Amritanshu Gupta has been a contributor at OpIndia.com. Along with this, he is Head(Special Projects and Campaigns) with Fever 104 FM. Recently he had a very candid interaction with Smriti Irani in one of her last interviews as HRD minister. He was kind enough to share some transcripts of the same with OpIndia.com. The full interview will be aired in a series on Fever 104 FM called Radio Parliament. The entire interview and questions were framed by Amritanshu himself and OpIndia.com had no role in the same. Below is a part of the interview.
Amritanshu : Smriti ji, we have an idea of Modi ji as an administrator, a fair idea of him as a speaker, have seen glimpses of him as a son. But you have had an opportunity of working with him very closely, how is Modi ji, the Boss?
Smriti Irani : I think you realise a couple of things when you work with Modi ji. First, that he is a stickler for details. If you want to discuss any subject with him, then its very important that you are aware of the subject’s history and its pros and cons. He checks how well you think on your feet. Because he believes so much in the detailing of things, that’s why your level of study also increases.
I have a young family, and my children are quite young, so in the rush of life and administrative work you’re presented with a choice with how to balance your work and home. So even today, I still remember that once my son got extremely sick and collapsed. And I had made a very small phone call to someone at home, saying that I have to go for a meeting and then I found out that my son had become sick and that he had to go to the hospital. Then my boss called and asked, “Is your son okay, or no? Do you need any help?”. So I think when you work with a person, there’s a perception that Modi ji is very strict and a disciplined man. But, along with that, there is his humane side. Whoever he works with, he is so concerned about his colleagues when there’s a problem in their family, that he certainly tries to support them, which is not something that is not known about him. And if you talk to any of our colleagues, then at some point in their lives they too would have encountered this humane side of Modi ji, which does not appear in any headlines anywhere.
Amritanshu : This is really something very few people would know. Any more interesting incidents you remember ?
Smriti Irani : I remember when he was the Gujarat Chief Minister, and I heard this from a few officers, that when he went to office, he used to find a man standing on the way every day. After seeing him two or three times, he invited this man to his house. He asked, “I see you standing every day. Who are you?” And the man replied, “See, I’m from Karnataka, and my wife is sick and admitted in a hospital in Ahmedabad, I don’t have the money for the bill, and the hospital employees said that if I somehow manage to find Narendra Modi, then you can be helped. That’s why I stand outside your house daily, that if I can talk to you I will be helped.” Modi ji then asked, “How much is the bill? I’ll pay for it.” And then he quietly paid the expenses for that poor family so that the woman could get relief and travel back to her state with her family. And then when he went to that state for an election rally, this gentleman had put posters all across the city saying, “Modi ji, do you remember you had helped me? I want to meet you.” These stories about him are rarely known.
I think that the way Narendra Bhai functions can today be seen in the nation. Look, has it ever happened in this country’s history that you got insurance at 1 Re per month. If you look at it from an economic point of view, the Security Insurance Plan, in itself is a game changer. You are providing social security and giving insurance to a person who otherwise cannot even dream of affording a premium. Modi ji is keeping in mind the affordability as well as the social security cover, and the fact that he’s keeping such a thing in his mind is great. There have been so many economists who have come and gone, but they only talked about how poor the country is but did not work on any scheme which could work towards growth of the poor.
Modi Ji is balancing and moving ahead. It is not a sin to be prosperous. The biggest determinant of prosperity is that you take everybody along and move. Even though you are financially sound, you should still have that humanity within you to take along the weaker section and that is what Modi ji is portraying through his policies.
Amritanshu : You gave Rahul Gandhi a run for his money in Amethi. Do you think you are paying a price for this, considering the constant criticism and attacks you face?
Smriti Irani : Aur nahi to kya (laughter) Absolutely. This is natural. If you had gone there just like a clay doll, clicked a few photographs then maybe you wouldn’t have been targeted. Maybe, they would have poked a little fun, poor lady tried to contest from here and you would have gone away. But you fight with full passion and in just 20 days, reduce their vote bank considerably, then its natural that there will be such reactions from them and their supporters
Amritanshu : The most interesting attack you have faced from such supporters?
