Smriti Irani: India’s 
other famous daughter-in-law

Smriti Irani: India’s 
other famous daughter-in-law

From working in a quick service restaurant to becoming India’s minister for Human Resources Development, Smriti Irani’s life is the fascinating story of a woman who has pushed her boundaries, taking challenges on the chin and refusing to take No for an answer. Irani’s stranglehold over the minds of millions of housewives who model themselves after the self-righteous daughter-in-law that she played in a popular television show, has ensured she is no pushover for anyone or anything.


Published: Sat 31 May 2014, 9:54 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 10:18 PM

There is another daughter-in-law who is the risings star of Indian politics. Unlike Sonia Gandhi, the Italian daughter-in-law of the Gandhi clan who ran the Congress Party and the country with iron hands for decades after her husband’s demise, this daughter-in-law is a true-blue Indian and has the blessings of millions of households in the country.

We are talking about Smriti Irani, the Minister for Human Resource Development in the Narendra Modi government that took oath on Monday in a swearing-in ceremony that was grander in scale than any of the past ones.

Not many are surprised Smriti Irani got the plum post. To begin with, Irani is one of Indian television’s most loved actors, having played Tulsi, the dutiful daughter-in-law of an extended Indian joint family, who finds her own voice as she enters her middle age. For years Indian households came to a stand-still on evenings when the ‘Kyu Ki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi’ saga aired on prime time television. When she quit the serial after a difference of opinion with its makers, a lot of families stopped watching it.

Not many know, probably, that Irani has had a rather adventurous life before she decided to try her luck with television. The daughter of a Punjabi-Bengali family in Delhi, she waited on tables at a McDonald’s outlet before she became a finalist in a prominent Indian beauty pageant. The television serial that followed made her the ultimate super hero, giving her a celebrity status that only a handful of actors are able to enjoy. Irani, a mother of two, was quick to leverage her star status and joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2003, slowly making her way up the ranks till she was appointed the National Secretary of the party in 2010, and later as the All India President of the BJP’s women’s wing. In 2011 she became a member of parliament from Narendra Modi’s home state, Gujarat.

The years in between were sometimes controversial , with the lady once threatening a fast unto death if Modi did not resign as Gujarat chief minister, after the BJP was routed in the elections. The Modi baiter, however, was tamed by party bosses and is a now a devotee of the new PM, who recently addressed her as his younger sister, during an often vitriolic election campaign by all parties. What made Irani a sure-fire candidate for a ministership, however, is the spirited competition she offered to incumbent MP, Rahul Gandhi, who she took on, in his family’s bastion, Amethi. Gandhi won the seat but not before his margins had been brought down to just over hundred thousand votes, from the previous three hundred thousand plus votes.

Her new role only reiterates what Tulsi, the protagonist of Irani’s much-successful telly serial, often told her viewers: that a woman has it in her to do everything that she wants to do, if she believes in herself and stands her ground, no matter who or what gets in her way.

This is one woman who is certainly not going to be silenced or awed sitting in a house almost completely dominated by male members of Parliament. We are sure she is aware that with a woman heading the HRD ministry, Indian women will look forward to some strong, women-friendly policies being announced soon.

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