From wannabe Miss India to cabinet minister
From promoting beauty products, to contesting the Miss India beauty pageant, to becoming the country’s most sought after ‘bahu’, and on Monday being sworn in as a minister in the Narendra Modi government – 38-year-old Smriti Irani’s life has been a saga of meteoric rise to fame and success.
A star in her own right, Smriti’s political journey started in 2003 when she joined the BJP which has just pulled off a landslide win in the 16th parliamentary election by winning 282 out of the 543 contested seats.
Although she couldn’t win when she contested the 14th Lok Sabha polls as the BJP candidate from the Chandni Chowk constituency in Delhi – being defeated by Congress candidate Kapil Sibal – she became a prominent and articulate face of the party on television.
In the 2014 general election, the gutsy Smriti took on Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi in his pocket borough of Amethi in Uttar Pradesh and gave him tough competition. Though she lost, the actress-turned-politician, who was sworn in as a Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament from Gujarat in 2011, will now work as an important member of the newly elected government.
In her life, every decision she took turned into a stepping stone, taking her closer to stardom and politics.
In one of her interviews she was quoted as saying that she started earning after the 10th standard – the Delhi girl used to earn Rs.200 for promoting a beauty product. But determined to chart her own destiny Smriti, one of the three daughters of a conservative Punjabi-Bengali family, broke free of the norms and decided to try her luck in the glamour world.
She sent her application for the 1998 Miss India contest, which was won by Lymaraina D’Souza. She couldn’t reach the finals of the contest but fate took her to Mumbai, the entertainment capital of the country, where she joined McDonald’s Bandra outlet to support herself while auditioning for work in showbiz.
Lady luck was smiling on her and she was called to replace actress Neelam Kothari to host an episode of “Ooh La La”. She got that episode and was noticed by producer Ekta Kapoor, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Ekta roped her in to play Tulsi Virani in her long running super hit TV show “Kyunki… Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi”. Grabbing the opportunity, Smriti’s popularity soared so high that she became the most popular ‘bahu’ of the small screen.
While playing a perfect ‘bahu’ on the small screen, Smriti settled down with her childhood friend Zubin Irani, a Parsi, and carried the role of a wife and mom to her two children – son Zohr and daughter Zoish – with the same effectiveness.
She also produced TV shows under her banner Ugraya Entertainment, feeding family viewing audiences with entertainers like “Virrudh” and “Thodi Si Zameen Thoda Sa Aasmaan”.
But with an itch to do something more, she decided to plunge into politics while pursuing acting, and her dedication and determination took her places.
After holding important positions like the national secretary of the party and All India President of the BJP Mahila Morcha in 2010, she became BJP’s vice-president.
Though the party had other actresses too as members, it was the articulate and uncomplaining Smriti who rose above the challenges.
Smriti’s political journey is best described in her own words – she once said that she has an “ideological umbilical cord with the BJP…we are three generation party supporters… my grandfather was a swayamsevak, my mother a BJP booth activist”.
Winner of several awards as an actress, Smriti, described by many as “Sushma Swaraj of the Modi-led BJP”, has now embarked on a new journey in the biggest democracy of the world.