The Narendra Modi government on May 26 completed one year in office. Prime Minister’s cabinet has created a lot of buzz in last one year and all its ministers have been a topic of discussion for different reasons especially on social media. However, the Minister of Human Resource Development, Smriti Irani has stood far from her counterparts and has managed to hit the headlines throughout the year. 

She became the youngest face in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s brigade at the age of 38. Many times, the reason she had been in news is controversial, which is either stirred by her own actions or else her comments. Apart from this, there have been other factors too that kept the model-turned-politician in news.

On Friday, Smriti Irani yet another time made it to headlines after she reportedly instructed IIT-Madras to ban a discussion forum which was critical of the Modi government. The Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle was ordered to stop using the auditorium, the IIT email and the notice board from holding the event that was allegedly spreading ‘hatred’ for Narendra Modi for his policies. (Also Read: Students’ group banned for inciting protest against the Modi government? Is this where IIT heading?)

Following the incident, while Rahul Gandhi expressed concern over the matter on Twitter which he recently joined, several NSUI workers on the other hand staged a protest out Irani’s official residence for de-recognizing a students’ group at IIT-Madras for reportedly criticizing Narendra Modi. The agitators accused the HRD Ministry behind the action against the body. 

Irani in her response to Rahul Gandhi and protest staged outside her residence too slammed the Congress VP in a series of tweets.

In several other episodes, Smriti Irani has been the topic for media to debate on for all good, bad and ugly reasons. Let’s take a look on some such incidents.

1) Goa hidden camera case:

On April 2, 2015, Irani exposed a famous retail garment outlet (Fabindia) in Goa that was using a camera in its trial room. The incident came into limelight when the HRD minister was in the city and went to the outlet and spotted a camera positioned to record video from inside the trial room.(Also Read: Goa: Smriti Irani spots hidden camera in trial room of an apparel store, FIR lodged)

2)Fake graduation degree row

Soon after Smriti took charge of her office, the first controversy to hit the actress-turned-politician was related to her qualifications where she provided conflicting affidavits of her educational qualifications. 

In 2004, Smriti had submitted a graduate  degree in arts (BA, in 1996) from Delhi University (DU) (through the School of Correspondence), but in an additional affidavit, filed before the 2014 elections, she submitted that she had completed part of a graduate degree in Commerce (Part I of B.Com in 1994) from Delhi University.

Apart from this, it was reported that Irani enrolled for the course in 2013 but never sat for the examination.

The controversy took a fresh turn in August 2014 when the minister asserted that she also obtained a degree from the esteemed Yale University in the United States. While she did not explain much about the Yale degree, it was later developed that she was a  part of a group of Indian members of Parliament (MPs) that experienced a six-day crash course on leadership at the university.

3) Remove FYUP from DU:

The Delhi University in 2013 started the controversial Four-Year Under-Graduate Programme but it was rolled back the next year after a fight with the UGC.

However, it was later reported that Irani was the key person behind the issue as she forwarded formalities to President Pranab Mukherjee’s office questioning DU vice chancellor (VC) Dinesh Singh’s conduct and requesting his removal from office.

4) Infamous war of words with Sharad Yadav

Veteran politician from the Janata Dal party was under massive attack in the Parliament and outside for his controversial ‘saanvli’ (dark-complexioned) remark against women. While Irani urged him not to bring such matters to the floor of the House, Yadav retaliated at the minister in Rajya Sabha stating, “I know who you are”. Even though the Janata Dal leader denied apologizing for his comments initially, he later regretted making such statements.(Also Read: #SexistSharad defiant, derogatory. Now, he insults Smriti Irani!)

5) Priyanka Gandhi Vadra vs Smriti Irani

Smriti Irani was in Amethi this week. Congress member Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, a day after HRD minister’s visit to Rahul Gandhi’s constituency slammed her and said that the minister was answerable for the IIIT issue in the state. 

“She (Irani) is the HRD Minister. First she should tell us why she is not setting up an IIIT here. The youth are facing a lot of problems and this is her department. Why is she not looking into it,” Priyanka Gandhi had reportedly said.

Hitting back at Vadra, Irani said, “Priyanka Vadra has not done her homework. There is an campus of IIIT Allahabad in Amethi. Now, a winning candidate is asking a losing candidate to develop the constituency they have been ruling for the 60 years. Isn’t Rahul Gandhi capable of doing something for his constituency?”

She even posted her reaction on Twitter on the same for which received a big response.(Also Read: Priyanka Gandhi hits out at Smriti Irani on Amethi IIIT, minister hits back)

6) IIT-Delhi ‘Shudh Vegetarian’?

Expressing his discomfort over reports that non-vegetarian food had been pulled out of the IIT-Delhi canteen’s menu, Sitaram Yechury of CPM demanded the interference of the HRD minister on the issue. 

Irani on the other hand argued that the allegations against her that she has been encouraging vegetarian food at IITs were baseless and stated that such meals were stopped during the time of UPA government.

7) Drop German as third language

The HRD headed by Smriti Irani had asked all Kendriya Vidyalaya or central schools to put an end to German as the third language option. The matter was sent to the Supreme Court and was the Grand Chancellor even discussed it with Prime Minister at the G20 summit.

8) Row over RSS’s key posts in ministry

People from the RSS background were given key posts in the ministry that as well were the headlines at different levels. Some of them include:

• Professor Y Sudershan Rao was appointed as the Chairperson of the Indian Council for Historical Research (ICHR).
• Vishram Ramchandra Jamdar was appointed as the Head of Visvesvaraya National Institute of Technology, Nagpur.
• Head of Visvesvaraya National Institute of Technology, Nagpur post was given to Vishram Ramchandra Jamdar
• Professor Inder Mohan Kapahy joined as a member of the University Grants Commission (UGC).
• Former Editor of RSS mouthpiece, Panchajanya, Baldev Sharma appointed as Chairman of National Book Trust.

Even after fitting in people from the Sangh family into the ministry, a several times, it was reported that ‘RSS was not happy with Irani’s job’.

9) Good Governance Issue

According to the reports, a circular was shared with the central schools stating that December 25 should be observed as ‘Good Governance Day’ remembering the birthday of former Prime Minister and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) veteran Atal Bihari Vajpayee shared with Madan Mohan Malaviya. Reports suggest that it even asked the schools to ‘ensure active participation of your students’ in different ways such as quiz contest, film screening and ‘innovative programmes’. The HRD minister later denied the reports stating that only an online essay contest was intended for Christmas Day and that there was no purpose to ask children to come to school.

10) IIT-Delhi Director’s Resignation

Soon after IIT-Delhi Director Raghunath K Shevgaonkar resigned from his post, reports erupted that the man had resigned because of the pressure from the HRD ministry to discharge an amount of approximately Rs. 70 lakh to former IIT-Delhi faculty Subramanian Swamy, who is currently a BJP member as salary dues for the period between 1972 and 1991.

11) Anil Kakodkar VS Smriti Irani 

Amid news of Anil Kakodkar putting down his papers as the Chairman of the board of governors of IIT-Bombay over disparity with the HRD Ministry regarding the choice of IIT directors, the HRD ministry claimed that Kakodkar had pulled back his resignation. However, he decided to break his silence after some days and said that IIT ‘should be left alone’, adding that the new selection method of the government is ‘very casual’.

Well, keeping these incidents in mind, it would be no wrong to say that Smriti Irani is the most controversial minister of the Modi cabinet as there is no other leader in his brigade who has been involved into issues like this in this number. However, this also exposes the audacious side of the minister who has shied away from any debate or issue.

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