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The woman with a magic wand?

Till she joined the Congress, Krishna Tirath (54) had official powers to summon former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. And she did.

india Updated: Jul 13, 2009 00:50 IST
Kumkum Chadha

Till she joined the Congress, Krishna Tirath (54) had official powers to summon former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. And she did.

He was not a politician or prime minister then. The country knew him as Mrs Gandhi’s son who flew planes. That was way back in 1977, when the Janata regime headed by Prime Minister Morarji Desai was hounding the Gandhis.

Tirath, in her capacity as a tax assistant, was handling their income tax cases. Since Indira Gandhi and her son Sanjay were fighting political battles, it was left to Rajiv to sort out financial matters.

It was a tough call. As an officer, Tirath had to appear to be fair. She says she was, but thanks to her father-in-law T. Sohan Lal, a Congress MP, she was seen as pro-Congress.

Till she married Vijay, then a bank employee, politics was not part of Tirath’s psyche. Her father-in-law too was adverse to his family dabbling in politics. On her part, Tirath was content assessing incomes and evaluating balance sheets.

Ten years later, Rajiv Gandhi pulled her out and pitched her as a candidate for the Delhi assembly. Tirath quit service and entered the Metropolitan Council through a by-election.

Later, as a minister in the Delhi government headed by Sheila Dikshit, Tirath opposed her. She was branded a dissident. In the power struggle that followed, she lost out to the chief minister, who showed her the door.

Adversity worked well for Tirath. Dikshit axed her but Prime Minister Manmohan Singh handpicked her. It took her six years to bag the coveted job of minister with independent charge but now that she has, she intends to make her presence felt.

Within days of taking over, she cracked the whip and gave file pushers a 100-point work agenda to complement the PM’s 100-day deadline.

This is Tirath’s second term as MP and her first as Union minister.

Tirath had planned life as a sports trainer or a small-time schoolteacher. But destiny intervened, when least expected.

Marriage happened because of a tiff with her future father-in-law, then a complete stranger. She had gone to him to get an application form attested. A busy MP then, he thought nothing of making her wait. She blew him up, which made him sit up and take notice. Later, he landed at her house and proposed that she marry his son. A reluctant Tirath saw this as an end to her sporting plans.

Politically, the erstwhile Karol Bagh constituency fell in her lap. As legislative assembly member, Tirath represented it several times. Her catch line: “Hum to Dilliwale hain.”

Propped up in 2004, Tirath was elected MP. Politics, family and the Dalit tag helped her. Gender, then, was not of much consequence.

Her detractors were quizzed about her successive victories. “She has not worked for the constituency. She is arrogant and alienated. Yet, she wins elections. Is it some magic wand,” asked BJP vice-president Anita Arya.

If Arya cannot figure out what makes Tirath tick, Tirath is equally at a loss about her being called ‘Hira’.

“It was my neighbour who gave me that name. Maybe I was good-looking or fair like a diamond,” she told the Hindustan Times.

Quite unlikely, though.