Union HRD minister Smriti Irani built on her association with Amethi on a rainy Saturday afternoon, taking potshots at sitting Congress MP Rahul Gandhi and tearing into the ruling Samajwadi Party government in Uttar Pradesh over law and order.
‘Mission 2017’ was evident in her three-hour visit. Irani, however, addressed her immediate concern first, visiting villagers in Baraulia whose houses were gutted in a fire on May 19.
Irani, who lost the Lok Sabha elections from Amethi but won hearts with her spirited fight, had visited the village a day after the blaze. Gandhi had reached out to the villagers the next day.
The minister made her way through the mud-spattered lanes to meet the people of Baraulia. She repeatedly requested villagers not to touch her feet. “Arrey pair mat pado, amma (Oh, please don’t touch my feet),” she said as people kept bowing.
She asked district administration officials to ensure that those who lost houses got new ones. When a sub-divisional magistrate showed her a list with the names of 71 people who were provided monetary relief by the state government, she inquired from the block development officer how long it would take for the government to get them new houses.
After hearing the official, the human resource development minister (HRD) said, “I hope you deliver. In any case we would do whatever we can to help them.”
Irani said by coming to meet the people in their need, she had merely kept her promise to Amethi. “It merely shows that I value my words,” she replied when asked if her visit indicated a larger political design to consolidate the saffron base in the Congress bastion.
The political notes were struck later when she urged Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) cadre to ensure the party’s win from all “five assembly segments” of Amethi in the 2017 UP polls.
A BJP source said over the next few months, Irani would camp in Amethi to meet booth-level workers.
“Mission 2017 is well and truly on,” said Chandramauli Singh, a BJP functionary in Amethi. Irani also met senior RSS functionaries in Lucknow before leaving for Delhi.
“I hope law and order is visible on the streets of UP and doesn’t merely remain on paper.”
“I am surprised how people here have such high expectations from me and not from their MP.”
“The kind of language that is being used by some senior politicians on rape is very unfortunate.” (In an apparent response to SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav’s remark that even with a population of 21 crore, UP has the least number of rape cases)