New Delhi: In the first interview after the December Assembly elections defeat in three states, Union textiles minister Smriti Irani told MyNation that her party’s growing popularity in Amethi — a Gandhi bastion for decades where she had challenged Congress president Rahul Gandhi in 2014 — would ensure a big upset in 2019 general elections.

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“In 2014, I went for just 20 days and the margin came down drastically. We built on that. Since 2014, every Assembly election, local election Rahul Gandhi has lost. For the first time in history, we won four of the five Assembly seats in that Lok Sabha constituency,” she said. “The truth about Amethi came to the fore in 2014. Before that, a rosy picture was painted that Amethi and Rae Bareilly were heaven on earth. That everything possible in terms of development has been done. Slowly, the truth peeled off, and the nation was flabbergasted.”

Irani said: “From the petroleum university onwards, you will find shilanyas ka paththhar from Captain Satish Sharma’s time. Then Modi was not the PM. For 15 years now, Rahul Gandhi has been the MP from Amethi. For 10 years they had a ‘friendly’ government. For 10 years UPA was ruling at the Centre. He was all powerful, but could not do anything for the constituency. In that case, 1. He is genuinely not interested or 2. He is genuinely incapable.”

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Click on this link for the full interview

How then, how does Congress win in Amethi?

“I don’t think any reporter true to their vocation has gone to Amethi and unearthed the real Gandhi story. If you do so, my best wishes to you. It’s a dangerous proposition,” the minister said.

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She pointed out that when Congress elected Rahul the president of the party, there was no celebration in Amethi, or even when Congress won the three states.

What has Smriti Irani the challenger done for Amethi?

“The very fact that people expect from me, given that I have worked in Amethi, speaks volumes about how there is no expectation from Rahul Gandhi,” she said.

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Rahul Gandhi berated the PM for Ayushman Bharat, she said. “But more than 1.75 lakh families there benefit from Ayushman Bharat. Saubhagya electricity scheme is being implemented. For the first time we have toilets and houses made for the poor.”

She said she was aghast when farmers told her, “Didi, fertiliser ka rake abhi tak utra nahin hai idhar (we never got any fertiliser rake in Amethi).”

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“Even the agricultural ministry was surprised that a 5-star constituency didn’t have such basic things,” Irani said, adding that the first Krishi Vigyan Kendra to the first soil test lab were also her party’s contribution.

“When Yogi became the CM, there were 90-odd schools where children would first time sit on a chair. In 2014, schools in Shukalbazar area were operating out of wheat godowns,” she said.

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