The case of Smriti Irani, the new HRD Minister, is current in the news. Smriti Irani is an under graduate. There has been some criticism and objections both in the political and also in intellectual circles as to why she has been given a heavy and important portfolio of education and other related subjects.
First comes the legal and practical aspect. It is the prerogative of Prime Minister to distribute and assign work and allot portfolios to his Ministers. PM Narendra Modi has done so. There should not be any problem. Though it seems, prima facie, that it is a case of out of turn promotion for Smriti Irani. She is comparatively a new player in politics. Having lost the election for the Lok Sabha in 2004, Shri was given a seat in the Rajya Sabha. She lost again in 2014 elections and now has been rewarded with a plumb position of HRD Minister. It only proves that she enjoys a considerable clout in the BJP and an excellent rapport with the leadership especially PM Narendra Modi. On the other hand, according to my personal assessment, Smriti Irani is an intelligent person. She made a mark in her professional career as an actor. She climbed fast on the political ladder and became Vice President and the Spokesperson of the BJP after joining politics. She conducted herself well in the Rajya Sabha. Smriti Irani is a good orator and articulate in communicating her mind. The educational degree should not be considered as an important aspect of becoming a good Minister. It is nothing new in Indian politics. There have been leaders with less education or no formal education. Giani Zail Singh was a successful Chief Minister of Punjab, Home Minister of India and to top it all President of India. Kamraj was a successful Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and one of the strongest Presidents of the Congress. Chaudhary Devi Lal became the Deputy PM and was a successful CM of Haryana. Sitaram Kesari, too, was not much educated who became a Union Minister and also President of the Congress Party. There may be many more such examples. I think education, intelligence and literacy are different attributes of one’s personality.
What should be the important qualification of an MP or a Minister? I would like to quote Dr. B.R. Ambedkar in this regard and it makes lot of sense. He said ‘Education can hardly be the sole qualification for membership of parliament. If I may use the words of Buddha, he said that man requires two things. One is ‘Gyan’ and the other is ‘Sheel’. Gyan without Sheel is very dangerous. It must be accompanied by Sheel by which we mean character, moral courage, ability to be independent of any kind of temptations, truthful to ones ideals. I am very keen to see that no member enters this august assembly who does not possess ‘Sheel’ in adequate degree’.
With this, let us wish the government of Narendra Modi all the best. May the Ministers conduct themselves with ‘Gyan’ and ‘Sheel’?
A degree is not an education and the confusion is perhaps the greatest weakness in American thinking about education.