Two affidavits filed by HRD minister Smriti Irani — one for the 2004 and the second for 2014 Lok Sabha elections — have landed her in a soup. Earlier, the Congress had questioned her abilities to handle a heavyweight ministry such as human resources development because she's just "12th pass".
The BJP has come out in her support but the government of India has so far not responded. Irani has herself not reacted to the allegations that she gave "mis-statements" while filing for the 2004 and 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
In 2004, Irani had submitted, "BA 1996 Delhi University (School of Correspondence)". In 2014, her affidavit reads: "Bachelor of Commerce Part-1, School of Open Learning (Correspondence), University of Delhi, 1994".
Irani passed the All India Senior Secondary School (Class 12) Examination of the CBSE from Holy Child Auxillium School, Vasant Vihar, Delhi, in 1991. On Tuesday, not two days after she was appointed HRD minister, Irani was told to stand up in Class and answer if she was "fit" to be HRD minister.
"In the 2014 affidavit, it is specified that it is only BA Part I and that only means one year and not a full degree. So, 2004 affidavit has a mis-statement. We do not know whether the 2014 is a mis-statement or the 2004 one is a mis-statement, but both cannot be true. That is the main issue," Congress spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi said in a statement. "Having or not having educational qualification, whether it is 5th class, 8th class pass, PhD or MA was not the issue. Today, the most important first issue is the mis-statement on affidavit. It is a fraud and has criminal implications."
Overnight on Monday, the day Irani took charge of the HRD ministry, she was told to stand up in class and answer if she was "fit" to be the HRD minister. Congress' "head of communication" Ajay Maken tweeted, "What a Cabinet of Modi? HRD Minister (looking after education) Smriti Irani is not even a graduate! Look at her affidavit at the ECI site- page 11!"
Then, Madhu Kishwar, founder-editor of Manushi, a journal on women, questioned Modi's choice for HRD minister in a series of tweets: ...@narendramodi HRD crucial ministry deserving heavy weight who can deal with CMs,VCs,research institutions--mostly citadels of left extremism ...@narendramodi Smriti Irani merely class 12 pass. Went to bcm fashion model on to tv serial bahu. Is this qualification enf 4 India's Education Minister?
Getting flak from NaMo supporters, Kishwar warned them not to "browbeat her into silence". She also picked on Maken and turned her ire on him. But there was no fire in the ire.
Smriti found support from the BJP and its supporters. Journalist Swapan Dasgupta latched on to Tagore to qualify Irani for the post of HRD minister.
The focus also shifted to Congress president Sonia Gandhi. "I want to ask Sonia Gandhi what is her qualification because she was heading the UPA Government, she was giving directions to the Government. I want to see her certificate, how much she is qualified. Then Congress people have the right to ask the qualifications of Smriti Irani," said Uma Bharati, Union Minister for water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation.
Curiously enough, former I&B minister Manish Tewari came to Irani's rescue, saying, "There is a difference in education, intelligence and literacy. This distinction should be kept in mind. If the government has to be criticised, it should be on issues and not superficiality."
Minster for law Ravi Shankar Prasad, who is also telecom minister, said: "People have seen Smriti Irani in Parliament. They have seen her leadership. The PM has given her the responsibility because of her merit... If such a comment has come from the Congress then it is very unfortunate and I think the Congress should introspect before making such comments."
But the controversy doesn't appear like it will die out anytime soon.