Sunday, April 19, 2015

Holding her own

Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani's recent interview to Arnab Goswami on Frankly Speaking was a watershed in her political career, wherein she came out on her own, with her own authority as a Union Minitser. For all those who believed her existence was on account of the RSS or Narendra Modi, she came back at her best and countered Arnab Goswami's questions with logic and facts.

There is no doubt that the Times group in particular, together with the general media, has had it against Irani since the day she was made HRD Minister. The biggest example of this was the manufactured controversy over the issue of German booting out Sanskrit in the Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan in direct contravention of the decades-old three-language formula that has kept the country together. But there are many more, such as the innuendo that she created the FabIndia controversy to hog the limelight, an allegation that is an insult to every woman in the country.

But what came out remarkably in the interview is that Irani has not allowed these manufactured controversies to bog her down. Repeatedly, she asserted and proved through facts that she does not take instructions from anybody and does not believe that she is an extra-constitutional dictator that can impose her views on anything - from the ICHR to state Education ministries. Her work has been within the bounds of the Constitution and she made that point out clearly. Moreover, she demonstrated her expertise in handling partisan journalists (no doubt from her prior experience in the most partisan show of all, The Newshour) by early-on delineating the three standard premises that were behind all of Goswami's loaded questions to her:

  1. If you're an RSS, BJP or a right-wing individual, you have no right to a job. 
  2. If you're an RSS, BJP or a right-wing individual, you have no right to an opinion. 
  3. If you're an RSS, BJP or right-wing state government, you cannot take any decisions for yourself. 
All of Goswami's questions on policy were based on these three assumptions and she tried her best to critique these premises, as any other answer would have simply played into them. Thus, despite Goswami's repeated questioning, she continued to point out how her actions were strictly in the bounds of law, a law that has been followed more in the breach by her predecessors. 

Goswami should also go back to his fact-checking team, because they are doing a pretty shoddy job of it. Many of the policy-related questions, most glaringly the ones on transfers within her department, were off-the-mark. He largely chose to quote 'sources' from magazines and newspapers but never even went to official press releases to check those for himself. Basic journalism necessitates the need to check and verify facts (although Times Now does very little to none of that). That might not be very important in a shouting match like The Newshour, but in an interview it puts the anchor in very bad light. 

But perhaps the most telling part of the interview came out in the very end, when Irani spoke about her personal struggle so far. It is true that in today's politics, particularly in the Congress, it is impossible to survive without a lot of money and a godfather. Irani had neither - she grew up in a lower middle class family, mopped floors at McDonald's for a living before entering the very taxing world of television, where she became a household name by virtue of her good work. And now in politics, she went from being an ordinary political worker to the Union HRD Minister at just 38 years of age (she recently turned 39). Her story is the kind of tale, like that of PM Modi himself, that inspires young people in the country, a sort of inspiration that directly creates disgust for the Gandhi dynasty. 

It was once said that Smriti Irani is the next Sushma Swaraj in the BJP. Through this interview, she proved that wrong - she will climb much higher peaks. 

No comments: