Irani hits back after Cong accuses her of "falsifying" degree, says will work for Amethi
New Delhi, Apr 12: The row over Smriti Irani's academic degree was reignited on Friday with the Congress using her poll affidavit to the EC to allege that the Union minister had "falsified records" of her educational qualifications, and demanded her disqualification for submitting "contradictory affidavits".
Irani hit back at the Congress over its allegations, saying she will continue to work hard for Amethi no matter what the opposition party leaders say. Accusing Irani of being a "serial liar", Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi, at a press conference, also sang the title track of the popular soap opera 'Kyuki saas bhi Kabhi bahu thi' by changing the lyrics to "qualification ke roop badalte hain...(qualification keeps changing)".
Irani, an actor-turned-politician, essayed the lead role in 'Kyuki saas bhi Kabhi bahu thi' (Because a mother-in-law was once a daughter-in-law too), which became very popular. Congress' sharp attack came a day after the BJP candidate from Amethi Lok Sabha seat submitted to the Election Commission (EC) that she did not complete her graduation from Delhi University.
Irani is contesting against Congress president Rahul Gandhi. A Congress delegation comprising Ahmed Patel, K C Venugopal, Jairam Ramesh, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Randeep Surjewala and Shaktisinh Gohil, made several representations to the EC, including over Irani's "contradictory affidavits" on her educational qualifications. The opposition party demanded that she should be disqualified from contesting.
Reacting to Congress' stinging attack, Irani said,"I have a message for them... as much as you try, I will work for Amethi against the Congress. No matter what you say, the more you harass me, the harder I'll work." In its memorandum to the EC, the Congress requested for urgent and necessary intervention against "deliberate, corrupt and wilful falsification" of facts by Irani in multiple election affidavits.
The party asked the EC to initiate proceedings against Irani for the filing of a "false affidavit, which attracts up to six months’'imprisonment, and/or a fine". "Ek mantri bhi kabhi graduate thi (a minister was also a graduate once), this is a new film and series running in the country," Surjewala told reporters outside the EC.
"The question is not how educated you are. It is about misleading the public and lying to the democratic system of the country...Neither we know about the PM's degree, nor do we know about the degree of his favourite minister," he said. Chaturvedi, at the press conference, said Irani should step down and also be disqualified from contesting the polls for misleading the public through her affidavits on educational qualification. "Union Minister Smriti Irani, who had been rubbishing the Opposition's claim that she is not a graduate, yesterday accepted that she enrolled for an undergraduate course in Delhi University but did not complete it," Chaturvedi said. "We have no issue with the fact that Smriti Irani is not a graduate. The issue here is that she has lied repeatedly on oath and to the courts. People of India will see through these lies and give a befitting political reply to a 'serial liar'!" she said. "It is clear that she has not only falsified records but has submitted contradictory affidavits to the EC for which she is guilty of offence under Section 125A read with Section 33 of the Representation of Peoples Act", Chaturvedi alleged. "She is also guilty of hiding information in the Delhi University and misusing her influence and power as a Union Minister. Constitutionally, legally and morally, it would be best if she steps down as the Union minister and by publicly accepting these lies," she said. She also listed the various affidavits submitted by Irani since 2004 to allege that there is "contradiction and falsification of educational qualifications". In 2004, Irani submitted an affidavit to the EC as the Lok Sabha candidate from Chandni Chowk here maintaining her educational qualification as Bachelor of Arts in 1996 from Delhi University, School of Correspondence, Chaturvedi said.
Irani in 2011 in her affidavit to ECI as Rajya Sabha candidate from Gujarat submitted that her educational qualification was B.Com. Part-I in 1994 from Delhi University, School of Correspondence, she added. Then in 2014, Irani in her affidavit to ECI as Lok Sabha candidate from Amethi, submitted that her educational qualification as B.Com. Part-I in 1994 from School of Open Learning, Delhi University. Chaturvedi said Irani was also quoted at a media event in August 2014 as saying that she has a degree from the US' prestigious Yale University.
In her affidavit filed on Thursday during her nomination, Irani said she passed secondary school examination in 1991 and senior secondary school examination in 1993. She has said she did not complete her Bachelor of Commerce, a three-year degree course, from Delhi University's School of Open Learning in 1994.
Singhvi, at a separate press conference, said the doors of courts are open for the Congress. "The one who talks so big should look within and introspect about what the truth is. Everyday she makes use of such bad words, but does not look within and introspect. I feel the people will analyse and ascertain themselves about the degree of such a person and the courts will determine later," he said.