“I often wonder, how would the governance and policies of a nation would get impacted, if there was a Union Political Public Service Commission (UPPSC) to conduct a tougher than the civil service examination to determine the minimum eligibility condition for contesting the election as MP or MLA?”
This post on social media elicited good and some very interesting responses. Those who commented on the post ranged from students to academia to industry professionals, thus representing a cross-section of society. The opinions on the post varied from being revolutionary to impractical with no precedence anywhere in the world. There were also those who felt that they liked their leaders as they are, though they wanted them to do better. I synthesize and summarise below the gist of these comments.
‘A brilliant idea if it gets translated into reality and would be the biggest political reform’ commented a senior journalist. ‘It is a good Idea but it would require them (those aspiring to contest election) to be educated. The idea is good and requires serious deliberation’ so replied a senior academician who had also been at the helm of the educational innovation and regulations. He further pointed out some practical difficulties like the need for an internship, necessary paraphernalia, issues related to the pre-induction training, etc.
’It is a beautiful idea as it will drastically reduce the number of illiterate and ignorant leaders presently representing their constituents in State Assemblies and the Parliament‘ felt a faculty member in a central University. Another academician felt that the ‘democracy will be strengthened if the idea was implemented here in India’.
This is ‘highly insightful and this type of system must be adopted by the government of this nation with immediate effect‘. A retired professor from the same central University stated that the ‘general opinion on the matter was of no meaning and those whose opinion mattered would never like the idea as they regard themselves above law ‘.
Another academician in a central University expressed that it was a ‘wonderful idea but would never get implemented as it would disqualify a substantial proportion of the present-day representatives from contesting election‘. Yet another faculty member started that the ‘it would meet the long-standing demand of the people and that it was strange that the transfers, postings of educated scientists, bureaucrats, remain in the hands of illiterates’
Many others agreed that it was ‘an unfortunate drawback of the democracy that the most powerful people are not as qualified as they ought to be But found the idea good but impractical.‘ An advocate practicing in a High Court indicated that the idea was a utopia. An eminent agriculture scientist, too found the idea ‘good’ but felt that ‘it would never be implemented and that the only solution for improving the state of affairs is to create public awareness to elect only deserving candidates‘.
A public official felt that ‘it was a great idea but was not possible in a democratic setup‘. In electoral politics which is a game of numbers, it is the quantity rather than the quality that plays an important role. You may call this a limitation of democracy. “Who will bell the cat?”, asked a senior business journalist as he felt that implementing the idea would tantamount to ”digging your own grave”. The idea was echoed, rather satirically, by a civil aviation professional, as he lamented that the ‘political classes which could not even pass a bill to prescribe a retirement age from active electoral politics or holding certain constitutional posts would never agree to the idea of enacting any legislation to prescribe a merit-based qualifier like the one suggested in the post.’
A young faculty member in a central University, however, emphasised that ‘while few politicians would be able to qualify the examination, there would be a good chance that the children of the vulnerable sections of the society – the cultivators, slum dwellers, daily wage workers, who study under dire circumstances, may qualify through their zeal and hard work, and once in the position of power they may restore confidence in meritocracy and bring about the much-needed change in the lives of their fellow brethren and sisters.‘
An MBA student felt that any such move would be an exercise in futility as things would ‘crawl back to square one because few would stand a chance to qualify thereby making the system elitist, Besides, the grassroots leaders with connect to people may continue to exert their influence on them even if they could not contest the elections.‘ Yet another student felt that the ‘panacea for reforming the governance lies in promoting literacy and awareness about their rights as well as the essence of ethics that should be followed respecting the basic structure emboldened in our Constitution.’
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A human resource and operations management professional did not discard the idea but strongly felt that he wanted a ‘Commission for the recruit of university staff to ensure that really educated and talented people get appointed such that no one could be appointed through jugaad’. He considered a compromised selection process leading to the appointment of incapable people as faculty and also in a leadership position as the real bane. Apparently, he was of the view that ‘improving the quality of education would take care of the quality of governance in the country to a great extent.‘ The idea was echoed by a retired professor from a premier state university of the country who also felt that ‘poor quality education is at the core of the problem of leadership and governance.’
An MBA student felt that this UPPSC idea would be detrimental to democracy. ‘There shall then be no democracy as it would get replaced by meritocracy comprising people with bookish knowledge” and qualifying a single paper can’t decide the merit of a person to provide good governance to the people’ ‘you can’t equate the experience of life with the knowledge of the book.’ She also felt that ‘people from weaker backgrounds with low level of education would find it impossible to get into the system and it shall become elitist. Besides, the accountability to the people will also vanish’.
A senior officer of a public sector bank summed the situation well when he stated that the political people must truly represent their constituents and need to be as their constituents are – “we already have bureaucracy…we need elected representatives who are like us… one of us…simple like us…mediocre like us…emotional like us…not trained to be diplomatic (and probably… officious)”.
People clamour for political reforms. They want politics to change. They want competent people to represent them in power and in opposition. Interestingly, however, they do not identify themselves with the educated and those holding official positions based on the merit determined by their educational attainment. They find them far removed from people to represent and promote their causes. Obviously, people prefer their political representatives to look, feel and behave like themselves.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are of the author solely. TheRise.co.in neither endorses nor is responsible for them.
About the author
Dr. Furqan Qamar is a former Advisor (Education) in the Planning Commission of India. He has been the former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Rajasthan and Central University of Himachal Pradesh. Dr. Qamar is currently the Professor of Management at the Centre for Management Studies (CMS), Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI), New Delhi.