Is Union minister Smriti Irani's losing the high-profile HRD portfolio really a demotion for her? The leader's critics may find a solace in the development for many had felt the actor-politician was not qualified enough to carry out the all-important role. But there could be a different game plan altogether aiming the UP Assembly election scheduled early next year.
Irani had contested against Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi from Amethi in UP in the 2014 general election but though she had lost, the big backing she had received from Narendra Modi before the election made her confident. [Sushma, Smriti, Anupriya: Does BJP back a woman to check a woman?]
Is BJP thinking of using Smriti's energy in UP against another Gandhi?
Even after the defeat, Irani promised that she would keep visiting Amethi to ensure that the Gandhi's bastion is not deprived of development. With not much time to go for the next UP poll, has the BJP now decided to use the unused energy in Irani to cater to its need in UP? [The Telegraph takes on Smriti Irani again; calls her "Spinderella"]
It is not unlikely. The Congress is also planning to blend experience with freshness, proven track record with Gandhi surname by projecting former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra for the big battle in UP. While Dikshit can be projected as a veteran administrator, Priyanka will be the party's signature Gandhi factor and a blending of the two could help the grand-old party achieve what Rahul Gandhi hasn't been able to deliver. [Seeing Priyanka Gandhi at its helm is no more a dream for the Congress, it's a desperation]
Mayawati is also another woman face in the election
Another woman---Mayawati---the chief of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is also expected to reverse the results of the 2012 UP Assembly election and 2014 general election in that state this time. [Mayawati most-preferred CM candidate in UP, reveals poll]
Taking them on, it is hence very important for the BJP, too, to find a face for the prestige battle. Even though names like Rajnath Singh and Varun Gandhi are being heard as the popular choice to lead the party, but Irani could be the weapon for the saffron party to take on the Priyanka-Sheila combination. [UP poll 2017: BJP, BSP will have an intense battle in Purvanchal]
Smriti Irani can give BJP some key advantages in UP
Irani's usefulness would lie in the fact that she is a young leader who is not hesitant to speak it on the face. She has already shown her brave side by taking on a heavyweight like Rahul Gandhi in his own den and not getting cowed down by the defeat. She has also showed her strict face as an administrator by leading the HRD ministry.
After Rahul Gandhi in 2014, will Smriti be asked to take on Priyanka in 2017?
Yes, there were controversies that she courted during his two-year tenure but at the same time, she has grown in her experience to serve in a responsible position. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra doesn't have that in her CV to show while Sheila Dikshit is an aged woman who has not really been remembered since his massive loss to Arvind Kejriwal in the 2013 Delhi election.
UP could see an interesting women-dominated fight next year. Akhilesh Yadav will have his job cut out.