Smriti Irani : Once I was in Himachal and ten boys came with black flags and started shouting “Hai Hai Hai Hai“. So, I was a little intrigued and asked them to tell me why this Hai Hai . They replied, “Don’t know why, we just got a call from Delhi last night that if you see Smriti Irani, you must do Hai Hai”. So I felt sympathy towards them that they are standing in the heat and screaming Hai Hai and they don’t even know why they have to do this form of protest against me. All they know is that they got a call from Delhi, so you can’t hold it against them. They were youngsters so I told them, no problem guys, do Hai Hai and follow the orders from Delhi and report to them that Smritiji, poor lady was very worried and frightened so that at-least someone can pat your back.
Amritanshu : Any person, any politician you feel like doing a sting operation upon, you think “Iska to daal me pukka kaala hai “
Smriti Irani : (Laughter) I know whom you are hinting at, but (laughs). I just want to say that I have done my politics in a productive way and my only goal is to contribute productively for the country.
Amritanshu : Your life story is quite incredible. Would like to know a little about your initial struggles and how you went through those struggles.
Smriti Irani : All I want to say is that when I was born, my parents had two utensils, Rs.150 and a small room over a stable in Munirka(Delhi). Amritanshu, I have seen life from there. My father used to sell books on a footpath in Dhaula Kuan, and my mother who was educated but couldn’t find a job, used to take tuition and also made some Masala (spices) in the evening, so that she could sell it. So, I have actually seen two very hardworking people rise in life and that became my source of inspiration. I realised that whatever the circumstances, if you are determined and as long as you are willing to work hard, then nothing is impossible. When I look back, it was that upbringing to fight it out, to ensure that once you decide on something in life, work hard on achieving it till that goal is achieved. And in my own experience, I shared this with my father when I was 17 years old that whatever circumstances a person goes through, good or bad, only that person has to bear the consequences. So my belief is that the decision should be yours because ultimately you will pay the price or reap the fruits. And before doing anything, just remind yourself that how God is “The Choice is yours, but the Price is mine “
Amritanshu : I had a question from a mother of a student studying in class 5 in CBSE, his name is Aarnav, and she wanted me to convey to you that her son is reading in his books that Mr. Rahul Gandhi is a charismatic, energetic and dynamic young leader. I seriously doubt whether whatever else he studies is true or false.
Smriti Irani : He is Aarnav, hope he doesn’t become Arnab reading such chapters. Without targeting any individual, I would say that our children should study that Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose was a charismatic leader, Lokmanya Tilak, Sardar Patel were charismatic, Bhagat Singh was charismatic. I was born on Shaheed Diwas ,so you wouldn’t find a bigger propagator of Bhagat Singh than me.
Amritanshu : You have had two successful careers at 40, how do you handle success
Smriti Irani : When you reach the pinnacle of success, two things can happen either you can be satisfied and have a sense of pride or even arrogance and think that you have arrived, or you have that zeal to do something new, something different. When you have the zeal to do something different and new, it propels you to grow further and when you rise ahead you don’t think your Saree is whiter than somebody elses, you only compete with yourself. For me the thing that has always been very useful in life is a desire to do something intensely. I remember around two-three years back I told my husband, “I have to do something. He said, you have done and achieved a lot and I said, No, No its not complete yet”. So if you want to explore life and if you want to do something new, it always pushes you to a new adventure, not necessarily a new height, because when you start a new adventure there is no guarantee whether you will be successful or not. But according to me that intense desire pulls you towards success, that desire to excel at a particular thing. If you wash utensils, wash it in such a shiny way that everyone says, he is the best guy at washing utensils. Whatever you do, with your views, don’t think of anything as being small, because once you think of a thing as small, you become biased as well as you have frustration, which will eat you up. Every work is respectful, don’t think of anything as small.
An audio excerpt:
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