The row over allotment of the human resource development ministry to "non-graduate" Smriti Irani continued Wednesday with the Congress alleging she had misrepresented facts in her election affidavits and the BJP defending the actor-turned-politician.Congress spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi also said that the party had not targeted Irani personally over her educational qualification but had raised questions about appropriateness of her being given the human resource development portfolio which had once been held by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and senior leaders like Karan Singh, V.P. Singh and Murli Manohar Joshi. The party asked the Bharatiya Janata Party to explain discrepancies in her affidavits.Singhvi said that in her affidavit when she was contesting the 2004 Lok Sabha election, Irani had mentioned her qualification as bachelors of arts (BA) which she passed in 1996 from Delhi University's school of correspondence, but in her affidavit for this year's Lok Sabha elections, mentioned her educational qualification as "Bachelor of Commerce Part I, School of Open Learning (Correspondence), University of Delhi - 1994."
"The first issue is misstatement. Was the affidavit wrong? Only BJP can explain it," he said.Incidentally, Irani lost both the Lok Sabha elections. She is at present a member of the Rajya Sabha.Answering queries, Singhvi said the party was not targeting Irani personally over her educational qualification, but noted that the human resource development minister heads the boards of premier institutions such as the IITs and IIMs.Party spokesman Ajay Maken -- whose tweet: "What a Cabinet of Modi? HRD minister (looking after education) Smriti Irani is not even a graduate! Look at her affidavit at ECI site pg 11!" -- sparked off the controversy, said that he agreed that no qualification was mandatory to be in public life but the party was raising the point about Irani's "appropriateness" for the post.
Congress leader Rashid Alvi told IANS that it was a "fact" that the 38-year-old Irani was not a graduate.He said there were only 10 ministers in the union cabinet who were either graduates or post-graduates."According to my information, there are only 10 graduates or post-graduates among the 23 cabinet ministers. It is unfortunate that the country is going to be run by such a cabinet," he said.He said though there was no basic qualification required to become a minister, the choice of ministers create an "image of the government".Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, however, brushed off the controversy, saying it was borne out of "frustration" within the Congress after its worst election performance with only 44 seats."The Congress lost the Lok Sabha polls because of its arrogance, and yet the party is showing no signs to remain humble," Naqvi told IANS.Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti too came out in defence of the BJP vice president."What is Sonia Gandhi's qualification?" she asked media persons, countering talk over Irani's apparently "inadequate" educational qualification to head the ministry.Activist and BJP sympathiser Madhu Kishwar described Irani's appointment as an avoidable "grahan" (eclipse)."Smriti Irani's appointment not the only one disappointing or controversial but it's like an avoidable grahan on a bright and shining rising sun!" she tweeted Wednesday.