Education Entries in LS Papers Add Grist to Row Over Smriti’s Qualification
NEW DELHI: A day after the Congress raised the issue of HRD Minister Smriti Irani’s educational qualifications, Union Minister Uma Bharti hit back saying she would first want to know the educational qualification of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi.
“I want to ask about the educational qualifications of Sonia Gandhi. When she was heading the UPA government and giving directions to the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the entire government would stand with folded hands. I want to see her certificate and see how qualified she is. Then the Congress people have the right to ask about Smriti Irani’s qualifications,” Bharti told reporters as she took charge as the Minister for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation.
Bharti said she is very “hurt” over the whole controversy. Her junior minister Santosh Gangwar also questioned Gandhi’s qualification.
The controversy escalated when women’s rights activist Madhu Kishwar and later Congress Leader Ajay Maken jumped into it. Irani denied commenting on the issue.
“What a Cabinet of Modi? HRD Minister (Looking after Education) Smriti Irani is not even a graduate! Look at her affidavit at ECI,” Maken had twitted on Tuesday.
Kishwar continued attacking Irani on Wednesday also, saying the HRD needs a head who can steer dexterously between left and right extremists in academia to define a sensible course unfettered by partisan agendas.
“Smriti Irani’s appointment is not only disappointing or controversial, but its like an avoidable grahna (blot) on a bright and shining rising sun. My sentiments (on Irani) echoed with great fervour within BJP circles. BJP insiders saying much harsher things than me,” Kishwar had tweeted.
The controversy took a twist after it was found that Irani’s affidavits in 2009 and 2014 showed conflicting details about her qualification.
While contesting in the 2004 elections from Chandni Chowk in Delhi, Irani had claimed that she had a Bachelor of Arts degree from Delhi University (School of Correspondence), 1996.
In 2014, in an affidavit from Amethi, Irani said she was a Commerce Part-1 graduate from the School of Open Learning (Correspondence), Delhi University, 1994. Her affidavit submitted for the Rajya Sabha elections, of which she’s a member now, tallies with the recent one she submitted for contesting the just-concluded Lok Sabha polls.
Pouncing on this discrepancy, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said,“It is a question of mis-statement in affidavits that we’re raising.” Mindful of the fact that the issue was boomeranging, Singhvi clarified that his party raised the issue in the first place as “the ministry concerned is Human Resource Development. It is not about an individual, but an institution which has been headed by eminent scholars like Maulana Azad to Murli Manohar Joshi”.
However, there was a division within the Congress on pursuing the Irani row.
Former Information & Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari openly criticised Maken, saying, “The (NDA) government should be taken up on substantial and not superficial issues.”
BJPspokesperson Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said Congress leaders should shed their “arrogance” after the party’s defeat in the polls and introspect. “But they are still not ready to leave their arrogance and have been using abusive words against BJP leaders,” he said.