One of the striking faces on Indian television in the last 14 years has been that of Smriti Irani. As the role of the protagonist Tulsi Virani that she essayed in the mega-serial Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi on Star Plus, she became a household face and name.
Tulsi was the righteous daughter-in-law, wife, mother-in-law, grandmother and grandmother-in-law and the entire Virani parivaar depended on her for showing the way to go.
She could do no wrong. The fame thanks to television got the 38-year-old Smriti Irani (nee Malhotra) into politics in 2003 (in the BJP), but she lost the Lok Sabha elections from Delhi’s Chandni Chowk to Kapil Sibal of the Congress the following year.
However, she continued her work for the party and in the last few years has become one of the brighter young stars of the party on the nightlies. She is one of the few who can take on the toughies from other political faiths and can even get away with the otherwise brutal Arnab Goswami.
Last night, when Bhupendra Chaubey, CNN-IBN’s National Affairs Editor, tried to needle her with some probing questions, she got offensive with a reasonably straight face. “I’ve never done politics of photo opportunity,” she said later.
While the likelihood of her winning isn’t very high, given that save two elections Amethi has always been represented in the Lok Sabha by the Congress in the last 50 years, Smriti will stir up things for sure. The truth though is that the real world of politics and polls is that it’s not just about speeches and TV debates do not maketh a leader.
The connect with constituents is critical. Whether Smriti will be able to achieve it, one will have to wait till May 7, the voting day in Amethi and May 16, the results day. But what we will see over the next few weeks is loads of action, colour and smart-speak on the ground and on telly.
Pradyuman Maheshwari is a senior journalist and editor. When he’s not chasing news, he’s watching it.