New Delhi, May 28 (PTI): The controversy over the educational qualifications of human resources development minister Smriti Irani snowballed on Wednesday with the Bharatiya Janata Party and some ministers hitting back with barbs aimed at Congress president Sonia Gandhi, and Sonia’s own party appearing to be divided.
The minister herself refused to comment on the row, which was sparked by Madhu Kishwar, a women’s rights activists, who had tweeted that the HRD ministry should not be a saddled with a “lightweight”, referring to Smriti as a “mere Class 12 pass”.
On Tuesday, Congress leader Ajay Maken had also taken a jibe at Irani's educational qualification.
”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,” he had tweeted yesterday.
Kishwar, a self-confessed admirer of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, had said education and research in India is in a mess and somebody with a vision is needed for the job.
She had been critical of Modi for making Irani the HRD Minister.
”HRD needs a head who can steer dexterously between Left and Right extremists in academia to define sensible course unfettered by partisan agendas,” she had said on Twitter.
Slamming the Congress, Union Minister Uma Bharti questioned the educational qualification of its party president Sonia Gandhi.
”I want to ask them (Congress) what are the educational qualifications of Sonia Gandhi, because she has headed the UPA and gave directions to the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The entire UPA government would stand with folded hands outside her door. So Sonia Gandhi, who ran the UPA government, what are her qualifications,” Bharti asked.
Another minister, Santosh Gangwar, said he wants to ask Congress how educated was its president Sonia Gandhi.
Joining issue, BJP spokesperson Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said Congress leaders should shed their “arrogance” after the party's defeat in the Lok Sabha polls and do some introspection.
He said the party was defeated in elections because of the ”arrogance” of Congress leaders but they are still not ready to leave their arrogance.
”Congress leaders should now stop using abusive words against BJP leaders. Congress should respect the mandate of the people,” he said.
Bharti said Congress had raised questions about her candidature from Jhansi in the past by saying that she belonged to Madhya Pradesh and was making a similar mistake in this case.
”First the Congress should show certificates of Sonia Gandhi to show how educated she is and from where. Only then they can ask such questions (about Irani),” Bharati said.
She said that it was not necessary that a health minister should be a doctor but what matters is how a person works.
”Sonia Gandhi should tell about her certificates or else stop Congress from making such comments,” she demanded.
However, senior Congress leader Manish Tewari had a different take on the issue when he said any attack on the government should be on substance and not superficials.
He said such remarks used to emanate from the BJP in the early 2000s but had got decisively buried after UPA's two successive victories under her leadership.
”It anybody is attempting to question the political sagacity of Sonia Gandhi, I think possibly they are blowing a trumpet which nobody is interested in,” Tewari said.
However, to a question on the Irani controversy, Tewari felt that criticism of the government should be policy based rather than personality centric.