New Delhi: The controversy over human resource development (HRD) minister Smriti Irani’s educational qualifications has taken a new turn with her assertion that she also has a degree from Yale University in the US.

Irani, 38, made the remark when pressed by a questioner at the India Today Woman Summit 2014 in New Delhi to clear the “mystery" over her educational degrees.

Soon after the Lok Sabha results were announced on 16 May, Irani was at the centre of a controversy over her educational qualifications after it emerged that she had made contradictory declarations when she contested the parliamentary elections in 2004 and 2014.

“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 by leadership capacities.

“Extraneous circumstances are being created so that I deviate my concentration from what my goals are," she said at the event on Saturday. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader said she should be judged on what she delivers as a minister.

Irani did not explain what the Yale degree was but she was part of a group of Indian MPs (members of Parliament) which underwent a crash course at the university, during which the elections in India, the prospects for Afghanistan and Pakistan after the US military withdrawal in 2014, and the implications of political and economic transitions in China dominated.

The 11 Indian MPs came to the Yale University campus in New Haven, Connecticut on 19 June last year to complete a six-day leadership program with the Yale faculty.

The 2013 participants were drawn from five different national and regional political parties in India, and included Irani, who was BJP vice-president at that time, and her Telugu Desam Party (TDP) counterpart C. Ramesh.

In addition to BJP and TDP, there were also representatives from the Congress, Trinamool Congress and Shiv Sena.

In the academic programme, the delegation participated in discussions with Yale faculty on nuclear non-proliferation; the democracy movement in the Arab world; women’s empowerment; elections theory and practices; political and economic developments in China; campaign finance reform; the environmental impact of shale gas development; Afghanistan and Pakistan after 2014; pharmaceutical innovation and patent law; and climate change mitigation.

The 2013 programme was held in a new partnership with the Governance and Public Policy Initiative of the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi. In all, more than 80 MPs from India have participated since the programme was created eight years ago.

When pressed further at the event to clear the air over her educational qualifications, Irani told the questioner to file a Public Interest Litigation(PIL) if he wanted to know the truth about the poll affidavit controversy.

“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 when asked which of the two poll affidavits she had filed in 2004 and 2014 was real.

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