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Smriti Irani Challenges Priyanka Gandhi to Fight Upfront

Smriti Irani exposes Priyanka Gandhi's shadow play and challenges her to step into the light of Amethi politics while lambasting Rahul Gandhi for his absenteeism

In the electoral battleground of Amethi, Uttar Pradesh, the Congress has nominated Kishori Lal Sharma, a loyalist to the Gandhi family, to contest against Smriti Irani, the incumbent Union Minister. Yet, Irani is vigorously strategizing to challenge the dominance of the Gandhi family. She contends that her true adversary in Amethi is none other than Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, the Congress General Secretary, who operates from the shadows. Irani openly challenges Priyanka to step out of the shadows and engage in open political discourse rather than resorting to covert tactics. Instead of silently supporting Kishori Lal Sharma, Priyanka should directly confront Irani in the political arena through the ballot.

Amidst the flurry of campaign activities, Irani granted an exclusive interview to senior journalist Ravindra Ojha, representing The Interview World, just days ahead of the constituency’s polling day on May 20. During the interview, the BJP leader discussed various topics, including her and her party’s developmental achievements, the transformative impact since her tenure as MP began in 2019, the progress on the Ram Temple, and initiatives for employment generation. Additionally, she took a jab at Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi for relinquishing their stronghold of Amethi.

Q: How is the electoral landscape shaping up in Amethi in the absence of Rahul Gandhi?

A: In reality, there is no genuine contest. Kishori Lal Sharma serves merely as a token candidate, while the Gandhis orchestrate their campaign from behind the scenes. Preferring to steer clear of petty politics, I refrain from engaging in such antics. My true adversary is Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who operates from the shadows of the political arena. Unlike her brother, who at least faced the public, Priyanka opts for a less visible role. It’s worth noting that Rahul Gandhi’s victory in 2014 was by a narrow margin of 1.07 lakh votes, aided by the support of Mulayam Singh Yadav.

Throughout their tenure, the Gandhis have failed to deliver substantial progress to the constituency. Rahul Gandhi’s absenteeism from his duties as an MP for the past 15 years stands as a testament to this neglect. Conversely, over the last five years, I’ve diligently worked towards transforming Amethi into a beacon of development and progress.

Q: How did Rahul Gandhi’s decision to leave his family bastion impact his political trajectory and the dynamics within his party?

A: Fearing inevitable defeat, he had no recourse but to depart from Amethi. Rahul Gandhi opted out of contesting in Amethi, recognizing the formidable challenge it posed and acknowledging that the electoral dynamics reflect the collective efforts of the past five years juxtaposed with his intermittent presence over the last fifteen years. This marks the second occasion Rahul Gandhi has refrained from engaging in the electoral fray in Amethi, having previously done so in 2019, albeit seeking refuge in Wayanad then, and now, choosing complete abstention. Clearly, this indicates a pattern of avoidance rather than confrontation in Amethi. Granting undue significance to his actions appears misplaced; personal accomplishments stand independently of any association with Rahul Gandhi.

Q: How would Rahul Gandhi’s candidacy in Amethi have impacted the difficulty of your re-election campaign?

A: Indeed, he opted out of the fight, citing challenges. Over the past four months, I consistently advocated for this confrontation, emphasizing our groundwork. A stark disparity emerges between my five-year tenure and his 15-year absence from parliamentary duties. Consequently, the burden falls on our family to elucidate this contrast at every juncture within the constituency.

For five decades, the Congress and the Gandhi family purportedly controlled Amethi, yet progress was scant. Shockingly, 16 lakh individuals out of a population of 23-24 lakh lacked access to sanitation facilities, while 1.5 lakh households remained disconnected from the electricity grid.

Q: How do you perceive the impact of any sense of incumbency on your campaigning efforts?

A: The absence of anti-incumbency in this constituency stems partly from a lack of enthusiasm for the Gandhi siblings. Both Priyanka and Rahul Gandhi faced scrutiny during the 2022 Assembly elections. Across the five Assembly segments within the Amethi Lok Sabha seat, the Congress incurred losses, failing to retain deposits in four and conceding defeat to the BJP in the fifth.

My contest is not against an individual candidate but against the entire Congress ecosystem. It’s evident that the Congress Party, having appointed a former chief minister (Rajasthan’s Ashok Gehlot) to this constituency, contradicts their earlier assertion, communicated through their spokesperson, that I held no ‘aukaat’ (status or significance), a baffling inconsistency. If indeed I lacked ‘aukaat’, the Gandhi family would not need to conduct extensive meetings at every street corner.

