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The Untold Story of Smriti Irani's Historic Amethi Win Against Rahul Gandhi in 2019

Anant Vijay's book 'Amethi Sangram: Aitihasik Jeet Ankahi Dastan'.

Anant Vijay's book 'Amethi Sangram: Aitihasik Jeet Ankahi Dastan'.

The book talks about how despite Smriti Irani's 2014 defeat in Amethi, she did not give up. She never stopped working for the locals of the area and finally, in 2019, she managed to not only win the votes but also the support of the locals, during the elections.

The English translation of author Anant Vijay’s book Amethi Sangram: Aitihasik Jeet Ankahi Dastan was published this week, and it gives a detailed account of Union Minister, Smriti Irani’s painstakingly carved path to her Amethi win in the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections. The English translation of the book, titled, ‘Dynasty to Democracy: The untold story of Smriti Irani’s Triumph’ recounts how Irani went up against the then Congress Chief and MP, Rahul Gandhi, in Amethi, which is known to be a Gandhi family stronghold, and emerged victorious by a margin of 55,120 votes.

The book talks about how despite her 2014 defeat in Amethi, Irani did not give up. She never stopped working for the locals of the area and finally, in 2019, she managed to not only win the votes but also the support of the locals, during the elections. In the book, the author recounts how Irani waited patiently for her win to be declared, and despite Rahul Gandhi conceding, she held out from making any public statements until the counting stopped. The author writes:

“23 May 2019. The day when votes for the Lok Sabha election were to be counted. Smriti Irani was at her Gauriganj home in her Lok Sabha constituency of Amethi. She had got up at half-past six in the morning. By eight, she had done her puja, had her breakfast and settled down in her room, a book in hand and earphones plugged on.

She kept on listening to songs, kept on reading. All day long, people would call to ask what was happening, what the position was, what the news was from the counting centre, but she would say nothing more than ‘counting is underway’. That was Irani’s answer to everybody. Her colleagues and top leaders of the party were getting concerned because


there was no concrete news from Amethi, and Irani was silent. Her colleague Pragya Tripathi kept urging, ‘Didi, come outside and meet the party workers, come to the party office.’ But it seemed that those words were not even reaching her. She was unflustered, and with a smile on her lips, continued with her music.

The Amethi constituency is unique for a number of reasons. The counting of votes for this most-talked-about parliamentary seat happens in three separate districts—Amethi, Sultanpur and Raebareli. This makes it difficult to know and understand much without the coordination among its district magistrates. Therefore, Irani’s office was in touch with all of them and efforts to gather information were on as well. When the EVM from the Jais area was opened, Irani fell behind her nearest rival, Congress’s Rahul Gandhi, by 1,600 votes. This happened only once during entire counting of the votes. But as EVMs from other areas started to be opened, the road to Irani’s victory became wider, her lead over Rahul Gandhi kept on getting bigger. Things came to such a pass that around half past five in the evening, Rahul Gandhi called a press conference in Delhi and conceded defeat.

Furthermore, he publicly congratulated Irani for winning Amethi. Rahul Gandhi said at the press conference, ‘Smriti Iraniji has won, and I want to congratulate her. The people of Amethi have given their decision and I respect that decision. This is a democracy and I hope Smriti Iraniji looks after Amethi with love. She must honour the faith shown in her by the people of Amethi.’

After this statement by Rahul Gandhi, Irani’s phone began ringing frequently. She and her colleagues started getting one call after another on their mobiles and landline phones from leaders, journalists and colleagues from across the country. But Irani wasn’t keen to answer those calls, and so she didn’t receive them. She continued to be engrossed in music and maintained an innocent silence. About half an hour after Rahul Gandhi’s statement, at eight minutes past six in the evening, she tweeted a line from the works of the noted Hindi poet Dushyant Kumar: ‘Kaun kehta hai ki aasmaan me suraakh nahi ho sakta’."

The author writes that as soon as she tweeted, her party workers and her supporters goaded her to celebrate. However, instead of celebrating, Irani went to the counting centre where she was told that counting was still underway and the final result would take time to be officially declared. The book states that on hearing this, she went straight to Kalikan Dhaam. There she paid obeisance at the temple of the Mother Goddess. From there, she went to offer her condolences to a party worker who had lost a family member. After that, Irani returned to her residence and even though her phone kept buzzing, and congratulatory messages piled on, she calmly waited for the counting to be over. The book states,

“People from the Prime Minister’s Office were calling Irani. Calls were also coming from the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister’s Office, but Irani was calmly telling everybody, ‘Before breaking into a celebration, we should wait for the Election Commission to officially declare the result.’ She didn’t want any celebration, any bursting of crackers before the Election Commission’s announcement.

However, the excited party workers were not ready to listen. They continued to gather in large numbers outside her residence. There were echoes of ‘Didi Zindabad’, ‘BJP Zindabad’ and more such slogans all around. But Irani was busy listening to music and replying to messages on her phone. Her answer was the same: ‘Wait for the Election Commission’s announcement’.

Irani this year was different from the Irani of 2014. She was now a mature politician, full of confidence. It seemed that Irani didn’t want to leave any scope for criticism. Even after Congress president Rahul Gandhi had acknowledged defeat, she decided that she would issue a statement only after the Election Commission’s official announcement. And finally, that moment arrived.

At half-past two in the night, the returning officer informed her that she had won the Lok Sabha election from Amethi. She sent her assistant Vijay Gupta to collect the certificate of election. While writing this book, when I asked her why she didn’t go to collect the certificate herself, she said, ‘Every party worker who had made even the smallest of efforts to ensure my victory had a right equal to mine over the certificate of victory’. It may be noted here that even when Irani had won the Indian Television Academy’s best actress award for the first time, she didn’t go to collect the prize herself. One gets the impression that it has become part of Irani’s nature that whenever she reaches a landmark, her sense of fairness makes her indifferent towards jubilation.

After being notified of her victory by the returning officer, Irani went to the party office. There, after accepting greetings and congratulations, she asked the party workers if she should visit Delhi. Following chants of ‘Didi Zindabad’, the party workers raised their hands to greet her, as if all of them giving her their blessings. Then Irani spoke to the media for the first time before leaving for Delhi. She told the news agency ANI, ‘Today, I express my gratitude to Narendrabhai Modi. He had allowed me to serve Amethi continuously for five years. In 2014, he had promised Amethi that he had come here with the objective of change. In the neck-and-neck battle that took place between the Bharatiya Janata Party and Congress, on the one hand you had a family, and on the other you had an organisation that works like a family.

If I have to give credit today, I would just say that it should go to our organisation and our volunteers … and if I could dedicate today’s victory to somebody, I would dedicate it to the party workers and their families who were

killed in Kerala and Bengal.’ With this statement, Irani also responded to Rahul Gandhi’s remark. Irani quipped, ‘I am happy that Rahul Gandhi has so much faith in Narendra Modi’s leadership and BJP’s organisational abilities,

and that he believes that I would be able to take care of Amethi. Today the people of Amethi have expressed the same confidence through their votes. I am grateful to the people of Amethi. I have stayed in Amethi for five years after a defeat, and now after victory, I will serve them for another five years. This I assure you, and people know that

when I give my word, I honour it.’"

The following excerpts have been published with permission from Westland Publication.

first published:March 17, 2021, 16:25 IST