Smriti Zubin Irani (née Malhotra; Hindi pronunciation: born 23 March 1976) is an Indian politician and former actress, fashion model and producer. She is a Minister in Union Cabinet of India since May 2014, currently administrating the Ministries of Women and Child Development and also the first Non-Muslim to serve as the Minister of Minority Affairs. A prominent leader within the Bharatiya Janata Party, she is a Member of Parliament in the Lok Sabha, representing Amethi, Uttar Pradesh.
In the 2019 Indian general election, she defeated Rahul Gandhi — the country's principal opposition leader and the president of Indian National Congress — to win the Amethi seat. Previously the Amethi constituency had been represented by the members of the Gandhi family for the last four decades. Earlier in 2011, Irani had become a member of the Rajya Sabha from Gujarat.
Irani was the youngest minister in the 2019 Council of Ministers, when she was sworn in as a Cabinet Minister in May 2019 at the age of 43. Having a diverse family background, Irani can speak in several Indian languages including Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Gujarati, and Punjabi; as her paternal family has a Punjabi and Maharashtrian heritage, while her maternal family has a Bengali heritage.
Irani joined the Bharatiya Janata Party in 2003. The following year, she was appointed vice-president of the Maharashtra Youth Wing in 2004. In the general elections held that year for the 14th Lok Sabha, she contested unsuccessfully against Kapil Sibal from the Chandni Chowk constituency in Delhi. That election witnessed a shock defeat for the incumbent Vajpayee government. In December 2004, Irani, blaming then Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi for BJP's electoral losses, threatened to fast unto death until he resigned. She retracted this demand after the BJP's central leadership threatened to take action against her.
Irani was nominated as executive member of the central committee of the BJP. During the campaign for the 2009 parliamentary elections, while campaigning for Vijay Goel in the New Delhi constituency, Irani voiced her concern for women's safety in the city and advocated capital punishment for rapists as a deterrent. In early 2010, Irani was appointed National Secretary of BJP and on 24 June, she was appointed All India President of the BJP's women's wing, BJP Mahila Morcha. As National President of BJP Women's Wing, she successfully pursued Permanent Commission for Women in the Indian Army by facilitating legal aid to women officers who held temporary commission and were agitating for permanent commission.
In August 2011, Irani finally entered parliament. She was sworn in as a member of parliament from Gujarat to the Rajya Sabha.
Irani contested the 2014 general elections against Rahul Gandhi in Amethi constituency of Uttar Pradesh. Irani lost to Gandhi by 1,07,923 votes, a 12.32% margin. On 26 May 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi appointed her as the Minister of Human Resource Development in his cabinet. Her appointment was criticised by many people owing to her lack of formal higher education.
Irani has been accused of misrepresenting her educational qualifications. Conflicting affidavits were allegedly submitted by her while filing for different elections. In June 2015, a lower court held that the allegations against Irani were maintainable and a delay in prosecution was not a valid reason for dismissal. Irani asked people to file a PIL about her educational qualification to know about the truth behind the affidavit controversy.
Irani implemented various reforms in universities during her term as HRD minister. Irani made a speech in Parliament in which she discussed the 2016 JNU sedition controversy and the Suicide of Rohith Vemula. University of Hyderabad doctor Rajashree M contradicted some claims made by Irani regarding the circumstances of Rohith's death.
She announced to start new yoga departments in six new universities in June 2016.
In July 2016, in a cabinet reshuffle Irani was shuffled to the Ministry of Textiles from MHRD.
In July 2017, she was handed the additional charge of Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (India) when former Minister Venkaiah Naidu resigned from the ministry to take part in vice-presidential elections.
In 2019, Irani became a Member of Parliament for Amethi constituency after winning the Lok Sabha seat in the 2019 general elections from Rahul Gandhi.
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