Rajasthan: Minimum educational criteria for civic polls was elitist. Scrapping it is inclusive

Madhuri Danthala
Madhuri DanthalaJan 03, 2019 | 10:50

Rajasthan: Minimum educational criteria for civic polls was elitist. Scrapping it is inclusive

The newly elected Rajasthan government’s decision to scrap the minimum education criteria for civic polls has attracted considerable discussion in social media circles.

Critics of the Congress claimed that the party’s progressive stance is only a façade and that it is a deeply regressive move to do away with the minimum education requirement. Some people argue that it is immature of the party to undo the 'bold steps' taken by the BJP — which had made it mandatory vide the Rajasthan Panchayat Raj (Amendment) Act, for candidates to have passed class VIII to be eligible for the post of Sarpanch, and class X for those contesting the Zila Parishad and Panchayat Samiti elections.


A knee-jerk reaction of those who claim to be progressives or liberals was on expected lines. Many of them denounced the decision and said it was a regressive step to not encourage educated people to enter politics.

Very often, middle-class people who lead a comfortable life are blinded by the naïve views of ‘enlightened politics’ — not distinct from advocating an elitist social order.

While the idea of educated people entering politics is a popular one — even touted by many as a panacea for the ills in our society — it is against the spirit of democracy, as it alienates those who have not had access to education and is fundamentally elitist.

Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot (L) and Deputy CM Sachin Pilot (R) in Rajasthan have cancelled minimum educational qualifications for contesting local body elections. (Source: PTI)

In a country where many people do not have access to education (which is the responsibility of the state and society), it is against the principles of democracy to effectively penalise them for the inability of the state to provide equal access to all. Such criteria leave out large sections of people — and impede their right to take part in free and fair elections.


For instance, in Rajasthan alone, according to the 2011 Census data, the literacy rate among women was 52 per cent and among men was 79 per cent. Thus, almost half the women of the state would be ineligible to contest elections!

Another logical fallacy that the idea suffers from is the assumption that those who are not educated do not possess intelligence or leadership qualities. In fact, some sections of the middle class with an extreme disposition advocate the disenfranchisement of those who are illiterate because they cannot ‘think properly’ and thereby fall prey to electoral sops, usually loan waivers or freebies.

The 'illiterate' is also accused of selling their votes for money or liquor. However, such a condescending tone is devoid of any empirical evidence that those without access to education are less intelligent or poor decision makers.

The middle class seldom questions its own lack of understanding of society and its ability to think critically.

For instance, there is strong opposition to loan waivers and ‘freebies’ as they are seen as a wasteful expenditure of the taxpayers’ monies. It is assumed that the government’s tax revenue is collected only from the income tax. The revenue from taxes levied on the purchases of goods and services — which are also used by the poor and illiterate — is not considered.


Such flawed thinking arises from a deeply elitist and class-ist worldview that much of our middle classes possess. It is this worldview that makes us insensitive to the millions of underprivileged people who do not have access to education — and who are often mocked in our popular culture and public discourse.

If people are truly concerned about enhancing democracy, they must advocate ways to make our society more inclusive and not exclude unfortunate people from our political processes. The decision by the Rajasthan government is progressive and most welcome in a democracy. People must understand that intelligence and leadership skills are not the same as access to education.

Also, a person’s access to education is not indicative of his/her character and hence, there should be no stigma or inferiority associated with those who are less educated.

Of course, it is another matter if someone lies about their education as it reflects on their integrity.

Last updated: January 04, 2019 | 13:25
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