Smriti Irani is an Indian politician and former model, television actress and producer. She represents the Bharatiya Janata Party and is the incumbent Minister of Human Resource Development of Government of India.
Smriti was born in Delhi to a family of Punjabi–Bengali background and was eldest amongst three sisters. Before finding modelling stardom, she worked as a waitress in McDonald's. She studied upto class 12 at Holy Child Auxilium School and discontinued further education.
Irani was the finalist of the beauty pageant Miss India 1998. In 2000, she made her debut with TV series Aatish and Hum Hain Kal Aaj Kal Aur Kal, both aired on Star Plus. In mid-2000, Irani bagged the lead role of Tulsi Virani in Ekta Kapoor's production Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi on Star Plus. She holds the record of winning five consecutive Indian Television Academy Awards for Best Actress (Popular), four Indian Telly Awards, eight Star Parivaar Awards. Irani had a fallout with the producer Ekta Kapoor and she left the show in June 2007 and was replaced by Gautami Kapoor. She made her comeback in May 2008 in a special episode. At 6th Star Parivaar Awards, 2008, she was given Special recognition and was declared as The Base of Star Parivaar with a special trophy awarded to her for her immense contribution to the show and the channel.
In 2001, she also played the mythological character Sita in Zee TV's Ramayan. In 2006, Irani co-produced the show Thodi Si Zameen Thoda Sa Aasmaan under her banner Ugraya Entertainment and Balaji Telefilms. She also played the lead role of Uma in it. In 2007, she produced the TV serial Virrudh for Sony TV and also portrayed the lead character of Vasudha in it. She also produced Mere Apne for 9X and portrayed the protagonist alongside Vinod Khanna. She also acted in a supporting role in Zee TV's Teen Bahuraaniyaan.
In 2008, Smriti along with Sakshi Tanwar hosted the show Yeh Hai Jalwa, a dance based reality show featuring celebrities along with their troops on 9X. In the same year she also produced another show on Zee TV, Waaris which ended in 2009. In 2009, she came in a comedy show Maniben.com, aired on SAB TV. She also co-produced the show in collaboration with Contiloe Entertainment. In 2012, she also worked in Bengali movie Amrita.
Irani joined the Bharatiya Janata Party in 2003. She became vice-president of the Maharashtra Youth Wing in 2004. In the 2004 general elections for the 14th Lok Sabha, she contested unsuccessfully against Kapil Sibal from the Chandni Chowk constituency in Delhi. She was nominated as executive member of the central committee of the BJP. In December 2004, Irani threatened to "fast unto death" until then Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi resigned, blaming him for BJP's electoral losses. However she later retracted this demand after BJP's central leadership threatened to take action against her. In May 2009, Irani while campaigning for Vijay Goel's candidature in New Delhi, voiced her concerns about the safety of women in the capital. She advocated capital punishment for rapists as a deterrent.
In early 2010, Irani was appointed as the National Secretary of BJP and on 24 June, she was appointed as All India President of the BJP's women's wing, BJP Mahila Morcha. In August 2011, she was sworn in as a Member of Parliament from Gujarat to the Rajya Sabha.
Irani contested the 2014 general elections against Rahul Gandhi in Amethi, Uttar Pradesh. She lost the election by a margin of 1.07 lakh votes. However, she gave a tough fight to Rahul Gandhi who managed to win by only third of his margin compared to all previous elections. On 26 May 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made her the Minister of Human Resource Development in his cabinet. At 38, she is the youngest member of the cabinet. She said that she would seek to increase spending on Higher education to 6% of the GDP from the present 3.8%.
Shortly after assuming the HRD Ministry's office, Smriti Irani's educational qualifications became a talking point. Ajay Maken pointed out that Smriti Irani wasn't qualified enough to lead the HRD Ministry. However, people took to social media platforms to voice their support for Smriti Irani at being a capable and an honest minister. Smriti Irani responded by requesting her doubters to judge her based on her work. People also think that Murli Manohar Joshi would have been a better choice for HRD Ministry rather then Smriti Irani, who has not won a single election in her political carrier.
In 2001, Smriti married Zubin Irani, a Zoroastrian. In the same year, the couple had their first child, a son named Zohr. In September 2003, the couple had their second child, a daughter named Zoish. Smriti is also a stepmother to Shanelle who is Zubin Irani's daughter from his previous marriage with coordinator and former beauty contestant Mona Irani. Smriti runs an organization, "People for Change" which provides drinking water to the poor in India’s remote areas.