HRD Minister Smriti Irani (file photo: Hindustan Times)
The controversy in May over the educational qualifications of Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani was reignited on Saturday after she claimed she also has a degree from Yale University in the U.S.
“In that kitty of mine where people call me ‘anpad' (illiterate), I do have a degree from Yale University as well, which I can bring out and show how Yale celebrated my leadership capacities,” Irani said in response to a question at the India Today Woman Summit 2014.
In May, after being sworn in as the HRD minister in the new Modi administration – thereby being put in charge of India’s educational system – Irani had come under attack from the opposition Congress party for not being a graduate herself.
"What a Cabinet of Modi. HRD Minister (Looking after education) Smriti Irani is not even a graduate!" senior Congress leader Ajay Maken had tweeted at the time.
The minister replied that she should be judged by her performance as a minister, not by her educational credentials. Yet Irani’s case was not helped by allegedly contradictory educational details filed by her in the 2004 and 2014 election poll affidavits.
In 2004 when she had contested the Chandni Chowk seat, Irani had declared that she had a 1996 Bachelor of Arts degree from the School of Correspondence in Delhi University. But 10 years later, when standing in the 2014 elections from Amethi, Irani said she had a 1994 Bachelor of Commerce degree.
Since the controversy erupted in May, Irani has not specified which degree she actually did have.
So after addressing the Saturday event on “A World of Change Why Women Need to Speak Up, Be Heard”, Irani was once again pressed about her degree. That is when she came out with an entirely new explanation, that of possessing a “degree” from Yale.
Irani did not provide any details of her Yale “degree”, but media reports indicate that she was one of the 11 Indian members of Parliament who went to Yale in June last year for a six-day leadership program. The participants included MPs from five national and regional political parties in India.
During the program, Yale faculty covered India’s election, prospects for Afghanistan and Pakistan after the U.S. military withdrawal in 2014, as well the impact of China’s political and economic transition.
On Saturday, when Irani was asked point-blank which of her poll affidavits was correct she told the questioner to approach the courts.
“Please go and file a PIL (public interest litigation) against me in court, I shall give you your answer in court to settle this once and for all,” the minister reportedly said.
Reacting to her statement, Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi tweeted: “It’s NOT about the need of educational qualifications for a minister. It’s about her honesty, integrity and truthfulness.”