Rashtra Sevika Samiti, the women’s wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), delivered a major snub to Union Textiles Minister Smriti Irani as it rescinded an invite that it had sent out to her for a key event organised to commemorate the birth anniversary of Samiti’s founder Lakshmi Kelkar in New Delhi on Friday.
The Sevika Samiti had sent out invitation cards in the lead-up to Friday’s event, which had mentioned that the occasion would be presided over by Irani, with Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra due to be the chief guest. However, it was only Mahajan who eventually showed up to grace the occasion.
A Samiti spokesperson, who didn’t wish to be identified, said that the all-women organisation cancelled Irani’s appearance at the last minute after Mahajan confirmed her participation. “Sumitra tai had expressed doubts on attending the function when we approached her initially. So, we asked Smiri Irani if she could make it to the venue instead. She had readily agreed,” said the spokesperson.
“But Sumitra tai told us later on that she would manage to take out a few hours from her schedule for the function. So, we asked Irani not to show up. They both are big personalities and we didn’t want either to snatch the spotlight from the other person,” explained the spokesperson.
She went on to highlight that Mahajan was the preferred choice for the Samiti to be present at the event, since the Lok Sabha speaker had been attending Samiti’s shakhas since childhood.
“You must have heard her speak inside. She has been associated with the Rashtra Sevika Samiti since childhood,” said the spokesperson.
The spokesperson from Rashtra Sevika Samiti wouldn’t say if Lok Sabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan had requested the Samiti leadership to cancel Irani’s appearance. “I can’t comment on that,” she said
The spokesperson wouldn’t say if Mahajan had requested the Samiti leadership to cancel Irani’s appearance. “I can’t comment on that,” she said.
One of the more prominent faces of the BJP at the time of the party’s electoral triumph in 2014, Irani has found herself being slowly relegated to secondary roles after a series of reported spats with both RSS and BJP leaders.
She was moved from the high-profile Human Resources Development (HRD) ministry to Information and Broadcasting (I&B) in 2016. In a cabinet reshuffle earlier this year, she was divested of her I&B portfolio as well, leaving her with just the textiles ministry.
According to a report in the Economic Times, Irani has had spats with senior leaders like union ministers JP Nadda, Arun Jaitley, vice-president Venkaiah Naidu and even BJP’s powerful general secretary Ram Madhav, known to be the channel between the BJP and RSS.
Mahajan, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Parliamentarian from Indore, noted during her keynote address, on “finding harmony in multiple dimensions in women’s lives,” that the Samiti was to be credited for shaping her political views which ultimately won her favour with the BJP.
“Kelkar mausi always used to emphasise the role of women in shaping the society. Women have to be active participants in politics. They have to balance their role as a homemaker and social worker,” said Mahajan.
The Rashtra Sevika Samiti was founded by Lakshmi Kelkar in 1936 as an ideological parallel to the RSS. Kelkar is believed to have founded the organisation after securing blessings from RSS founder KB Hedgewar. It claims to be largest women’s organisation in India.