Why is attacking Smriti Irani considered fair game?

I do not know if I would qualify to be in Right Wing or not. I am not from Sangh, and certainly not in some Alpha-Beta team of any political party. But I am a citizen, father to a very young baby girl, and husband to a working woman. Essentially, that means, I have a woman at my home who works in the Corporate world, struggling for her place among men as a competent professional and I have another who will in some years be one struggling for her place in this harsh world. I am not a star political analyst, but my view of political developments are generally from a very human angle. When I look at the career graph of Textile Minister, Smriti Irani, I get a feeling that she suffers from being what she is and not for the work she does.

While we in Right Wing or Right of the centre harp about lack of an ecosystem, but are quick to attack our own. I can see three reasons Ms Irani has been a subject of constant attack ever since Narendra Modi government came into being. She has been under fire from both sides of the ideological divide, but the reasons of attack seem to be almost identical. I will list them out: One, She is a woman, and there have been wink-wink tweets from the so-called Women-empowerment political party we call the Congress. Second, she has not had a privileged academic career. And third, in spite of the two reasons mentioned before, she is one of the most articulate and witty speakers in the BJP. She is so eloquent. We have seen the so-called journalists go red in the face and shifty in the stance in front of her. Looking at her, one thinks how correct was Virginia Woolf when she wrote: “Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.” With a mind illuminated with a rare brilliance of knowledge, a tongue blessed with extraordinary eloquence and a spirit which refuses to surrender, who needs the second-hand wisdom of books, in whose stationary waters as per Nietzsche, frogs croak.

The lady was hounded out of Ministry of HRD for the suicide of a pretense-Dalit student. That was a sorry case of eleventh suicide in Hyderabad, same university. The earlier ten unfortunate souls died and faded into oblivion, same as the nine in AIIMS Delhi because they died in the regime of a media-friendly HRD minister. She had by then initiated the process of getting a new educational policy in place, establishing checks and balances in the education sector, setting up for digital library and digitization of the universities. She was then replaced by Shri Javadekar, whose primary contribution to the sector seems to be strange ones like Humanities in IIT and being in the chair, as some kind of ornamental deity.

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We forget easily the transformational changes she had brought in the ministry of HRD, with a sense of unprecedented transparency and accountability. Forget the promotion of Indian languages initiated by her, even superficial changes like University connectivity too have horribly slowed since she was hounded out of HRD by a concerted campaign of the Media, the Left and the Lutyen’s.

Many Right-wingers with a chip of formal education on their shoulders colluded with the detractors of Narendra Modi on her removal from Ministry of HRD.  This first shift probably gave a hint to the opposition that if there is one minister in the BJP who can be attacked with impunity, without the fear of so-called Right-wing backlash, it is Smriti Irani. The same people who in swanky corporate offices do this wink-wink every time a woman colleague gets promoted, took a sigh of relief, not knowing that they have surrendered more than they realize.

Her first shift was most unfortunate because it made the opposition believe that even if they weren’t in government, they were still in power. That strange surrender of Narendra Modi government would later come back to hound the NDA with fake and planted media story, every time forcing Narendra Modi to take note and respond. While no one seems to be willing to stand for the feisty female minister, this would later come back to hound them on JNU and then in Gujarat as Hardik and Jignesh Mevani, both small-time leaders propped big-time leaders of national stature challenging Modi.

Mumbai Mirror Published an article, obnoxiously titled “Dressing Down Smriti Irani” written by Namrata Zakaria. The fashion columnist says – She (Smriti Irani) was sent with knitting needles to .. a room as a small portfolio left to what she calls annoying, noisy woman. She misses how Smriti Irani as the textile minister, with great work among Varanasi craftsmen, helped BJP win big during the Assembly elections. She ignores how projects were launched to bring some semblance of predictability and system to a largely unorganized sector. But then Namrata as a supposed fashion and lifestyle columnist cannot be expected to consider policy initiatives when her own understanding of Indian textile industry would be limited by FabIndia and such. Her columns are centred around Bikinis, swimming pools and sartorial preferences of the privileged societies. Her political understanding to borrow a phrase I came across recently somewhere, can be equated to the depth of finger bowls and I would add is as gross as the one which has been already used by someone after a greasy meal.

It is not a surprise that the fashionista-turned-political analyst talks of Smriti Irani’s tenure in Ministry of I&B with the only reference to banning of the file ‘Sexy Durga’ – a crime for which she was deservedly shunted out, as per her. After all, which politician in the right frame of mind is ever worried about Hindu sentiments.

She, just like her evaluation of Smriti Irani’s textile ministry tenure, stays away from the policy initiatives, for instance, the scrapping of an arbitrary system of releasing Press Cards allowing so-called Journalists like John Dayal an unrestricted entry into Government institutions like the Parliament, her efforts to monetize public infrastructure of Prasar Bharti. Just when we are struggling to understand the reason of hatred of this impoverished journalist, with a physique as thin as the morality of Congress, she drops the bomb. While male leaders of the BJP, she writes, are adopting a thinner physical frame, what gets Namrata’s goat is that Smriti Irani shows no intentions to lose weight. If only Ms Irani were the daughter of a Cine-Star politician who is publicly Anti-Modi; this article would have been lampooned and blasted in left-liberal societies, in TV debates and would have caused righteous-looking feminists pouncing at Ms Namrata.

But then, Smriti Irani happens to be from BJP, from a family which instead of sending her to beautiful swimming pools in the summers, sent her to work at McDonald’s and therefore, attacking Smriti Irani seems to be a fair game. To the rich and the privileged, she is not one of their own. She is not the kind of woman that feminists ought to be seen standing with. The idea of a Sanghi woman who is so articulate that she threatens to peel away the fake intellectualism from their lutyenized faces, threatens them. It impacts their narrative of right-wing being intellectually incompetent. That is why they hate Smriti Irani and that is why they think Ms Irani is a fair game.

She has been sent out to fight every losing battle by Narendra Modi and she came out as a winner in each one of them- Amethi to HRD, to Textile. Smriti Irani will be an inspiration someday to Indian women, while Ms Namrata will still be writing about the seams of Bikinis of rich women in the high-society swimming pools whose physique she adores or hates. I would only hope that women on the right side of the ideological divide are able to stand by one of their own. Not that they would do Smriti Irani a favour by doing that; she does not need that favour. They would be doing a favour to themselves by abandoning this self-deprecating manner in which the so-called right-wing views itself, where minor mutual dislikes make people abandon the larger cause.

Ms Namrata deserves all the condemnation she got for writing the disgusting piece which passes off as journalism in today’s world merely because it attacks a minister of Narendra Modi government and somehow satiates their Westernised egoes which are offended by a woman who represents quintessentially Indian values in her being.


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