Imarti Devi, the Women and Child Development minister in Madhya Pradesh has emerged as one of the most talked-about candidate in bypolls from Dabra in Gwalior.
Imarti Devi not only put herself in trouble with her remarks in poll speeches but also gave tough time to her party, BJP as well.
After the ‘item’ remark from former CM and Congress state chief Kamal Nath in Dabra, the state minister hit the national headlines and successfully managed to turn the tide against Kamal Nath over women’s dignity.
Congress which was on the front foot against the BJP and Jyotiraditya Scindia over ‘gaddari’ slogan, suddenly found itself clueless after the Kamal Nath referred to the Imrati Devi as ‘item’, receiving criticism across partylines with even Rahul Gandhi slamming the senior leader for his distasteful remarks.
But then, a video surfaced on social media in which Imarti Devi makes a contentious remark against Nath’s family. She was criticised for using the ‘item’ word for Nath’s sister and late mother.
The state minister drew into controversy once again on Friday evening, when after a heated discussion with the locals in Dabra region, she was seen walking away saying “Party Jaye Bhaad Me (Let the party go to hell) on Friday evening.
“Listen! Where Imarti Devi will stand, whether entire Hindustan won’t stand? Imarti Devi is fighting for you along with those from Dabra. Party Jaye Bhad me (Let the party go to hell),” she was heard saying.
Later she tried clarifying the statement saying she was trying to tell farmers that she is the daughter of farmers and labourers and I am with them. As someone asked whether I will sit on dharna with them, one person shouted ‘Congress Zindabad’ and I said ‘Bhad Me Jaye Aisi Party’ (Let the party go to hell).
The minister identified herself as Rani Laxmibai and warned Kamal Nath that she won’t spare him for the insult on Saturday. “If Rahul Gandhi comes to Dabra without sacking Kamal Nath from the party I will reach the stage and ask him how he could tolerate such a man in his party,” Imarti Devi said yesterday.
The BJP leader said that she made up her mind to leave Congress after CM Kamal Nath declined to issue the budget for a canal project in her parched constituency. “I had served the Congress for 20 years and when it came to power, public also wanted me to get them facilities and budget,” she said speaking to a regional news channel.
“CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan on the other hand has offered schemes worth Rs 650 crore to Dabra”, said added.
Imrati Devi, a staunch loyalist of Jyotiraditya Scindia, never hesitates in exhibiting her deeply-rooted adulation for the ‘Maharaj’. She is known with statements like ‘Ready to Jump into the well for Scindia and ‘Could clean any place with jhadu (broom) if Scindia wants me to do so” in praise of Congress turncoat.
As the bypoll campaigning picked up, Imarti Devi was making headlines with one reason or the another. First Suresh Raje, the Congress candidate made an objectionable remark asking why why her husband never remains visible with her at public functions. After an outcry, Raje had regretted the comment.
Later Imarti Devi had courted controversy in a poll meeting when she said that the state government can ask collectors for the seat and can get it too. She later said that she was referring to BJP only requiring nine seats for majority mark and Congress needed all the 28 seats.
The BJP candidate never fails to remain in controversy. After the dust was settling in on one controversy she raised another with a claim that CM Shivraj and Jyotiraditya Scindia have promised her to appoint as the Deputy Chief Minister if she wins with a landslide margin. The BJP was left clueless and said that it was her confident declaration and snubbed it as translation of public’s aspiration into her words.
However, a maverick of sorts, Imarti Devi had came up with another statement that she will continue to remain a minister even if she loses, prompting Congress to allege that the minister had realised that she was set to lose.
The state minister, also didn’t spare Covid-19 virus. When asked recently why she avoided putting on a face mask, she candidly said that Imarti Devi was born amid mud and cowdung so no virus could dare to roam around her. Meanwhile after drawing flak for bizarre remark, she had started putting on a facial mask.
One of her recent speeches was laced with casteist colour when she exhorted locals to identify them as Jatavs of Dabra wherever they go and knowing that they belong to minister’s town Dabra, none will say anything to them ever. As a controversy grew over her casteist remarks, Scindia had clarified that he and BJP leaders don’t believe in casteism and people of every caste, creed and faith are revered for them.
As Women and Child Development minister, Imarti Devi has proposed introduction of eggs twice in Aganwadis for better nutrition, and faced sizable criticism from both BJP and Congress on both the occasions.
She identifies herself as the daughter in law of Dabra and has an interesting personal journey from being a farm labourer to a cabinet minister in the MP government.
In June this year, an audio clip had gone viral in which an old Congress supporter Dharmendra Baghel was talking to the minister on phone about defunct handpump and dysfunctional DP in his village. Imarti Devi suddenly got agitated the threatened the Congress leader.
Later, she dismissed the audio tape as fake claiming that she doesn’t get angry, otherwise she couldn’t have won four times.
On the Republic Day in 2019, she could not read out the speech and handed it to the collector though she claims that she has passed out the senior secondary examination. Reading out a few lines with difficulty, she handed over the mic to the collector to complete it. “I was unwell for two days so I could not prepare,” said Imarti Devi after the incident saying ‘it happens, no issues.’
The minister received flak for on the issue after people questioned her eligibility for being a politician.
Imarti Devi has been MLA for three times and contested Lok Sabha poll from Bhind in 2014 but failed to win.
Devi, who had been a member of the Congress for nearly 23 years, is a native of Charbara village in Gwalior's Dabra, from where she has been a three-time MLA. Her husband Puran Singh Suman worked as labourers on farms in the area during their early days.
Devi had joined politics in 1990s and was appointed senior vice president in the Indian Youth Congress in 1997. She was a member of district panchayat between 2004 and 2009 and in 2005, was appointed as head of Dabra Congress. She was also member of Library committee in assembly, was patron of SC/ST Raksha Sangh and member of Mahila evam Bal Kalyan Samiti in the past.
She might lose or win in bypoll but the minister will long be remembered for her controversies during the bypolls and her political career as well.