HRD minister Smriti Irani's educational qualifications have been in the spotlight since the elections, but it has never taken a controversial turn as it has from Saturday.
Soon after the results of Lok Sabha elections were announced on 16 May, it had come to light that Irani had made contradictory declarations while contesting the parliamentary elections in 2004 and 2014.
Irani had declared that she holds a Bachelor of Art degree when she was a candidate in 2004 elections from Chandni Chowk, Delhi. However, in 2014 elections from Amethi, Irani had claimed to hold a Bachelor's degree in Commerce Part-1 via correspondence under the University of Delhi.
On 27 May, All India Congress Committee general secretary Ajay Maken's 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!" gave it wide public attention.
While attending the India Today Woman Summit 2014, Irani, 38, was pressed by Rahul Kanwal, Managing Editor of TV Today to clear the mystery over her educational degrees. India Today reported that following Kanwal's questioning, on Saturday, Irani replied, "Please go and file a PIL against me in court, I shall give you your answer in court to settle this once and for all."
However, she could not refrain from saying, "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. Extraneous circumstances are being created so that I deviate my concentration from what my goals are."
— Rahul Kanwal (@rahulkanwal) August 9, 2014
She, however, did not elaborate on what the degree was, but she had attended a crash course at the Yale University along with a group of 10 other Indian MPs on topics ranging from the elections in India, prospects for Afghanistan and Pakistan after the US military withdrawal in 2014 and the implications of political and economic transitions in China.
The participants attended a six-day leadership programme starting from 19 June 2013 with Yale faculty at their New Haven campus in Connecticut. Since the creation of the programme eight years ago, it has been attented by at least 80 MPs from India.
Congress, yet again, has decided to take a front seat when it comes to ridiculing Irani's education.
"And our HRD minister forgot to mention her Yale degree in her affidavit this time. But all her affidavits have had different degrees, sigh," tweeted Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi. She further clarified, "I repeat again. It's NOT about the need of educational qualifications for a minister. It's about her honesty, integrity and truthfulness."
Irani has also responded to the allegations with the tweet, "Unfortunate that statement regarding my participation in a leadership program & certificate thereafter was misconstrued."
Irani's remark has even started trends on Twitter: #CelebDegree, #YoSmritiSoCertified and has made her the butt of many jokes.
"Inspired by #CelebDegree Raju Hirani is planing to make a sequel to Munnabhai MBBS... Smritiben Graduate #YoSmritiSoCertified," posted Sanjay Parmar.
"Modi should open Yale university branch in #India..Why should @smritiirani have all the fun?...#CelebDegree #YoSmritiSoCertified" asks Aman Limje.
A popularly sarcastic Twitter account that goes by the handle "God" tweeted: "Congratulations to Smriti Irani on graduating from Yale in the exact same amount of time it took Me to create the world."
— Richa Bhardwaj (@Riczb) August 10, 2014