How do you know: Smriti

The BJP pulled out its feisty minister Smriti Irani to counter Rahul Gandhi's claim that the Centre had scuttled the Amethi food park, realising he had gone "practically unchallenged" by home minister Rajnath Singh in the House.

By Radhika Ramaseshan
  • Published 8.05.15
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Smriti

New Delhi, May 7: The BJP pulled out its feisty minister Smriti Irani to counter Rahul Gandhi's claim that the Centre had scuttled the Amethi food park, realising he had gone "practically unchallenged" by home minister Rajnath Singh in the House.

In the process, Smriti signalled that she had not abandoned the marquee constituency from where she contested the last Lok Sabha election against Rahul. She lost, but not before she whittled down the scale of Rahul's victory from 3.7 lakh votes in 2009 to just over a lakh.

Soon After Rajnath said in the Lok Sabha today that he would "look into" the matter, the BJP texted journalists saying Smriti would give a "bite" at the party headquarters.

The HRD minister picked on the development theme and accused Rahul, without taking his name, of doing nothing to make the food park a reality since 2010 when the land was allotted.

"Since the member of Parliament from Amethi was out of the country for 56 days, and has no time to visit there (Amethi), he is not feeling the change that has taken place there in the last one year," Smriti said, alluding to Rahul's sabbatical.

She then asked "why the project was delayed for over four years while the Congress was in government at the Centre". "It is the answer that even the people of Amethi are asking their MP."

The Uttar Pradesh State Industrial Development Corporation had acquired the land and leased it to the project.

The unit, the first of its kind in the state, was to be set up by the Aditya Birla Group at an investment of Rs 200 crore. Rahul had presided over at its foundation ceremony in October 2013.

But after the change of guard at the Centre last year, the Narendra Modi government raised an objection, creating an impression that it was "reluctant" to honour an earlier undertaking to clear subsidised gas for the park to be "viable".

The food processing ministry contended that the park had complied with all other pre-requisites but one - that it possessed at least 50 acres, contiguous with the 72 acres on which it was to be raised, for "industrial usage".

Since May 2014, after she lost to Rahul, Smriti has visited Amethi twice, in July and September 2014. She first went to see the plight of villagers whose houses were gutted in a fire and later to check if the homeless were given new homes.

Before the two railway budgets so far under the Modi government, she had requested ministers D.V. Sadananda Gowda and, later, Suresh Prabhu to operationalise Amethi's train connectivity with Rae Bareli (Sonia Gandhi's seat) and Faizabad, besides a rail-owned mineral water bottling plant sanctioned for the constituency.

Today, The BJP also created a sub-text that could be wielded as a weapon against the Congress's campaign on the land acquisition bill. "Modiji used the same reasoning to say why land acquisition was important. Rahul should clarify if he wants to see farmers poor or prosperous," a source said.