Poll Paper Education Entries 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 Cabinet 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. Because she was heading the UPA government and giving directions to former 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 the qualifications of Smriti Irani,” Bharti said as she took charge as the Minister of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation.
Bharti said she “is hurt” over the controversy. Her junior minister Santosh Gangwar also questioned Sonia’s qualification.
The controversy was triggered by rights activist Madhu Kishwar and later Congress leader Ajay Maken jumped into it.
“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 said on twitter on Tuesday. Kishwar continued attacking Irani on Wednesday and said the HRD Ministry needs a head who can steer it dextrously between Left and Right extremists in academia to define a sensible course unfettered by partisan agendas. “Smriti Irani’s appointment’s not the only one 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 tweeted.
The controversy took a new twist after it was found that Irani’s affidavits in 2009 and 2014 have contradictory details about her qualification.
While contesting the 2004 elections from Chandni Chowk in Delhi, Smriti Irani had claimed that she had a Bachelor of Arts degree from Delhi University (School of Correspondence)-1996. In her 2014 affidavit from Amethi, Irani said she has a Bachelor of Commerce Part-1 degree from the School of Open Learning (Correspondence), Delhi University-1994. Her affidavit submitted for the polls in Rajya Sabha tallies with the recent one she submitted for contesting in the just-concluded Lok Sabha polls.
Pouncing on this new 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 HRD. It is not about an individual, but an institution which has been headed by eminent scholars, from Maulana Azad to Murli Manohar Joshi”.
However, there were differing views within the Congress on the issue. Former I&B Minister Manish Tewari, to a question on the Irani controversy, felt that criticism of the government should be policy based rather than personality centric.
BJP spokesperson 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 behind and have been using abusive words against BJP leaders.