Q: How have your actions and decisions as an MP positively impacted this constituency?

A: Addressing inter-generational poverty within the former Congress stronghold has presented a significant challenge. Diligently, I’ve endeavored to rectify these longstanding issues. For decades, essential projects were demanded but left unfulfilled. However, we’ve initiated crucial developments such as constructing bypasses to link Amethi with an expressway and establishing a trauma center. Additionally, we’re enhancing basic administrative infrastructure by establishing vital units like the chief medical officer’s office, police lines, the first dialysis center, and acquiring essential medical equipment like CT scan machines. It’s imperative to recognize that we’re essentially building this entire infrastructure from the ground up.

Furthermore, the fact that 19 lakh people in the constituency are benefiting from the free ration scheme under the Narendra Modi government underscores the persistent challenge of inter-generational poverty in Amethi—a challenge that both I and the BJP are steadfastly addressing.

This constituency, neglected during Rahul Gandhi’s tenure as an absentee MP for 15 years, witnessed the closure of nearly 499 factories. However, within a span of five years, significant progress has been made. Presently, we boast 13,000 registered MSMEs, with notable additions such as Asia’s largest Coca-Cola bottling plant and Uttar Pradesh’s largest poultry and feedstock plant now situated in Amethi.

Furthermore, we’ve facilitated loans for over 5,200 street hawkers and extended Mudra loans to 1 lakh individuals, with our non-performing assets (NPAs) remaining below 2.5%. These tangible achievements underscore our commitment to revitalizing Amethi’s economy and uplifting its residents from the grips of poverty.

Q: How does the Ram Temple issue factor into your election campaign strategy?

A: The construction of the Ram Temple is not merely an issue but rather an embodiment of our cultural ethos and integral to our way of life. The blessings of Bhagwan Ram continually inspire us to serve the people, striving for a governance akin to the ideals of Ram Rajya. However, the Opposition persistently engages in rumor-mongering, attempting to tarnish our efforts.

Despite baseless allegations, it is crucial to clarify that the BJP remains steadfast in its commitment to constitutional principles. The notion that achieving a substantial majority would lead to constitutional amendments is unfounded. On the contrary, we respected the judicial process, awaiting the Supreme Court verdict before initiating temple construction.

Our actions reflect a dedication to constitutional discipline and respect for the judiciary. When the Prime Minister and members of the BJP discuss the Ram Mandir, it is within the framework of upholding the Supreme Court’s judgment. We have demonstrated patience and adherence to legal norms, ensuring that justice is paramount and the constitutional structure remains intact.

Q: How are you finding the level of competition presented by Kishori Lal Sharma?

A: Undoubtedly, no challenge looms ahead. This time, I am poised to secure the seat with a historic margin, delivering a resounding message to the Gandhis. The victory I anticipate will not only be substantial but also sufficient to dispel any notions harbored by Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi of reclaiming Amethi. Post this election, the media will have no choice but to acknowledge Amethi as Smriti Irani’s stronghold.

In the intricate game of politics, courage reigns supreme; it’s about fortitude, not fleeing at the first sign of defeat. This fundamental reality eludes the faint-hearted.

Reflecting on the past, the victory in Amethi in 2014 eluded me, owing to the intervention of Mulayam Singh Yadav. It’s a known fact that Sonia Gandhi sought Yadav’s assistance to secure Rahul Gandhi’s position. The revelation by the former Samajwadi Party chief unveiled the transfer of 1 lakh votes to Congress, tilting the scales in Rahul’s favor. Despite being thrust into the electoral fray just 22 days before the polls, during the Samajwadi Party’s reign in Congress’s bastion, we garnered over 3 lakh votes.

In 2019, the tide turned, marking a historic moment as Rahul Gandhi tasted defeat for the first time, simultaneously heralding my inclusion in the Modi cabinet. Consequently, the Gandhis’ foothold in Amethi has crumbled. Their latest move, fielding a mere manager, signifies their desperation. I anticipate not only defeating them by a margin exceeding five lakhs votes but also ensuring their eventual demise from Amethi. Thus, Amethi shall be liberated from the shackles of dynastic politics.

Smriti Irani in a Campaign Trail in Amethi
Smriti Irani in a Campaign Trail in Amethi
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