Union Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani was on her way to Bhagalpur in Bihar when she got engaged in a Twitter tiff with Bihar Education Minister Ashok Choudhary, taking offence at being addressed as ‘dear’ by him.

It all began when Mr. Choudhary tweeted: “Dear @smiritiirani ji.. kabhi rajniti aur bhashan se waqt mile to shiksha niti ki taraf bhi dhyan de (… when you find time from politics and speeches do look at the education policy too).” Little did he realise that his remark was going to lead to a spat with the Union Minister. She tweeted: “[M]ahilaon ko ‘dear’ keh ke kab se sambodhit karne lage Ashokji?” (since when did you start addressing women as ‘dear’?).

Mr. Choudhary responded: “Not to disrespect but educate…professional emails start with ‘dear’. [K]abhi mudde pe jawab dijiye (sometimes respond on issues)…” Three minutes later, Ms. Irani responded in three continuous tweets: 1. “All my communications to you or any other person start with ‘adarniya’ (respectful) but since now you are communicating allow me”; 2. “Bihar is possibly the only state which has not done grass root consultations for the education policy”; and 3. “[Have] not received state views on education policy …”

Education policy

Mr. Choudhary tweeted again: “Request you to make public Minutes of our one-on-one meeting …Doodh ka doodh, paani ka paani ho jayega (everything will be known).” Ms Irani responded: “Sir il make it public now-request you to fill 2 lac teachers vacancies, land for KVs, CU Motihari” (KV-Kendriya Vidyalaya, CU-Central University). In another tweet, she said: “[M]udda education policy ka tha jo aapne uthaya, ab ye batayein ki policy par state view kab bhejenge (you raised the issue of education policy, you tell me when will you send the state’s view on education policy).”

Now it was Mr. Choudhary’s turn: “I know how to deliver on my promises. Request you to deliver on what you have promised.” He then said, “@smritiirani ji has learnt a lot from Modiji…Fake promises and shifting blames to others for non-delivery is lesson 1 in Sangh’s book.”

Ms. Irani responded: “[W]ould you rather Sir that I don’t consult Bihar, if that is your stand then I shall comply though with a sense of regret.” Six minutes later tweeted Mr Choudhary: “at least decide your stand..I just shared you your ministry’s link of our consultation..pls see that tweet again”. In his last tweet he said, “Once again mam I’ have to reiterate myself for you. Pls don’t circle around the problem address the elephant in the room”.

Speaking to journalists in Patna, Mr. Chowdhury said he would apologise to Ms. Irani if she was hurt at being addressed as “dear”. Bihar’s Deputy CM Tejaswi Yadav tweeted: “Just asking out of curiosity … is “Dear” an offensive word or it becomes when a minister from Dalit community calls so?” Mr. Choudhary comes from a dalit community. In another tweet addressing to union HRD minister, he said: “Dear Madam @smritiirani Ji, Glad u r in Bihar. Welcome! OBCs want reply from u. Will u give reservation to OBC in AssoProf & Prof?”