Union Minister Smriti Irani held her cards close to her chest but exuded nothing short of a fiery confidence when asked about what would happen in the Amethi Lok Sabha constituency in the 2019 General Elections.
Speaking to Republic TV's Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami on a day that she launched a vociferous attack on the Gandhis over the National Herald case, the Union Minister said that "the Amethi battle was already lost for Rahul Gandhi."
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, it was Smriti Irani who had taken on Rahul Gandhi in the seat he had held since 2004 and which had come to be considered a bastion of the Nehru-Gandhi family, with Sanjay Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi having won landslide elections there in the past. However, Irani, contesting on a BJP ticket, gave the then Congress vice-President quite a scare and reduced his winning margin from 4,64,195 - 93,997 in 2009 to 4,08,651 - 3,00,748 in 2014.
On this occasion, when asked whether she would once again be the one to take on Rahul Gandhi, she spoke about how she wasn't just one person, but was "part of one parivaar (family)".
When pressed specifically on whether the ongoing political attacks and counters over the National Herald case, and also her many visits to Amethi during the last four years, would lead to a direct electoral battle between the two, she said:
"Amethi battle is already lost for Rahul Gandhi. He has to look for new pastures."
She was asked whether this constituted the issuance of a challenge, at which she raised the 2017 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections where the Congress, which contested 105 seats, only managed to win in 7, none of which were seats in Amethi district:
"I will only say: It's not a challenge but a proclamation of confidence. In the last Vidhan Sabha, he couldn't win even one seat."
Finally, she said, "I think Amethi is looking forward to the blossoming of the Lotus flower", making a reference to the symbol of her BJP party.
Earlier in the day, Irani had held a news conference where she accused the Sonia Gandhi-led UPA government of attacking the Indian banking sector, in context of a legal petition by Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi and Oscar Fernandes in the National Herald case being dismissed by the Delhi High Court thereby opening them up to Income-Tax reassessment.