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Should Candidates Meet Educational Criteria to Contest Elections ?

Posted by Admin on November 13, 2014 | Comment

It’s not uncommon to see candidates with no academic qualification contesting or even winning elections. Take the case of Delhi. At least one-third of the candidates who contested the Lok Sabha elections had educational qualification of class 12 or below and some of them were illiterate. Even during the Haryana Assembly elections, the instances of illiterate candidates given the poll ticket were too many.

Should Candidates Meet Educational Criteria to Contest Elections

In Defense of No Academic Qualification Criteria

Sociologists and political observers are of the opinion that making education qualification mandatory for election candidates would be discriminatory since that would naturally deprive citizens of India the right to represent their people. Institutional qualification, as they say, is different from political acumen and wisdom. In a country like India where about a quarter of 815 million eligible voters are illiterate, it would not be prudent to deny a politically aware and socially conscious individual the election ticket just because he/she doesn’t have a minimum qualification.

Setting academic criteria for contesting elections, according to the experts, would hinder people from being a politician no matter how capable administrator or a mass leader he is. When political parties choose candidates, they look for ‘winnability’ as the main criteria. This ‘winnability’ factor comes from a political vision, decision-making ability and empathy for the people. Constituencies with very high rate of illiteracy might not need academically qualified politician as much as a leader who knows their difficulties, immediate needs and demands, which can be communicated to the government.

Introducing educational criteria for a politician would increase the possibility of this section of Indian population being underrepresented in the Parliament and state legislatures.

Why Indian Constitution Doesn’t Specify Any Minimum Educational Qualification ?

Neither the Indian Constitution, nor the Representation of the People Act has any mention of educational criteria for the candidates contesting elections. One of the reasons why the Constitution makers didn’t specify any minimum educational qualification could be the fact that India’s literacy rate was only 12 percent at the time of independence. In such circumstances, demanding a minimum academic qualification would have deprived many able leaders from joining politics.

Having said all these, there’s a growing feeling among the electorates that aspiring politicians contesting elections should have a minimum qualification to be able to put forward his/her views effectively and contribute to the policy formulation and implementation processes.  To have a clear understanding of the functioning of democracies, constitutional provisions and role of bureaucracy, it always helps to have a certain level of literacy among the candidates.

However, in India, importance is given more to the maturity and efficiency of the elected representatives, and not the institutional education that they are deprived of.