The Union minister said Rahul gandhi had “run away” from Amethi in 2019 as well.

New Delhi:

Exuding confidence after the Congress decided not to field Rahul Gandhi against her in Amethi, Union Minister Smriti Irani has said this is a sign of the Congress conceding the 79th out of Uttar Pradesh’s 80 Lok Sabha seats to the BJP and that her party managing a clean sweep in the state is a possibility. 

Speaking exclusively to NDTV on Friday, after it was revealed that Mr Gandhi, whom she had defeated in 2019, would not be contesting against her but would fight from Raebareli, Ms Irani said it was a matter of pride for her that “an ordinary BJP worker had sent the Gandhi family packing”. Raebareli was the only seat that the Congress had won in Uttar Pradesh in 2019.

Asked about how she saw the developments of the day, the Women And Child Development minister said, “I think the Congress nomination and the entire Gandhi family backing out from a battle in Amethi is significant because, as far as I am concerned, it is the proclamation of defeat of the Congress party from Amethi.”

On Kishori Lal Sharma, a Gandhi family loyalist who has worked in Amethi for 40 years, getting the ticket instead and the Congress claiming that it was giving a chance to a grassroots worker, Ms Irani said people who have seen enough politics would know when they are being “hoodwinked”.

“If there was an iota of chance of the Gandhi family winning, they would have fought the battle here in Amethi,” she claimed. 

To a question on whether she would have wanted Rahul Gandhi to contest, Ms Irani said she had already created history in 2019 when she defeated the sitting Congress president. 

“This is not the first time Mr Rahul Gandhi has run away from Amethi. He had run away in 2019 as well. The only difference is last time he sought comfort in Wayanad and this time he chose not to contest at all. So it is the second time Mr Gandhi shied away from a battle in Amethi,” she said. 

‘Have Done Much In Life’

Asked whether she would have like to challenge him in Amethi as well, she said, “I think you give him too much importance. I am a self-made woman. I have had a 2.5-decade successful career in media. I have been an MP. I have been announced as the World Economic Forum global leader in 2015 itself… I have done much in life. I don’t need a Rahul Gandhi chase to make my career or my name.”

“And by the way, I have done it without having a politician who is a father to me and the ‘karta dharta’ (prime mover) of an entire political organisation. So I have done it without comfort and at personal cost, Mr Gandhi, unfortunately, has not only let down his whole political organisation, but also his family legacy. I think it speaks volumes that an ordinary worker of the BJP could defeat the Gandhi scion. And, today, an ordinary worker of the BJP had the entire family packed away,” she added.

Moving to the Raebareli battle, where Mr Gandhi is up against Dinesh Pratap Singh, who had lost the seat in 2019, the minister said if the Congress leader was confident of winning from there, he would not have been contesting from Wayanad – where he is the sitting MP – as well. She said if the Gandhis were confident, former Congress President Sonia Gandhi would not have given up the constituency.

‘Death Knell’

On Robert Vadra saying he wanted to contest from Amethi, Ms Irani said, “I think if Sonia Gandhi doesn’t think her son-in-law is competent enough to be in Indian politics, that’s a decision for Mrs Gandhi to take. It’s nothing for me to ponder about.”

Insisting that the Congress will not be able to do well in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections, she said, “I think the proclamation from Amethi itself is indicative that this is the last death knell in the political coffin of the Congress Party… The 79th (seat in Uttar Pradesh) was proclaimed by the Congress party itself that they are losing. The 80th is Raebareli. Mr Gandhi will surely lose from there. Else he would have never fought from Wayanad.”

Taking another dig at her former opponent, she added, “Do remember Mr Gandhi is not fighting this battle alone. He has taken the support of the Samajwadi Party. So what kind of a leader is this, who can’t fight his own battles alone?”

Not Worthy?

Ms Irani claimed that the Congress party has declared her victory in Amethi with its decision and when she was asked whether Mr Sharma is a worthy opponent, she said, “Was Rahul Gandhi worthy in 2019? He was an absentee MP. I’m a two-term MP who has never been absent. as compared to Mr Rahul Gandhi. My spend of MP local area development funds and my record in Parliament has been pretty decent.”

“So compared to somebody who is self-made and has been a productive MP, do you think an absentee MP who depended on a family name to become a politician is a worthy opponent for a person like me,” she asked. 

“I have been an MP only for five years as compared to 50 years of the Gandhi family. I’m grateful that people in these five years have decided that I make for a better public representative than the Gandhis who were here for 50 years, and especially Mr Rahul Gandhi was here as an absentee MP for 15 years. The comparison was stark, and that is why the Gandhi family withdrew from contesting from its so-called family bastion,” she said.

Called a giant slayer, Ms Irani said Rahul Gandhi is “hardly a giant” and continued, “The writing is on the wall. As far as Amethi goes, they have woken up and smelled the coffee. I’m sure they will be coming to many realities on the fourth of June. The citizen had fallen long ago. They have now woken up to that reality.”

Claiming that Mr Gandhi was not transparent with the voters of Wayanad in 2019 about fighting another seat, the BJP leader said the decision not to field a member of the Gandhi family from Amethi indicates that the Congress knows that it is not well positioned in Uttar Pradesh.

‘Ordinary Worker’

On whether she thought 80 on 80 is achievable in Uttar Pradesh she said, “Today is a great indicator of what is available in terms of political realities vis a vis the Congress Party. It is the Congress Party that has concluded that if any member of the Gandhi family fights Amethi, they will lose. It is not a conclusion by the BJP. That the Gandhi family felt it not it did not have even a fighting chance in Amethi speaks volumes.

“Because remember this they are the first family of Indian politics. And I’m just an ordinary BJP worker. That an ordinary BJP worker could send them packing away speaks volumes about what awaits them on the fourth of June,” she added.