Human resource development minister Smriti Irani is rushing from one controversy to another to leave the ruling BJP red in the face. The first week of the budget session of Parliament saw the party trying to defend the minister as she faced a barrage of charges including lying on sensitive issues. Here are some instances where she turned out to be an embarrassment for her own party.
Irani read word by word from a controversial pamphlet on Goddess Durga which was allegedly distributed during an event at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). Her aim was to take on the Opposition head on. Instead, she left the party MPs squirming in embarrassment. With the BJP’s brand of ‘nationalism’ on display in Parliament, the Congress lapped up the Smriti gaffe and asked for her apology for her words on the goddess. BJP MP Udit Raj, too, made matter worse for the party by openly contradicting the minister’s claim about the Mahisasur Diwas programme he attended at JNU.
Rohith case faux pas
The suicide by Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula in Hyderabad earlier too has put the BJP in a tight spot with Irani leading a spirited but factually incorrect defence of her ministry. Irani contradicted opposition’s allegations over putting pressure on the University of Hyderabad’s administration to take action against Rohith for allegedly assaulting a student affiliated to ABVP. On Friday, Rohith’s mother and brother accused Irani of spreading blatant lies. Rohith’s mother also recalled Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s comment that he regretted the loss of her son and added BJP’s ministers were now calling the Dalit scholar anti-national.
Nailed by a doctor
In the Hyderabad university case, Irani claimed that doctors were not allowed to examine Rohith Vemula and revive him after he hanged himself in his hostel room. Irani’s claim inside Parliament was rejected by a doctor of the university who insisted that she had examined Rohith within minutes of being informed and declared him dead.
In January, about a dozen professors at the University of Hyderabad quit their administrative posts, accusing Irani of making “fabricated statements”. They rubbished her claim that a Dalit professor was among the members of the university’s body that suspended Vemula.
Offering her head
Smriti got so carried away by emotion that she promised to offer her head to Mayawati if the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader was not satisfied with her answer on the Hyderabad university row. Mayawati turned the tables on her on Friday saying the minister should keep her promise as she was not satisfied with the government’s response.
Off-campus of IIT
The minister is known to contradict her own claims. While replying to a discussion in the Lok Sabha in April last year, she said the IIT Act was violated to open an off- centre in Mauritius with “Indian taxpayers’ money” in 2013. The same day, in reply to another question in the Rajya Sabha, the minister said that IIT-Delhi did not incur “any expenditure” either on the setting up of the off-campus in Mauritius or in starting academic programmes at the institute.