I have a pathological hatred for saas bahu serials.That even Phd’s watch them is a source of eternal mystery to me.These serials and pyjama cricket of which IPL is the latest and the most vulgar form keep us glued to our television sets after work and serve as an opiate that keeps us away from meaningful entertainment or reading.Therefore Ms Smriti Irani was for me just Tulsi the character she played in the most popular serial of the genre which launch Ekta Kapoor’s career and an avalanche of similar serials starting with the alphabet K.
Ms Irani became a household name and a very recognisable face and when her shelf life ran out on prime time took the wise decision of joining politics.She chose wisely joining the BJP which somehow sits ideologically well with their vote bank of urban Hindu middle class.She was pitted against the wily Kapil Sibbal in Chandni Chowk and Rahul Gandhi in Amethi. She was an obvious scapegoat on both occasions and she soldiered on valiantly grabbing the attention that comes with a David versus Goliath battle.On the last day of the campaigning Modi helicoptered into Amethi and called her his sister in retort to Priyanka Gandhi’s ignorance of her existence.We know all this.
But when her name was announced as the HRD minister with cabinet my jaw fell off.She had pipped many veterans to the post and is being hailed as the next Sushma Swaraj of the BJP minus of course the ultimate boring aunty image.I did not know then that she is not a graduate.Now that I know it somehow does not matter.By roundly criticising her appointment Congress continues to show itself to be a pathetic looser and in the process the split in their ranks is out in the open with Mr Makan in the Gandhi camp and Mr Tewari(same as Mr Mustafa “Rahul is a joker” camp?) in the rebel camp. The moot question is can a high school pass person administer and reform the education sector?
Now that is a stupid question to ask.Where does the supremacy of common sense and hard work end and the depth and insight of education begin?What combination of these makes up a good candidate?What level of education is qualifying criteria for holding public office?Has our illiterate electorate mandated that their representative be armed with a clutch of qualifications?Quite simply the proof of the pudding is in the eating. WIll Ms Irani have been better qualified if she had crammed her way through a correspondence course and purchased a doctorate with a ghost written thesis?Undoubtedly she would have benefited from a quality formal education but she made choices based on her unique and trying circumstances.
I am very fond of saying that the most enriching part of my education was my schooling where I had excellent teachers even though it was not a storied school.The much fancier college and business school that I went to, pale in comparison.If indeed Ms Irani is a good student of life which I can safely assume she,is having sold burgers and mopped floors and ruled prime time television, then we must wait for her to perform.The new PM does not come across as the indulgent type even though in her appointment he has taken a leap of faith on the basis of a spark that he must have seen.I admired her considerable chutzpah in one of her television interviews.She has proven herself to be a good politician so far, how good a policy maker and implementor she is remains to be seen.
The HRD ministry has been the prisoner of either pseudo secular and capitalist agenda or subversive saffronization agenda for a long time.It desperately needs fresh thinking and delivery on the promise of spending the promised 6% of GDP on it along with a considerable reform.If under imminent threat of being sold to the highest bidder.Today an Indian postgraduate is lost in a crowd while a college graduate from a mid tier university in the west is seen as an achiever.Our universities are conspicuous by their absence in the world top 200 rankings.No wonder we have become a nation of back office service providers and not innovators even in our chosen area of IT.
Smriti Irani is too battle hardened to be fazed by the rhetoric around her appointment.She will fight back with her work and PR skills.The quality and quantity of if remains to be seen.She is Modi’s big gamble, I suspect he has a soft corner for her, he sees a bit of himself in her.Hope Ms Irani harvests the demographic dividend she has been vested with wisely and prudently.It is our greatest national asset which can make or break our fortune as a nation.