A sound education is not considered a crucial criterion as far as poll candidates are concerned, if the varied educational backgrounds of several contenders in the general elections are anything to go by. Fighting shoulder to shoulder with MBAs, foreign university graduates, double engineers and doctorate holders are candidates who have not even passed Class X. While a few are senior college dropouts, there are others who have not gone beyond primary school and work as rickshaw drivers, wage labourers and even a butcher.
A quick look at the affidavits filed by candidates for the Pune Lok Sabha constituency features Congress nominee Vishwajeet Kadam, an engineering graduate, MBA and a PhD from his very own Bharti Vidyapeeth University along with Arun Bhatia — a former IAS officer who has completed his Masters in Arts from Cambridge University in 1965 — an Independent candidate who has been trying his fate for the Parliament for the third consecutive time. Aam Aadmi Party’s official candidate Subhash Ware is an M.Sc and B Pharma of the year 1983, a few other Independents in a total of four post-gradautes are Gangadhar Yadav, an LIC agent with a master’s degree in politics and Khirid Bhagwan, an MBA.
Interestingly, the initially enrolled 51 candidates included Manohar Kusalkar, a Class VIII pass plumber, Jafar Choudhary, a Class VII pass butcher with just Rs 20,000 to declare and a Class IX pass cable distributor, the now remaining 29 candidates – post the withdrawal – also have interesting profiles. A total of 14 candidates have not completed their basic schooling. Prominent amongst these is Deepak Paigude- the official candidate of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) who passed Class XII in 1983 and has movable assets worth Rs 1.21 crore and immovable assets worth Rs 7.47 crore. While Ashpak Shaikh and Manchak Karale are Independent candidates with Class IV as their highest educational qualification, an interesting profile is that of Sayyad Afsar Ibrahim the Samajwadi Party’s candidate who mentions ‘ Class X fail’ on his affidavit declaring a whopping immovable property worth Rs 5.25 crore and movable worth Rs 39 lakh. BJP’s Anil Shirole is a graduate in Arts.
Two former Army officers— Col (retd) Jayant Chitale, a diploma in mechanical engineering and Col (retd) Suresh Patil — are contesting as an Independent and Bahujan Mukti Party candidate respectively. While nine candidates have mentioned ‘social activist’ as their profession including AAP’s Ware, Independent candidate Vijay Sarode is a driver with just Rs 40,000 worth of movable assets and Sushama Gaikwad, who completed her matriculation in 1985, runs a marriage bureau.
While many have said there should be a minimum education criterion for contesting elections, analysts and political scientists feel that such criteria might ‘compromise’ the spirit of Indian democracy. Rajeshwari Deshpande, professor of politics at University of Pune said, “Prima facie, there is no co-relation between education of a candidate and his elective merit. I do not agree with the argument that there should be a minimum criterion for contesting elections as it will compromise the spirit of the Indian democratic system. While education may be one of the factors besides various other factors that constitute a candidate’s elective merit, it is possible that a less educated candidate makes a better public representative than a highly qualified one. Further, the level of education amongst MPs has been on the rise in each successive parliament as the representation in India has always been a reflection of its society.”