Smriti Irani dodge questions on fuel price hike, BJP allies

Smriti Irani dodge questions on fuel price hike, BJP allies

Union Minister of Textiles, Smriti Irani interacts with the media on completion of 4 years of the NDA government, in Ahmedabad on Saturday. PTI

Union Textile Minister Smriti Irani, who is generally aggressive talking about the achievements of the Narendra Modi government and her party, on Saturday evaded answering questions related to the fuel price rise, new education policy and the BJP allies.

A Cabinet-ranked minister in Modi government at the Centre, Smriti was in Ahmedabad to highlight the achievements of the Modi government in the last four years.

On the question of the BJP’s chances of retaining the power in the Centre in 2019, in the wake of major allies like the TDP deserting ruling NDA and Shiv Sena making noises, she blurted, “The BJP was geared to take on Shiv Sena.”

Smriti, however, immediately changed tack and said that the BJP, along with all its allies, would comfortably win. “The BJP has said many times that it is willing to jointly contest with the Shiv Sena but Amit Shah is not addressing this conference and it will be best to ask him this question,” she said.

She, however, was more confident at hitting out at the Opposition, when asked how she read the chances of the Grand Alliance against the BJP. “This indicates that opposition parties cannot win on their own popularity and prowess but are struggling for survival. Their coming together against the BJP is a backhanded compliment to Narendra Modi.”

Smriti, who also held the portfolio of the HRD ministry, avoided answering questions related to the new education policy and delay in its announcement. “The draft is in the public domain and the current HRD minister, who is also senior to me, has received many responses. It would be impolite for me to speak about it. In either case, the HRD minister has spoken extensively about it,” she said.

On being quizzed over the issue of rising prices of petrol products, especially when she had aggressively opposed high petrol product prices during the UPA rule, and whether the Centre planned to cut excise on petrol products, she put the onus on the state government.

“It would be best answered by a minister in charge of the Gujarat excise department, whether the duty should be reduced or not.”

The excise duty is levied by the central government.

When asked again whether the Centre has any plans to cut excise on petroleum products, she said that she was neither the petroleum or finance minister to say anything.

“It would be an irresponsible comment. All I can say is that the government will take a decision that will benefit the common man.”

On Friday, she had invited Congress president Rahul Gandhi for an open debate on any issue.