Indian PM forced to prove he has university degrees

BJP releases copies of his qualifications, but opposition refuses to back down from claims

NEW DELHI • Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was forced yesterday to produce his college degrees, days after political rivals accused him of lying about graduating from university.

At a press conference in the capital, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and ruling party chief Amit Shah released copies of Mr Modi's Bachelor of Arts and Master degrees and accused the opposition of running a smear campaign.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) presidentMr Shah demanded that Aam Admi Party (AAP) leader and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal apologise for "spreading lies" about the prime minister as a political row over the degrees intensified.

"If you (Mr Kejriwal) did not have any proof, how did you make such an allegation?

"You have tried to spread lies. You must apologise publicly to the nation," Mr Shah told a televised press conference.

"It is unfortunate that we have to hold such a press conference at all," Mr Shah added. "The degrees are in the public domain, but such allegations debase our political discourse."

BJP president Mr Shah displaying a copy of Mr Modi's degree at a televised press conference in New Delhi yesterday.
BJP president Mr Shah displaying a copy of Mr Modi's degree at a televised press conference in New Delhi yesterday. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Mr Jaitley, Mr Modi's top lieutenant, accused Mr Kejriwal of attempting to mislead voters instead of getting on with the job of governing the Indian capital.

Mr Kejriwal, a bitter Modi rival, last week accused the premier of lying about graduating from Delhi University with a BA and obtaining a Master in Political Science from Gujarat University.

The allegations struck a nerve in the prime minister's Hindu nationalist party, upset about the risk to his reputation.

The AAP refused to back down yesterday, with leader Ashutosh, who uses one name, insisting there were "glaring discrepancies" in the released certificates, including different spellings of Mr Modi's name.

Social media lit up yesterday over the controversy, with many users in India sympathetic to Mr Modi, and with #kejriwalsaysorry trending on Twitter.

The Congress party, which suffered a drubbing at the general election, has also weighed in on the controversy, claiming Mr Modi should "come clean" on the issue.

Mr Modi, who came from humble beginnings and sold tea at a railway station as a boy, stormed to power in 2014, when the BJP won the biggest majority in three decades.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 10, 2016, with the headline 'Indian PM forced to prove he has university degrees'. Print Edition | Subscribe