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Smriti Irani row: Institutional education, political wisdom and the democracy
Last week the political and social atmosphere of the country was infused with intense prattle as it witnessed a full blown war of words between the two principal political parties, Congress and the BJP, as the former intensified disapproval against an "undergraduate" (Smriti Irani) being appointed HRD minister in Modi Cabinet whereas the BJP countered it with questions on Sonia Gandhi's academic background.

Scholars, intellectuals and academicians were all divided in their opinions on whether it is justified or not, but public sentiment mostly went with Ms. Irani courtesy immense resentment of public against the Congress.

However, although the controversy is itself a strange one, but it cannot be denied that it has sparked some real questions and thoughts that has merit to ponder upon. For instance…Does a minister really need an educational qualification to head a particular portfolio?

Second….Will there be a situation of complex (either inferior or superior) when an undergraduate minister (Smriti Irani in this case who never attended college) would interact or preside over the directors of IITs, IIMs and scholars of other key higher education institutes?

And lastly why didn't our constitution makers and founder members of constituent assembly assign any criteria for educational qualification to the representatives in either house of our parliament? Did they make an error?

To answer the first question I would like to quote what Omar Abdullah tweeted immediately after the breaking of this hullabaloo "Asking for the HRD minister to have exceptional educational qualifications is like asking the civil aviation minister to be a pilot or like asking the coal minister to be a miner."

In fact can we expect defense minister to have an educational qualification in war strategy? What about foreign minister…a degree in foreign affairs? And what about Prime Minister…an MBA degree in governance?

If this would be the case then should UPSC conduct entrance test for ministerial positions along with bureaucracy? Then what's need of election and democracy?

To find the answers for second and third questions we have to understand the basic foundation on which democracy functions. The foundation of democracy is faith in the capacity of human nature, faith in human intelligence and in the power of collective and cooperative experience.

It is the "wisdom" more specifically "political wisdom" is what we need in democracy than any institutional degree as that is the right approach to any democracy.

Wisdom and institutional education are two different things. An institutional degree is obtained following a particular curriculum which is different for different degree (For e.g. an engineer has a different curriculum than that of a doctor). It is the certification of a particular skill or a particular part of any subject.

But "wisdom" is the knowledge that is obtained by leaning from various sources (no particular syllabus) which shapes the judgmental faculty of a person. That's why it cannot be taught in any organization but accomplished with institute of life.

In fact for the actualization of human potential of a person it is the wisdom of that person which matters rather a degree from any organization. History has enough evidence of such people who achieved great things without any degree in paper. To name a few….Henry Ford, Abraham Lincoln, Walt Disney, Michael Dell William Shakespeare, Bill Gates, Gautam Adani, Mark Twain, Winston Churchill...etc

Dhirubhai Ambani never gone to any College, Steve Job is a Harvard drop out…but look at these people, aren't they an institution in themselves? Going further into history, even Shenshah Akbar was an illiterate but wasn't he a fabulous administrator?

The best doctors in the country may say very well 'how' to cure the worst heath ailments of people, but a health minister must have the wisdom to understand why there is a need for health care, sanitation and hospitals and what steps should be taken to ensure public health.

Similarly, best engineers may say, how fine a road can be built or a bridge can be designed but it's the wisdom of transport minister that explores why there is need of a road infrastructure in place in particular and country in general and how would it be beneficial to the public.

Similarly directors of IITs, IIMs and the scholars of other higher educational organizations are experts in their particular fields with respective institutional degrees and can have their best say confined to those areas only, but an education minister must have the wisdom to explore the need of steps and policies that would enhance the educational potential of our nation right from the grass root level.

To sum up let me say that our founder members of constituent assembly were quite futurist and far more farsighted, creative thinkers and visionary. They had distinguished quite well between Institutionalized educational qualification and Wisdom.

So to be a minister of any portfolio one doesn't need an academic qualification as such, as long as he/she has enough wisdom and minimum aptitude to understand what needs to be done especially when there is an established bureaucracy having expertise on different subjects working under the political executive!

The political boss who is a public representative is to oversee the policy implementation by the expert bureaucrats as per cabinet approval! Thus what a minister needs to have is wisdom especially political wisdom and not necessarily an institutional degree! This is democracy.

The above controversy is quite a non-issue and an exact elitist claptrap that is holding our nation back from unleashing its full potential. Some intellectuals may have some reservation on the above issue but the Congress must refrain from such noises.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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Naim Naqvi
Those who keep advocating for the desired qualifications of The Lady in Question should remember that issue is not whether she is up to her job. The bone of contention is her wrong statements. It is her integrity / honesty that is put on the mat and not her ability or inability to perform the required job. It takes years of a professional to learn build a simple concrete bridge. How an Intermediate pass could build the bridge between different specialized branches of knowledge. It is not simple acting before the camera where an actor is following a given script. The trick of those who are defending this flabbergasting step of NaMo is to confuse the readers. No body is still questioning her acumen. We are asking the simple truth. Why did she not tell the truth aabout her education? Now coming to expertise of the tinsel town where buried is her past. Mehboob Khan and K Asif, the two grandmasters of film industry were not highly educated. They had very humble childhood. They learned on floor. The important thing is that they made it big in their own field by the sweat of their brow. No favors. They didn't go for a swimming pool to prove themselves as best swimmers. I had no problem if Smiriti Irani becomes a great actress / director / dancer / Singer. These are her fields. Reaching a plum post of HRD MINISTRY without any proper education is like the emergence of a rootless phenomenon. So, please, again I would say - Do not try to pull the wool over public eyes, Countrymen want an honest person and not a mis-informer. Don't push what she could prove. Tell what did she hide.
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