An unseemly row has broken out on day 1 of the Narendra Modi government. I am referring to the puerile (imo) opinions of some Congress leaders on the educational qualifications of the new Minister for Human Resources Development, Smriti Irani. The Congress leaders are making much of the fact that she is not a graduate and is yet in charge of the HR ministry.

I could be cruel and say that the Congress should be the last party in India to bring up education levels of leaders, considering the ‘qualifications’ of their own leaders. I will only say – the issue raised is asinine.

In the first place, education is no measure of administrative ability and / or wisdom.  Have we not all seen highly educated idiots? Supremely wise yet uneducated people? Do I really have to take names?

The UPA government had a fair number of highly educated people at the helm of important ministries. Did that really help in governing India well? If it had, would it have been tossed aside by the electorate mercilessly? Or are we saying that 39% of Indians who voted, not all of them educated, are fools?

Second, do we really want Ministers whose only qualification is that they have technical expertise on the matters related to their departments? Are we saying that technically qualified people make good administrators?  Have technocratic governments in Greece and Italy really helped in pulling the countries out of their troubles? NO, they have not.

So, the question really is – what is the role of a minister? Their roles are:

  • to represent the people who have elected their government.
  • to be accountable for the work that is done (or not) under their ministries.
  • take decisions that benefit the country in their ministries and then also collectively as the cabinet.

They are not meant to be the sole drivers of everything. They have an army of civil servants to help them. They can draw on advise from outside the government system. That is the way all systems work.

Let us not forget that even Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar was only the Chairman of the constitution committee, he did not (and was not expected to) write the Constitution of India. He had help. Lots of it.

What we as citizens need to do is to give the new government a chance. There are a lot of first timers in the ministries. Raising frivolous (&cheap) objections is not going to help.

We HAVE to be vigilant and oppose any policy moves that may not be in the interests of the country. If the issue is strong enough and there is enough support, there are means of ensuring that good policy is formulated (remember the Right to Information Act and how it came about?) and bad policy (Ordinance against corrupt MPs) is stopped.

What the Congress needs to do is  to go back to the drawing board, think of why you lost and take measures to do better next time. Till then, play the role of a responsible opposition. We know you are hurting from the drubbing you got. But you know and we know that it was well deserved. Stop making stupid statements. Please.

As for the lady in the middle of this controversy – let us not forget that she came across as an extremely articulate spokesperson during the elections. She also gave her opponent a super fight in his family bastion. She has proven her worth as a political leader, let us give her a chance to show her administrative skills.