Tuesday 28 June 2022
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Did Smriti Irani recruit Shilpi Tewari?

[dropcap]H[/dropcap]uman Resource Development Minister Smriti Z Irani has an uncanny knack of courting controversies one after the other; particularly with regard to appointment of officials. Earlier, the HRD minister’s Officer on Special Duty designate Sanjay Kachroo, who was previously associated with an industrial giant, had assumed office even before his papers were cleared by the Appointment Committee of the Cabinet.

Following this, allegations surfaced on both mainstream and social media, accusing him of being a corporate lobbyist who presided over meetings with bureaucrats etc. A few months later, Kachroo’s clearances were declined by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). The larger point here is that Kachroo was allowed to function as Irani’s OSD without obtaining clearances from intelligence sources, which is mysterious.

Even before the Kachroo episode subsided, another controversy has erupted. On this occasion it is between Madhu Kishwar and Shilpi Tewari, the second being an acolyte of the HRD minister. Needless to mention, it was a popcorn moment for the Twitterati. The proximity between Tewari and the HRD minister is well known in social networking sites. In May 2015, Tewari had come up with a riposte to Congress leader Shashi Tharoor’s article on the said ministry.

The HRD minister has always been gracious enough to acknowledge the support extended by Tewari during the Lok Sabha elections. Recently, Tewari wrote an article sharing her experiences of working with Irani during the period.

This is how the argument began. Twitter handle @India_Policy, with more than 30,000 followers, had tweeted last July, congratulating Shilpi Tewari for her new role as a consultant at the HRD Ministry.

The congratulatory tweet caught the attention of many users including Kishwar who has been a staunch critic of the HRD minister since 2014 May. Within minutes, links directing to the minutes of the ministry resurfaced on Twitter.

The minutes:

table smriti shilpi

However, Shilpi Tewari has denied the allegations.

An anonymous handle pointed out the discrepancy:

Kishwar shot back:

The squabble between two twitter handles over the Tewari-Tiwari identity confusion is not the bone of contention. Favouritism in appointments has become a norm in government departments. Nonetheless, the crux is something serious — relaxation of the eligibility criteria with regard to the appointment.

The HRD officials should have clarified the rationale behind the relaxation of relevant qualifications. The deafening silence of HRD ministry on the matter appears to be strange. It is even more surprising to note that neither the opposition nor media has taken cognizance of the controversy.

Journalist Chitra Subramaniam recently pitched in with this suggestive tweet:

What links this tweet with the issue raised by Kishwar last July is a tiff Subramaniam had had with Tewari moments before the journalist posted the above:

As our readers can notice, Tewari has deleted the tweet that Subramaniam quoted. And then it went on with another tweet following the “spouse” comment:

Next came a partial admission from Tewari:

These developments on social media have re-ignited grievances among two sets of supporters of the current government: those who feel left out, neglected and those who support it because of an ideological overlap.

Particularly the second group feels cheated as the paid or otherwise favoured Twitterati often lead trends, urging like-minded users of the medium through direct messages and WhatsApp to tweet with a pre-planned hashtag.

A former aide of an MP in Delhi has also come under the cloud. As this allegation cannot be substantiated by a government document, unlike the case involving the HRD Ministry, the name of the MP is being hidden.

While the former aide in question does not have a big following on Twitter, she has been instrumental in organising meetings of various social media supporters of the with the MPs of Delhi.

deepak 2The ideologically oriented users have done it so far in good faith; now they realise they were being taken for a ride. But lest one thought the alone was playing this game, it must be added that the Congress also is into the game.

And just in case the Aam Aadmi Party pounced on the opportunity to paint the and Congress with the same brush, our readers must note that Dilip Pandey, now being touted as a “leader” of the AAP on television, began his political career as an employee of Public Cause Research Foundation (PCRF), an NGO run by Arvind Kejriwal who is now the Chief Minister of Delhi. Pandey used to manage the AAP’s Twitter handle. The party’s Facebook page was managed By Ankit Lal, another PCRF employee. And the AAP’s press releases used to be drafted by former journalist Rajan Prakash, yet another PCRF employee.

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