HRD minister Smriti Irani was on Wednesday at the centre of a controversy over her educational qualifications after it emerged that she had made contradictory declarations when she contested Lok Sabha elections in 2004 and 2014.
The Congress, one of whose leaders struck a different note, escalated its attack while the BJP hit back asking answers from it about the educational qualifications of Sonia Gandhi.
Ever since, Madhu Kishwar, a women’s rights activist, raked up a controversy over the fact that Irani, just a 12th pass, has been made HRD minister the issue has only snowballed. The 38-year-old television actor-turned politician preferred to keep mum. She refused to comment when the media approached her.
There was more embarrassment for the BJP and the new government after it emerged that Irani had given contradictory declarations in her affidavits in 2004 and 2014 when she contested Lok Sabha election from two different constituencies.
As a candidate in 2004 elections from Chandni Chowk in Delhi, Irani had declared that she had a Bachelor of Arts degree. “B.A. 1996 Delhi University (School of Correspondence)”, she had written in the column which seeks details of University education and the year in which the course was completed.
In the same column of the affidavit filed in the 2014 elections from Amethi, Irani has said,”Bachelor of Commerce Part-1, School of Open Learning (Correspondence), University of Delhi-1994″.
In 2012, the Supreme Court had ruled that false disclosures in an affidavit can be a ground for rejection of a candidate’s nomination.
Latching on the issue, the Congress party said this was a mis-statement, distortion and a criminal offence which has electoral consequences. “We don’t know which is correct, 2004 or 2014? Both can’t be true,” party spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi told reporters.
When asked about Congress raising educational qualifications of ministers in a democracy, he said,”we had not raked it up and we are not trivializing it”.
To another query about Sonia Gandhi’s qualification, he shot back,”she is not a minister.”