As long as Modiji delivers, who cares if he has a BA, MA

We want our problems solved and quality of life improved. Even if an anpad were to do it, he’d still be our hero.

 |  5-minute read |   13-05-2016
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Reveling in non-issues is our current national pastime. It helps to kill time. Also, to look away from the reality. Wilful blindness is not the inability to see. It is the eagerness to see everything else, so long as they are superfluous.

Also read: Don't need a degree to prove PM Modi is against education

I hold no brief for Modi. Of course, I admire his energy. I used to be addicted to his oratory. How I am disposed to Modi is irrelevant to the present controversy concerning his degrees. The matter is simple. Does the status of his degrees help or hinder his effectiveness as PM?

Modi did not capture, or seduce the imagination of a whole nation, flaunting his degrees. Never mind it was only a third of the 66.38 per cent votes polled in elections 2014 (which makes it around 20 per cent of the eligible voters.) But, why should that count?

Also read: Degree or no degree, Modi has failed this test

modi-bd_051316022300.jpg Make promises by all means. Sweep us off our feet. But, for god’s sake, please deliver.

Karl Jung, the distinguished Swiss psychiatrist, writes in his autobiography that of all the people he had to deal with, the worst were the intellectuals. He found them devious and disappointing specimens of humanity. It is an averment hard to refute. So, if anything, Modi is to be congratulated for not wasting his time chasing worthless degrees.

Also read: Modi's degrees are fine, stop this nonsense

Of course, Modi should not have made groundless claims about degrees, if indeed he has. Such claims make him guilty of factual lapses. Like Kapil Sibal saying (actually, this is a lot worse) that the loss to the exchequer on account of 2G was only "presumptive".

If Modi has indeed done this, it need not disappoint us. We have accepted this, as a matter of style, from him a long time ago. In his election speeches, Modi had been using data with entertaining inexactitude for rhetorical effectiveness. The gaffe about Kerala being similar to Somalia in infant mortality rates being the latest.

Do I blame Modi for this? No, not at all. The aim of a public speaker is to keep his audience pecking from his hand. From time immemorial, public speakers have used all sorts of tricks to achieve that end. A mass meeting is not like a courtroom hearing.

Materials used while addressing the masses are insured against verification and cross-examination. More importantly, crowds love exaggeration. They cheer you all the more for smudging facts, which they know you are doing only to make their enjoyment keener.

As a citizen, it is of no consequence to me if Modi has an MA, or if he was placed in the first or second division in the examination, as some allege, he did not take.

Also read: Have Jaitley, Shah pushed Modi into Kejriwal's trap in degree row?

What interests me is if the trust the people reposed in him as "the prime ministerial candidate" is being honoured or betrayed by him as PM. We are ordinary citizens. We want our problems solved and quality of life improved. Even if an anpad were to do it, he’d still be our hero.

I did look forward to Modi becoming PM because of the promises he made, and made with such flourish and persuasion.

That black money (which, according to Ram Jethmalani, amounts to 90 lakh crores!) will be brought back in 100 days, making each one of us richer by Rs 15 lakh. Whether 90 lakh crores, divided by the population of India is 15 lakh per capita, is a question that points to education. 

Whether Modi will bring black money back is a question that pertains to his stature. I would go for the latter, and laugh over the former.

That all agents of corruption - he named a few - will be behind bars in a matter of months. Now, whether the list he proffered was accurate or good enough, is a matter of education. But, if he would stand by, or elude this commitment, is a matter of his integrity. 

That millions of jobs would be generated by waving the development wand and kick-starting the sleepy, sluggish industry. The authenticity or otherwise of Modi’s degrees has nothing to do with what has happened in this regard.

Also read: Why I am convinced Modi's degrees are fake

Readers can add to this list, like in the case of Wikipedia. These things matter to us. And we shall brook no deflection from them by decoy balloons. Oh, don’t we know what happens in the education sector?

How many PhDs are bought and sold in the black market of higher education. How many educated duffers are prowling at the gates to sneak in, by hook or crook. How many PhDs  there are who cannot hold a candle - I swear - to Modi or Smriti in adding two and two. Spare us, for god’s sake, that joke. Come to the point. Let us have minimum accountability in public life.

Make promises by all means. Sweep us off our feet. But, for god’s sake, please deliver. That given, it does not matter, Modi ji, whether you have a BA, MA, or none at all.

Please don’t let anything distract you. Redeem the promises you’ve made. We have cheered you long enough. Now do something to cheer us.


Valson Thampu Valson Thampu

The writer is former principal of St Stephen's College, Delhi and former member of the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions (NCMEI).

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