The Union Minister for Women & Child Development Smriti Irani is described as a feisty leader by both her fans and critics. In a recent survey conducted by CVoter to rate the performance of various ministers in the second regime of Prime Minister Modi that commenced in May 2019, Smriti Irani has been rated as the fifth best performing minister by both the NDA and opposition supporters.
It is a measure of her ability to impress ordinary Indians and voters with her performance that she has managed such a high rank despite handling a relatively “non-glamorous” portfolio.
One reason also could be that Irani created a kind of history by defeating Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in the Amethi Lok Sabha constituency during the 2019 elections. A pocket borough of the Nehru-Gandhi family, Amethi was considered to be an electoral cakewalk for them till 2019. This was revealed by a nationwide survey for IANS conducted by CVoter in the month of May, 2022 that included respondents from all age groups, all educational and economic backgrounds as well as ethnic identities.
But what should be an eye opener for pundits and analysts is the spectacular support and appreciation she receives from the poor and marginalised sections of Indian society. For instance, the survey shows that Indians belonging to the SC/ST category have rated Irani as the best performing minister. The survey also reveals that Smriti Irani is very popular with the young Indians.
Respondents in the age category 18 to 24 rated her as the second-best performing minister in the cabinet. She is very popular with the women too. In the category housewives, respondents rated her as the third best performing minister in the Modi cabinet.
Similarly, both landless agricultural labourers and general labour categories rated her as the second-best performing minister.
The second most important woman face in Modi Sarkar happens to be Finance Minister Nirmala Sitaraman. Unfortunately for her, the issues of inflation and price rise has dampened the ratings of her ministry. She does make it to top 10 list among the higher educated and high-income group respondents, but the electorally low number of these demographics are not helping with her ratings at all India level. The much bigger by volume demographics happen to be bottom of the pyramid and the pressing economic issues are hurting them the most. Apart from SC/ST voters, Smriti Irani score well even among the OBC voters.
Clearly, the feisty Smriti Irani is carving out her own place as a charismatic political leader who appeals to poor and underprivileged voters, who still constitute the majority of the electorate in India. A significant number of OBC voters in Hindi Heartland also give higher approval ratings for Anupriya Patel, who is a minister from Apna Dal; an important NDA ally in Uttar Pradesh who played a critical role in BJP sweep in recent assembly elections.