Indian democracy was born on 26th January, 1950 when the Constitution of India came into effect. The people of India chose Parliamentary democracy, bas on the British parliamentary model to constitute a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic and republic state through the adoption of Constitution that became model for all those who were striving to build a humane, just and egalitarian society based on equality. In a representative democracy such as India people surrender their rights to an elected body chosen through periodic elections. The allow their representatives to make laws and policies affecting their interests. Th representatives are known as MPs or MLAs or counsillors.
They represent the people of the constituencies from which they have been dulu elected. Through representation, people indirectly participate in the functioning the government. If the representatives are unable to act responsible, it results in injustice against the people.
Democratic principles envisage that a person who seeks to be a representative should take responsibility. Thus, the representatives of people in a democracy should have a good moral character, should be empathetic and be mindful of th interests of the people of his constituency. In today’s politics, the trust of the electorate is repeatedly violated, morality has become a myth and politicians hav become over concerned with capturing power. The degradation of political cultur is due to the loss of responsible character among our representatives. This has called for our representatives to be more informed and educated. Demands have been put to make educational qualifications necessary for contesting elections to representatives of the people. But this recommendation requires a thorough discussion of the advantages as well as disadvantages of this step.
Necessary Conditions for Contesting Elections in India
In India, for contesting electionsthere are currently no educational qualification only simple qualifications are required to represent any Constituency. These incluc • A person should be resident citizen of the country.
• The person should be atleast 25 years of age.
• The person should be registered as a voter in any Constituency.
• He/she should not be convicted of any offence and sentenced to an imprisonment of 2 years or more.
•He/she should not hold any office of profit.
Thus, no educational qualifications have been prescribed for contesting elections and representing the constituency. This is because it is argued that the most relevant qualifications for a MP or MLA is the ability to understand the people’s concerns and represent their interests. If they are more educated but fail to represent the interests of the voters adequately, they will be voted out of power whereas if a candidate is not highly educated but keeps the interest of his electorate supreme, then there is not a better representative than him/her. When the issue of necessary educational qualifications came up before Constituent Assembly, it was decided that educational qualifications should not be made mandatory for contesting elections for the politicians as large number of freedom fighters dropped out of their school and college education to serve national cause. Also, most of the Indian electorate were illiterate which would have deprived them from representing the nation. So, it was decided that political sense and capability and social awareness in an individual should be the most decisive factors in allowing a person to represent the interests of the fellow citizen.
Arguments in Favour of Educational Criteria for Contesting Elections
Education is the most important aspect in the present world for an individual. Our representatives are our leaders. People look upon at their representatives as guide who can properly work for their interests. Thus, educational qualifications are also necessary for politicians seeking to contest elections. Following arguments, can be given in support of educational qualifications for our representatives
• It would enhance the policy-making quality in India as better educated and specialised politicians will be able to better understand the needs and aspirations of the people. They would be in a better state to understand and predict the policy measures required to get rid of the current and future problems of Indian population,
• Less qualified politicians will not be able to cope up with the global changes and will not be able to understand diplomatic situations with other countries of the world as well as world leaders.
• It would attract some of the most brilliant minds from the country for contesting elections because they will perceive the election battle ground to be familiar and welcoming when they will see politicians with qualifications similar to theirs.
• Educational qualifications would also raise the general level of education in the country. More people would become inspired to get literate and educated if the political leaders will start to do so.
•Currently, most of the politicians are non-specialised. They work for the general welfare of the people. The task of specialised activities is left to the civil servants and committees who are allowed to frame more specific rules and regulations. Educated politicians will be able to better understand the administration and specialised tasks which are currently delegated to the bureaucracy.
• The great Greek philosopher Aristotle had said that the educated differ from the uneducated as much as the living differ from the dead. Thus, education is seen as providing an advantage to an individual if he wants to serve the people of his/her country.
•Currently, in politics, winning elections has become the primary motive of the politicians. The candidate’s winnability and economic wealth is considered as decisive factors in deciding whether the candidate will be able to serve the interests of his/her constituency or not. If education is prescribed as a criteria for contesting election, it would reduce the influence of these factors in politics.
Arguments Against Necessary Educational Qualifications for Politicians
Though there has been a favourable wave towards prescribing minimum educational qualifications for politicians, yet there are various aspects of the disadvantages of this move, which can not be ignored. These are –
• Education is one of the fundamental rights of every citizen in the country. Providing education to each and every citizen is the duty of the state. Thus, it is the state that has failed to provide education, and for failure of the state citizens can not be punished. They can not be deprived of their right to contest elections because of the failure of state.
• Educational qualifications have not been prescribed under the Constitution, expect for a very few posts that involve specialisation. Thus, the Constitution makers did not envision any educational qualifications for any posts except for a few.
• It is believed that more than education, character and commitment for politicians are important. A strong and well built character will be effectively able to represent the interests of the people who have voted them to power. Correct and just use of power does not require any educational qualifications but a good moral character and ethical behaviour is required.
• As most of the people in India are still illiterate, prescribing minimum educational qualifications will deprive majority of the common people from contesting elections. Thus, if majority of the people will get disqualified from contesting elections, it will result in inequality of opportunity in contesting elections, that is against the constitutional principles of equality before law.
• Prescribing minimum disqualifications would deprive a large number of females from contesting elections as it is the females that drop out of schools and colleges to take care of the household chores and family.
Thus, minimum educational qualifications for politicians may be required but it must address the existing concerns that come in the way of democratic rights of the illiterate and poor citizens of India who will be affected the most if such educational classifications are made mandatory. The largest concern is that if educational qualifications are made mandatory then majority of the existing legislators will also become ineligible to contest elections.
It is not doubtful that certain minimum educational qualifications are necessary for politicians so that the best of minds should govern our country. Yet it cannot be enforced upon the country with the blink of an eye. The minimum educational qualifications that should be prescribed shall be left to the wisdom of the common people and the politicians.
Simultaneously, various other reforms can be initiated to clean the political system of the country and ensure ire that people with good moral character having good education enter politics.
These reforms and suggestive measures are
• Political parties should reform their structure of election of members to the party. If men who are highly educated having ethical and moral principles enter into politics, it would lead to the betterment of existing political system
• Criminalisation and money and muscle power should be reduced in the elections. More awareness should be spread among the electors so that they themselves choose candidates that are educated and not the ones having criminal background. Role of money can be reduced by putting limits on the election expenditure and strictly implementing the code of conduct.
•Spending in education, health and similar social services should be raised so that general level of education can be raised. This will automatically improve the elected representatives in the longer term because more educated people will join politics.
• Student politics should be strengthened and more students should be encouraged to participate in the public political life. More number of university students coming into politics will challenge the existing political system and the elected as well as unelected leaders will try to reflect upon their own capabilities.
Thus, a well informed individual, having a powerful will and strongest moral character represents the interests of the people most effectively. Though educational qualifications are required for politicians yet they are not necessary. Education helps in decision-making and without education it can be difficult for politicians to solve the problems of society. So, if more educated citizens with good moral character enters the politics, they can be better leaders who would work for the interests of people that they represent.
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