Ahead of elections, PM Narendra Modi and his ministers are under the scanner for various reasons. Mumbai based RTI activist sought details with the PMO requesting the nature and details of the expenses incurred on the foreign as well as the domestic visits of the Prime Minister and the Union Council of Ministers since May 2014. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has said that it does not keep records of the expenses incurred on the domestic visits of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. They said that the documentation of the expenses incurred on domestic visits of the Prime Minister is not part of the records and information maintained. The information related to the expenditure on domestic visits does not come in the purview of a single authority because such domestic visits are organised by the different public authorities. Prime Minister’s tours related to the poll campaigns are not official ones and the PMO does not have to incur any expenditure on these visits and therefore, the details could not be provided.
On the Prime Minister’s foreign visits and expenses incurred on these trips, the PMO advised to go through the PMO’s website to obtain the details but no straight account was provided.
Meanwhile, Union Minister Smriti Irani, who is contesting as a BJP candidate in Uttar Pradesh’s Amethi against Rahul Gandhi, declared to the Election Commission that she is not a graduate. This is the first time that she makes it clear in her poll affidavit that her three-year degree course was “not completed”.
In the category of Highest Educational Qualification, Smriti Irani states “Bachelor of Commerce Part-1” from the School of Open Learning (Correspondence) University of Delhi. The year is 1994, which means she joined the course that year but did not complete it. “Three year degree course not completed,” is written in brackets. She made the same declaration in her 2017 affidavit to the Rajya Sabha, where she is a member. However, in 2014, she was a graduate; if somebody provides false information for a position of clerk, his/her candidature or job is liable to be cancelled, but for a Minister, who plays a major role, it is not a matter.
Way back in 2004, when she contested from Delhi’s Chandni Chowk against Congress leader Kapil Sibal, her affidavit only said B.A. or Bachelor of Arts, 1996, Delhi University (School of Correspondence). Well, From Yale to ‘not completed’ bachelors sounds funny! Can the EC question her for making a false declaration in 2004? She is the first such person in the world who completed her graduation in 2014 and 12th class in 2019.
With many lies BJP came to power and ruled for five years — 2014 was big with fat swearing-in and huge mandate. Narendra Modi and BJP came to power with a clear majority, but the cabinet was slim and trim and all those non-elected leaders were given the ministries. Many elected leaders had to take a back seat, just because they were not in good books of the powerhouses. BJP had a centralised power and only three are the decision makers — Narendra Modi, Amit Shah, and Arun Jaitley are the party rulers. Rest has no voices, but assigned ministries and tasks, and remotely controlled by these power centers. Arun Jaitley’s electoral foray ended in defeat, but he is a part of BJP’s top troika along with Modi and Shah. This was the question that struck my mind when Lok Sabha election results came out in 2014. Arun Jaitley, the head of the Finance Department and Smriti Irani, the head of the Education in India play a vital role in shaping the future of BJP. Now, the question is, if already people have rejected both of them in the Lok Sabha elections and yet these two are making laws for the people, isn’t this wrong?
In the political system, there are so many hidden facts, that what people see at the surface, majority party governs us. Now a member of the majority party decides whom they want to elect as their leader, which is the Prime Minister. Then, the PM will advise the President, who all Ministers he wants to be in the Cabinet. The PM and the Cabinet ministers need not be the elected members of the Lok Sabha. Now, the question remains that if we, the people, have not elected them, how can they make laws for us. In India, we are limited in terms of involvement in politics. We cry when prices increase; we get angry, when corruption comes in news. I believe that is because we are aware of what’s happening but cannot correct it. The only chance that we have got to correct is in the elections. However, truly, that time also we just vote first by seeing what party we are voting for which is based on caste and religion. Then again, as the last year election, people take revenge. Well! A non-elected member in the cabinet ministry is a debatable subject. However, if we look at BJP, we will see they have literally imported leaders from another party to strengthen their own. There are very fewer leaders that can be called as BJP’s own leaders who can be seen in active politics.
PM Modi was a stranger to network in Parliament, but Jaitley is not. His ability to make friends across the aisle and resolve parliamentary impasses has helped the stalemates that helped the government. He is an eminent lawyer and educated person, whereas the Modi government has many non graduate ministers in the cabinet.
In the 2004 general elections for the 14th Lok Sabha, Smriti contested unsuccessfully against Kapil Sibal from the Chandni Chowk constituency in Delhi. She was nominated as executive member of the central committee of the BJP. In December 2004, Irani, blaming then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi for BJP’s electoral losses, threatened to fast unto death until he resigned. However, she later retracted this demand after BJP’s central leadership threatened to take action against her. In May 2009, Irani while campaigning for Vijay Goel’s candidature in New Delhi, voiced her concerns about the safety of women in the capital. She advocated capital punishment for rapists as a deterrent. In August 2011, she was sworn in as a Member of Parliament from Gujarat to the Rajya Sabha. Irani again contested the 2014 general elections against Rahul Gandhi in Amethi constituency of Uttar Pradesh and lost to Gandhi by 1,07,923 votes, a 12.32 per cent margin. On May 26, 2014, Prime Minister Modi appointed her as the Minister of Human Resource Development in his cabinet. Her appointment was criticised by many people owing to her lack of formal higher education. In July 2016, the Ministry of Human Resource Development was taken away from Irani, and she was given the Ministry of Textiles instead, in a cabinet reshuffle. If you look at Modi’s 23 Cabinet ministers and their educational qualifications, you will find half of them are not even graduates. Pusapati Ashok Gajapathi Raju, who was elected from Vizianagaram, is the only member from the Lok Sabha to make it to the Cabinet rank from residual Andhra Pradesh. His educational qualification is Matriculation, Animal-rights activist Maneka Gandhi made a comeback to the Union Cabinet as the only member of the Gandhi family in the BJP-led government, Educational qualification-ISC.
On one hand, many non-elected leaders are ruling the party and on the other hand, the less qualified ministers are on the peak of career, and there are some ministers who are forced to quit the BJP because of its lost narrative. BJP needs to focus on its narratives and address the core strength of their own leaders before giving a crucial position to those leaders who hopped on the party from other ideologies.
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