President Pranab silences HRD Minister Smriti Irani’s Move to appoint VC Post, the Minister continues to court controversy over educational qualifications!
Indian Affairs Delhi Bureau
Love her or hate her, but surely one cant ignore the dynamite HRD Minister of Narendra Modi led NDA Government at centre. Known for her close proximity with prime minister Modi, the former TV Actress often court controversy. This is the beauty of indian democracy that even in india justice is never denied & the long battle of Smriti’s real educational qualification be known to public.
IIT professor Jagdeesh Kumar was appointed as JNU vice-chancellor by President Pranab Mukherjee after he was selected from a panel of four names that also included scientist V S Chauhan, who was reported to be HRD Minister Smriti Irani’s preferred choice to lead the prestigious institute. According to sources, the HRD Ministry had sent four names to the President and Irani had conveyed her preference for Chauhan, a scientist working in the fields of genetic engineering and biotechnology and known for his contributions to the development of a vaccine for malaria.
He is also a member of the University Grants Commission (UGC) and has been given Padma Shri by the erstwhile UPA government. The President, however, appointed IIT-Delhi professor Kumar to the post of VC of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), ignoring Irani’s recommendation. The sources said there is no obligation on part of the President to go by the preference indicated by the ministry, but in most cases, this norm is followed. The panel of four also included academicians R N K Bamezai and Ramakrishna Ramaswamy. “All the four candidates had strong backgrounds,” one of the sources said. When contacted, official spokespersons of the President’s office as well as the HRD Ministry declined to comment on the matter. President Pranab Mukherjee is learnt to have ignored Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani’s recommendation while appointing Prof M Jagadesh Kumar as the Vice-Chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).According to sources, Irani had communicated her preference for scientist V S Chauhan to the President, out of the four finalists shortlisted by the selection committee for the post of V-C. But Mukherjee chose IIT-Delhi’s Prof Kumar. JNU professors R N K Bamezai and Ramakrishna Ramaswamy were the other contenders.It is the second time in the last four months that the minister’s suggestion for appointing a central university V-C was not accepted by the President. Mukherjee had also ignored Irani’s choice for Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU) in Hyderabad. Mohammed Aslam Parvaiz was appointed as MANUU’s head in October 2015.Although the President is under no obligation to follow the minister’s recommendation, sources said there are several precedents to show that this is the norm. Chauhan is a leader in malaria research and his contributions are in the field of malaria vaccine and drug development. He was awarded the Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award, by the UPA-II in 2012.Kumar, who assumed office in JNU on Wednesday, has completed his Masters and PhD from IIT-Madras. He has worked in the field of nanoelectronic devices, nanoscale device modelling and simulation, innovative device design and power semi-conductor devices.When contacted, President Mukherjee’s Press Secretary Venu Rajamony declined to comment. The HRD Ministry’s spokesperson Ghanshyam Goel did not respond to questions e-mailed by this newspaper on Wednesday seeking comment on the JNU appointment. The appointment assumes significance against the backdrop of the HRD Ministry and the Rashtrapati Bhawan disagreeing over the sacking of Visva Bharati University Vice-Chancellor Sushanta Datta Gupta. On September 22, 2015, the government had recommended Datta Gupta’s removal to Mukherjee as a probe found the V-C guilty of “gross misconduct” and “dereliction of duty”. The President’s Office, however, is learnt to have informally conveyed its unwillingness to do so. It wants the ministry to accept Datta Gupta’s resignation which he had e-mailed on September 30. Mukherjee’s office had returned the file twice questioning the legality of the ministry’s recommendation. Irani’s department has sought the law ministry’s opinion again on the matter.
HRD Minister Smriti Irani has been at the centre of a raging controversy over her educational qualification after it emerged that she had made contradictory declarations when she contested Lok Sabha elections in 2004 and 2014. The Congress, one of whose leaders struck a different note, escalated its attack while the BJP hit back asking answers from it about the educational qualifications of Sonia Gandhi. Ever since, Madhu Kishwar, a women’s rights activist, raked up a controversy over the fact that Irani, just a 12th Pass, has been made HRD Minister the issue has only snowballed. The 40 year-old television actor-turned politician preferred to keep mum. She refused to comment when media approached her. There was more embarrassment for the BJP and the new government after it emerged that Irani had given contradictory declarations in her affidavits in 2004 and 2014 when she contested Lok Sabha election from two different constituencies. As a candidate in 2004 elections from Chandni Chowk in Delhi, Irani had declared that she had a Bachelor of Arts 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, Irani has said,”Bachelor of Commerce Part-1, School of Open Learning (Correspondence), University of Delhi-1994″. In 2012, the Supreme Court had ruled that false disclosures in an affidavit can be a ground for rejection of a candidate’s nomination.
Latching on the issue, the Congress party said this was a mis-statement, distortion and a criminal offence which has electoral consequences. “We don’t know which is correct–2004 or 2014? Both can’t be true,” party Spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi told reporters. When asked about Congress raising educational qualifications of ministers in a democracy, he said,”we had not raked it up and we are not trivialising it”.
To another query about Sonia Gandhi’s qualification, he shot back,”she is not a minister.” Irani, however, got support from JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav who attacked Congress for raking up the issue.
Kishwar, who started it all with her tweets critical of Narendra Modi making Irani the HRD Minister, was unsparing saying education and research in India was in a shambles and something urgent was needed to be done to lift standards in the system. Somebody with a vision was needed for the job, said Kishwar, a self-confessed admirer of Modi.
Kishwar said that as someone in the academia she felt that the HRD ministry was a very “vital” ministry and that India’s education sector was in a mess and somebody with a vision was needed. The HRD ministry requires handling chief ministers, because education is a state subject and also requires handling vice chancellors, she said. “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 issues, BJP spokesperson Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said Congress leaders should shed their “arrogance” after the party’s defeat in the Lok Sabha polls and do introspection. He said the party was defeated in elections due to 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. Congress leader Ajay Maken yesterday took 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.
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 that these kind of 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.
While the affidavit filed by Irani when she contested the 2004 Lok Sabha polls said she had completed a BA from Delhi university’s school of correspondence in 1996, the 2011 submission for her Rajya Sabha elections under the head “highest qualification” stated that she did B Com part I, again from DU’s school of correspondence, in 1994.The claim of B Com part I was also made in her declaration when she contested the recent elections against Rahul Gandhi from Amethi. If her affidavits are taken at face value, Irani completed her BA degree in 1996, but chose not to mention this in her affidavits filed after 2004. Instead she cited B Com part I, which is basically one year of the three-year B Com degree course, in the 2011 and 2014 affidavits. Completing part I is no qualification and does not constitute a degree. Seizing on the discrepancy, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said, “In the 2004 affidavit, she has claimed to be graduate – BA of 1996. In the 2014 affidavit, it is specified that it is only BCom part I and that only means one year and not a full degree. We do not know whether 2014 is a mis-statement or 2004 is a mis-statement, but both cannot be true.”