only after the sealed figures by the EC were in. Remarking on this, she said that she didn't want to take the mandate of the people of Amethi for granted and hence, she waited till each vote was counted before she accepted her victory. She eventually won by 55,120 votes.
Rahul Gandhi was a three-time MP from the constituency and the Congress party had always won in Amethi except for two times - during the 1977 elections when Janata Party's Ravindra Pratap Singh won and during 1999 elections when BJP's Dr. Sanjay Sinh won.
Amethi went to polls in the fifth phase of the Lok Sabha polls on April 29 amid charges of 'booth-rigging' by Smriti Irani and the sitting MP being absent from the constituency during the polls. With Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s entry in the political fray as the party’s General Secretary for Uttar Pradesh East, Amethi witnessed high-pitched and heated election campaigning from both sides, though Rahul Gandhi had also arranged to contest from Wayanad in Kerala. Smriti Irani who had been a constant in the constituency over the last five years after running her opponent close in 2014 had called him out for being an 'absentee' MP and had cited the lack of development there despite being represented by such an influential figure for 15 years.