The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Virani khandan to BJP parivar

New Delhi, Nov. 15: From a humble “pujari’s” daughter to a “bahu” of the Virani “khandan”. From a persecuted daughter-in-law to an indulgent mother and finally, a mother-in-law herself — Tulsi has appeared in several avatars in the serial Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi.

But Ekta Kapoor’s scriptwriter did not envisage one role that the stoical Tulsi ‘Smriti’ Virani is set to play in real life — of a politician.

Today, Smriti Z. Iraani (Malhotra) made her debut on the political stage as a member of the BJP. She made it clear she was not there as just a crowd-puller but as someone who had clear views on issues such as Sonia Gandhi’s “foreign” origin.

Smriti was introduced to the press by BJP general secretary Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi as a “swadeshi bahu” who would pose a “challenge” to the “videshi bahu” in the electoral battlefield.

Mihir Virani’s screen wife lived up to the “challenge”. “Our country as a whole gives women the respect they deserve. But will our self-respect allow us to be ruled by a foreign-born individual'” she said, asked what she thought of the Congress president. Naqvi, Gopinath Munde and Prakash Javadekar — who shared the dais with her — beamed.

Smriti said she was attracted to the BJP because of its “political traditions”. “The party always takes suggestions from its workers and people and then evolves a national consensus. I hope I will fit into this tradition.” She said her areas of interest were women and children’s issues and the party had asked her to “select a region” for work at the grassroots. “I want to work among women and youth. There are lots of young people who are not disillusioned with the system,” she added.

And no, she does not share the upper classes’ contempt for politicians. According to her, “it’s easy to point fingers at politicians but difficult to find solutions”. Smriti is expected to campaign for the BJP in the coming Assembly elections but she made it clear she would continue her career on TV.

BJP sources said the small-screen icon would be used mainly in Delhi and the cities and towns of the other states going to polls because of her “strong middle-class appeal”. General secretary Pramod Mahajan was reportedly instrumental in roping in Smriti to “reach out to the younger sections who were sympathetic to the party’s ideology”, the sources said.

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