Smriti Irani: From model to Tulsi Virani to HRD minister

Smriti Irani, BJP's current vice-president, has been given a Cabinet Minister's seat in the Narendra Modi government. According to an official government release, she is the new HRD Minister. At 38, Smriti Irani is the youngest Cabinet minister in the Modi government.

Irani, who fought against Rahul Gandhi in the Lok Sabha Elections in 2014 and even managed to the Gandhi scion a scare by reducing his victory margin to just over one lakh votes, has come a long way in the party and also in the public image. We take a quick look at Irani's career timeline.

Personal Life: Irani was born in Delhi and comes from a Punjabi–Bengali family. She's the eldest of three sisters. Irani married Zubin Irani, a Zoroastrian, in 2000. The couple have a son Zohr and daughter Zoish. Smriti is a stepmother to Shanelle her husband's daughter from his previous marriage.

Television success: Before rising to fame as Tulsi in Ekta Kapoor's hit television serial Kyun ki Saas bhi kabhi bahu thi which began in 2000, Irani worked as model. She was finalist in the Femina Miss India 1998 pageant. Incidentally her television debut did no begin with Kyunki, but with Aatish and Hum Hain Kal Aaj Kal Aur Kal. All three shows were aired on Star Plus.

Smriti Irani in this file photo.  AFP

Smriti Irani in this file photo. AFP

Irani has also spoken of how she worked as a waitress and cleaned the floors at a McDonald's restaurant before finding stardom.

Kyunki Saas bhi Kabhi bahu thi was one of the biggest hits of Indian television industry and Smriti Irani's portrayal of Tulsi Virani, the ideal bahu of the Virani khandan won her many fans. The show ran for nearly 8 years and finally ended on 6 November, 2008.

Political Career: Irani joined the BJP during the course of working on Kyunki in 2003. She also contested against Kapil Sibal from the Chandni Chowk constituency in Delhi in the Lok Sabha 2004 elections, but lost. Irani in 2010 was made National Secretary of the party and also appointed as All India President of the BJP Mahila Morcha.

Irani was appointed as Member of Parliament from Gujarat to the Rajya Sabha in 2011. Her term will end in 2017. At the time, Modi had signed her form as one of the proposers.

In 2012, Irani was made BJP's Vice-President.

Her rise in the party has been evident from 2004. A recent Economic Times profile had pointed out how she is now an important member of Modi's inner circle, and that some in the party some call her the 'Sushma Swaraj of Modi's campaign' and forsee a major role for her.

The report had also noted how Irani has Modi's complete trust when it comes to "communicating with sections of India Inc and the diplomatic establishment." It also quotes one top industrialist as saying,"Irani is entrusted with taking Modi's message to important constituencies like industry and diplomats because she's a 'very effective communicator'".

Opposition to Modi:  However Irani wasn't always that close to Modi. In 2004, Irani had threatened to go on a fast-unto-death demanding the resignation of Modi with regards to the 2002 Gujarat riots. According to this Outlook report from 2004, Irani had said that "Modi's decision not to be step down was 'extremely shocking and appalling'".

When the party leaders such as LK Advani had called her to express their disapproval, Irani withdrew the decision and said her intention was not revolt. She said at that time, "Nobody in the country would deny the fact that Vajpayee and L K Advani have selflessly served the country for last 50 years and for them to be blamed and pointed out just because Narendrabhai would not leave the seat was something extremely shocking, appalling, quite hurtful honestly...At the end of the day if we show mirror to our own family (party), there is nothing wrong in correcting our own mistakes."

Irani has clearly gotten over the issue now since has come out to defend Modi on almost all television channels. Narendra Modi too campaigned for Smriti Irani in Amethi where he made an extended and uncharacteristic pitch for his "chotti behen's" virtues -- unlike his other stump speeches which typically assured the voter that the vote for the BJP candidate was in fact a vote for Modi himself. That excellent rapport with Modi has clearly paid off for Irani today.