HRD minister Smriti Irani
HRD minister Smriti Irani (Photo: PIB)PIB

The controversy stirred by senior Congress leader Ajay Maken's tweet, which ridiculed Human Resources Development minister Smriti Irani for not being a graduate, seems to be escalating.

Maken had tried to point out, through a series of tweets, how the new cabinet led by Narendra Modi is incompetent.

"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 (sic)!" one of Maken's tweets read. The post went viral and invited sharp reactions from the ruling party and the public alike.

Senior BJP leader Uma Bharti came to Irani's defence by hitting back at the Congress and questioning Sonia Gandhi's educational qualifications instead.

"I want to ask Madam Sonia Gandhi, what is her qualification?" Bharti asked, as the controversy seems to hint at a bitter rife, though the new government under Modi has only just begun to function.

Bharti, who is in charge of Water Resources and Ganga Rejuvenation, said: "Because she was heading the UPA government, she was giving direction to the government. I want to see her certificate, see how qualified she is. Then the Congress people have the right to ask about the qualification of Smriti Irani."

BJP spokesperson Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi also slammed Maken. "We want to advise Congress leaders that after country's people rejected them in Lok Sabha elections, they should now leave their arrogance behind and introspect," PTI quoted him.

"Congress leaders should now stop using abusive words against BJP leaders. Congress should respect the mandate of the people," Naqvi added.

Meanwhile, echoing the words of Bharti, fellow BJP leader Santosh Gangwar asked how educated the Congress president is.

"I want to ask Congress how educated is Sonia Gandhi," Gangwar stressed.

Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, at a briefing during Modi's first cabinet meeting, said: "It is unfortunate if such things are said about her. Smriti Irani speaks in Hindi and English in Parliament and Mr Modi has kept her qualifications in mind."

Irani was always expected to hold a key position in Modi's cabinet. Modi was sworn in a grand ceremony at the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan on Monday.

Some leaders drew attention for all the wrong reasons on Day 1 of Modi's new government. While Maken stirred up a controversy with his tweet about the new HRD minister's qualifications, Jitendra Singh, Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office, sparked another one by stating that he personally favoured doing away with Article 370, which gives special status to Jammu and Kashmir.

"The process of repealing Article 370 has started. We are speaking to the stakeholders," Singh said.