BJP candidate in Amethi, Smriti Irani, who is a member of Rajya Sabha from Gujarat and one of the vice-presidents of the party, does her campaign rounds with a smile on her face and a stump speech. She tells that there are 1,350 villages in Rahul Gandhi's constituency and over a period of 10 years, he has not been able to bring assured electricity to any of them. She contrasts this with Narendra Modi. She says in Modi's constituency – that is, the whole of Gujarat – there are 18,000 villages and over the same 10 years he has provided 24x7 electricity.
Irani too knows she cannot win, but she is here to put up as stiff an opposition. Asked if she is going to give Rahul Gandhi the run for the money, she completes the sentence saying, "…and win too." Asked if Modi will be campaigning in Amethi, she says she would not like to speak about it. In an exclusive chat with Parsa Venkateshwar Rao Jr, she answers the questions in a playful tone and laughing away along the way. Excerpts:
What is it you notice about Amethi?
There is no development after all these years. There are not enough teachers. At one place, a single teacher was managing five classes. There are no jobs either for the young people. People do not want doles. They want to fend for themselves and government should create opportunities and be a facilitator.
The party has pitted you against Kapil Sibal in 2004 and now against Rahul. Do you feel that you are being pushed into the battle knowing that you will lose?
I have not been ever overawed by anyone in my life. I am grateful that the party has spotted my talent. They know that I can handle tough assignments.
You are not attacking Rahul Gandhi on the personal level. You are keeping the rhetoric cool and even.
This battle is not about personalities but about ideology. In a democracy, the people's representative has to fulfil obligations towards the people. I think I do it as I have shown in my short stint so far in Rajya Sabha, which is more than Rahul Gandhi has done in 10 years.
Is there a churning in your party, and young leaders are being pushed into the front?
It is not about age. And every one, senior leaders as well as young people are helping the party.
Do you think there is a personality cult centred round Modi in the party?
Narendra Modi is the party's prime ministerial candidate. There is nothing wrong in projecting him.
Is there a collective leadership in the party?
Things are decided by the central parliamentary board. Party president Rajnath Singh had formed 20 committees to prepare for the election. I will show you the two documents I carry with me. One is the party manifesto, which has been prepared by a committee under the chairmanship of Murli Manohar Joshi. Here is the Chargesheet against UPA which has been prepared under the chairmanship of Gopinath Munde. There is a collective leadership in the party.
Are you going to be a part of the government after elections?
I do not plan anything in my life. I had wanted to become a journalist. It did not happen. I wanted to be an Indian Police Service officer. I did not. So, I let things be.
How do you handle the question of being an outsider in Amethi?
We are here to serve the country. What is this thing about being an outsider? My great-grandfather was born in Moradabad. I cannot be flaunting that I belong to the state. My father is a Rajput and my mother a Brahmin. How do these things matter?
Is there a polarisation between Hindus and Muslims in UP?
People who have lost the debate on development and governance talk about polarisation.
It is a decade now in politics for you? How has it been? Does it take a toll on your family life, personal life?
I joined BJP in 2003. Before that I was ambassador of World Health Organisation, when I was 23 or 24. Things happened to me when I was quite young. I am a workaholic. Work is my leisure. I do not miss anything else.