The way Dr. Subramanian Swamy roasted Prakash Raj for his absurd rants, and demolished his confused narrative, point by point, it was the stuff of the legends. Looks like Kamal Haasan didn’t keep this in mind, as he challenged Smriti Irani to a debate at the Republic Summit 2018. In a long but comprehensive debate, that centered around the topic ‘What is the narrative for 2019?’ the debate was conducted by fiery journalist Arnab Goswami.
From the start, Smriti Irani looked like she had taken her lessons really well from the debate from Subramanian Swamy’s showdown with Prakash Raj. She began with a wisecrack on Kamal Haasan’s comment, as she said, “If 2019 is a sign of things to come, ladies and gentlemen, let it be said, Kamal Haasan would be sitting on the right today” in a clear attack on the ideological clash between the left wing and the right wing ideologies.
To begin with, Smriti Irani went hammer and tongs after Kamal Haasan when he accused her party of promoting hyper-nationalism. To quote her address, “Why should an Indian be apologetic about being a patriotic Indian or loving their country, or loving their flag? Why would you compel me then to define my sense of nationalism and then divide us by saying…your sense of nationalism is communal, my sense of nationalism is more secular?”
She further added, “I think this is interesting to note, when we talk of a surging India, at the same time, there are many an Indian, who are told, it isn’t cool to be patriotic,……Why would you shed a tear when the national anthem is played? The best way to celebrate the democracy [in the opinion of left liberals] would be to say ‘Bharat Tukde Honge Honge’, and I disagree with it? Why should I be apologetic about it?”
Surprised by her defiance, Kamal Haasan tried to shift the goalpost by raising the issue of ‘forced nationalism’, where ‘we’re compelled to listen to the national anthem in a cinema hall’, and that ‘cinema hall is not a place to test patriotism.’
However, Smriti Irani was no pushover, as she replied with an effective retort, “I don’t think sir, my apologies, that the national anthem is played to test somebody’s patriotism…..In fact, the one thing that we have in common, is the goosebumps that we get when Jana Gana Mana is played.”
It was here that the debate took an interesting turn. Kamal Haasan then invoked the example of Jawaharlal Nehru, who allegedly refused to accept the playing of the national anthem when he arrived late for a function, in order to show how much BJP forces nationalism on people.
Smriti Irani in her reply brought Kamal out of his hallucinations with this brilliant wisecrack, “Well not much has changed sir, as far as segment of our polity goes”, in a direct attack against the Congress leaders, who directed the followers not to say ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ when they passed through the Muslim dominated communities during the Rajasthan elections.
When Kamal Haasan raised his voice on the attempt to bring religious hatred, Smriti Irani shot back at him with the following, “When you say there is a deliberate attempt to divide, so when the PM or for that matter the Government says, let us build a road or ensure electricity in each home, do you think the electrical wire asks the home if it has Hindu or Muslim residents?”
She also invoked the example of NDA electing the charismatic technocrat APJ Abdul Kalam being as the President “not on the basis of his religious identity, but on the basis of his contributions as an Indian.” When Kamal Haasan accused her of speaking on behalf of BJP, she retorted with a brutal jibe at Rahul Gandhi as she said, “Yes sir I do, and I don’t need tuitions for that as with certain political people, and I don’t work with permission slips.”
Interestingly, when interrogated on the issue of whether Kamal Haasan stood by his accusations of Hindu extremism, he replied that it was a Tamilian column that was misinterpreted at the behest of some journals with vested interests.
However, when Smriti Irani gave an effective rebuttal to the same, saying that such nomenclature is mostly election oriented, the stuttering in Haasan’s speech, apart from the hesitation writ large on the face, was reason enough to prove that he was at a loss of words on the same issue.
Capitalizing on her confident stand, Arnab Goswami himself asked Kamal Haasan as to whether he would use the same word [Teevravadam is the Tamilian word apparently, as quoted, for extremism] for those who shouted anti India slogans in JNU, or who spread the hoax of Hindu terror in the Kathua rape case.
Likewise, when Kamal Haasan raised the issue of mob lynchings and the incessant encounters of criminals, especially in the context of the Naxalism, Smriti gave a witty retort as she said, “You cannot have a dialogue with the gun on your head.”
At a time, when despite the murderous attacks on the paramilitary forces by the bloodthirsty Naxals, the incumbent CM of Chattisgarh still believes in the laughable concept of holding talks, this is something that every Indian citizen should understand and follow by heart.
In fact, Arnab Goswami got the lesson of his life, when he tried to corner Smriti Irani over the issue of women empowerment not being uniform in cases of Triple Talaq and Sabrimala. She pulled back another jibe, this time directed at Arnab, as she proclaimed, “Equality cannot be subservient to secularism.” Going by Arnab’s expressions, it looks like he had a tough taste of his own medicine.
To be honest, despite the barrage of accusations and misinformation leveled on the BJP government, it is really commendable that Smriti Irani has stood resolute to the same, and has left no stone unturned in order to put forward the progressive narrative of the BJP led NDA government.
We hope that her government gets reelected in 2019 with a bigger mandate than before and also hope that Kamal Haasan gets restored to sanity, before he goes completely bonkers most of the villainous characters his contemporary Prakash Raj has played in Hindi films. We hope his ego is not hurt like Jaikant Shikre of ‘Singham.’