The debate on the issue of Narendra Modi’s graduation degree could have easily been quietly buried had the Bharatiya Janata Party chosen not to highlight it at a high powered press conference earlier in the week. If the Prime Minister has indeed obtained his BA degree from the Delhi University, which one should have no doubt he has, where was the need for making a public tamasha about it? The matter could have been convincingly addressed by the registrar of the university, who, in any case, came out in the open a few days later to authenticate the degree as also to spell out Narendra Modi’s enrolment number as well as his roll number. But before this exercise, two top BJP leaders addressed a press conference displaying the BA and MA degrees of the Prime Minister and putting forth an airtight defence on his behalf while illustrating with who and where Modi used to reside when he was pursuing his undergraduate course in the Delhi University.

The BJP leaders’ press conference was aimed at countering the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) propaganda and assertion that the degrees were fake and Modi should answer why he had lied to the nation. However, the media interaction only amounted to adding more questions regarding the authenticity of the degrees. It raised unnecessary doubts in people’s minds in addition to shifting the focus to the Prime Minister’s academic qualifications from the Agusta Westland deal, which had put the Congress on the back foot.

A senior functionary of the Sangh Parivar associated with the media also expressed his perplexity over the painstaking efforts of the two leaders, Amit Shah and Arun Jaitley in coming to Modi’s defence, when all it needed was a statement from either the university or the party to end the matter. The AAP has in the meantime vowed to get to the bottom of the matter and has reiterated its suspicion over the genuineness of the documents produced by the BJP functionaries.

It is obvious that in attempting to bail out Modi from a crisis that did not exist, the BJP has ensured that the last word on the subject is yet to be heard. It is ludicrous to imagine that if Modi had not done his graduation from Delhi University, he would have qualified for admission to a Master’s programme in Political Science from a university in Gujarat. The MA admission could have happened only after Modi produced his documents including the degree, mark sheet and a migration certificate from the Delhi University, which is mandatory when a student seeks to pursue education elsewhere. These papers bearing the DU enrolment and roll numbers on the migration certificate should be in the logs and records of the Gujarat University.

In addition, the details have to be chronicled in Delhi University as well. The degree that was displayed by the two BJP leaders should have carried the embossed signatures of Prof R.C. Mehrotra, who was the vice chancellor and K.N. Thusu, the registrar at that time in the late 1970s. If Thusu would have not been there for some reason, his second in command, J.C. Kochar would have put his signatures on the important document. Similarly, the mark-sheet should have the initials of either Madan Mohan, the then controller of examinations or S.N. Gupta, his deputy or that of Mr Sarkar who was the superintendent of the Examination Branch. There would therefore be no debate if this drill had been followed while authenticating the degree.

In any case, Modi was not elected as the Prime Minister because of his academic qualifications. He was chosen due to his governance skills and his ability to hasten the process of development, a glimpse of which he had shown as the Chief Minister of Gujarat. In India, barring Dr Manmohan Singh, no Prime Minister has had a distinguished academic career. Jawaharlal Nehru was a barrister at law and received his education in England but was never a top ranking student. Indira Gandhi was not a graduate, though she went to a Swiss finishing school, pursued academics at Shantiniketan and subsequently dropped out from Oxford. Rajiv Gandhi was unable to pass the exam at Cambridge and later opted to become a pilot. Lal Bahadur Shastri did not boast of any super qualifications and neither did P.V. Narasimha Rao, Inder Gujral, Chandra Shekhar and Vishwanath Pratap Singh.

Public life is all about the ability of leaders to identify and solve problems while concurrently laying down long term policies for the betterment of the nation and its people. If academics were to become the sole criteria for good governance, then university professors would be running the day to day affairs of the country. The bureaucracy, as it is, creates continuous hurdles for citizens and it takes a politician to untangle the complications that get generated in the process.

It is a different story that Indian politicians have the knack of getting ensnared in needless controversies. There is no dearth of politicians who have furnished questionable information about their educational qualifications. Questions have been raised over Sonia Gandhi’s credentials and also of the present HRD Minister Smriti Irani, amongst others. It should be remembered that the requirement or eligibility for being a good leader does not lie in his or her academic vita sheet, but in the ability to empathise with the masses and address problems, while steering the country on the path of progress. Modi should always keep this in mind. Between us.


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