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Smriti claims Yale degree

Smriti Irani

New Delhi, Aug. 10 (PTI): HRD minister Smriti Irani has claimed she has a “degree from Yale University as well”, stoking the controversy over her qualifications.

The 38-year-old BJP leader made the remark at the India Today Woman Summit, 2014, here yesterday. “In that kitty of mine where people call me anpadh (illiterate), I do have a degree from Yale University as well which I can bring out and show how Yale celebrated my leadership capacities,” she said, asked by a questioner to clear the “mystery” over her qualifications.

Smriti was at the centre of a controversy soon after she was sworn in a member of the Narendra Modi government in late May, accused of making contradictory declarations on her qualifications in her 2004 and 2014 poll papers.

Yesterday, she suggested the row was a ploy to distract her from her job. “Extraneous circumstances are being created so that I deviate my concentration from what my goals are,” the youngest minister in the Narendra Modi government said.

Smriti insisted, like she has since the brouhaha erupted over two months ago, that she should be judged from what she delivers as a minister, daring the questioner to file a PIL if he wanted to know the truth about her qualifications.

“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,” she said, asked about the apparent discrepancies in the 2004 and 2014 papers. While the first seems to suggest she was a graduate, the second indicates otherwise.

Yesterday, Smriti did not explain what the Yale degree was but the Rajya Sabha member was part of a group of MPs who did a crash course — a six-day leadership programme — at the Ivy League institution last year. The 11 MPs went there on June 19, 2013, for the course that involved interactions with the Yale faculty.

The 2013 program was held in partnership with the Governance and Public Policy Initiative of the Centre for Policy Research, a Delhi think tank. Over 80 MPs have participated since the program started eight years ago.

Last year, the visiting MPs were from five parties, including the BJP, Telugu Desam, Congress, Trinamul and the Shiv Sena. The dominant themes were elections in India, prospects for Afghanistan and Pakistan after the US military withdrawal and the implications of political and economic transitions in China.

Reacting to Smriti’s latest claim, the Congress asked today why did she not mention the degree in her poll affidavit. “And our HRD minister forgot to mention her Yale degree in her affidavit this time. But all her affidavits have had different degrees, sigh,” Priyanka Chaturvedi, a party spokesperson, tweeted.

“I repeat again. It’s NOT about the need of educational qualifications for a minister. It’s about her honesty, integrity and truthfulness,” Chaturvedi added.

As a candidate in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections from the Chandni Chowk seat in Delhi, Smriti had declared she had a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree. “B.A. 1996 Delhi University (School of Correspondence),” she had written in the column which seeks details of university education and the year in which the course was completed.

In the same column of the affidavit filed in the 2014 elections from Amethi which she lost to Rahul Gandhi, Smriti had said: “Bachelor of Commerce Part-1, School of Open Learning (Correspondence), University of Delhi-1994”.