ASHVINI A. writes from Bangalore: Scanning the headlines on the Deccan Herald website on Friday afternoon, I came across a Press Trust of India (PTI) report about Indian parliamentarians attending classes at Yale University on global issues and leadership challenges.
My first reaction was “Wow, good idea, will open their minds.”
But it took just a few seconds for my initial enthusiasm to come crashing down. As I scrolled down the report, the choice of MPs selected for the programme intrigued me, and then began plainly irritating me.
Leader of the pack: Abhishek Manu Singhvi, son of L.M. Singhvi.
The other members of the squad:
# H.D. Kumaraswamy: son of former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda.
# Naresh Goyal: son of former prime minister I.K. Gujral.
# Jayant Chaudhary: son of Rashtriya Lok Dal leader, Ajit Singh.
# Shruti Choudhary: daughter of Haryana tourism minister Kiran Choudhary, and grand-daughter of Bansi Lal.
# Priya Dutt, daughter of late Sunil Dutt.
# Mohammad Hamdullah Sayeed, son of the former Union minister P.M. Sayeed.
# Anurag Singh, son of the Himachal Pradesh chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal.
# Mausam Noor: granddaughter of Congress leader A.B.A. Ghani Khan Choudhary.
In other words, eight of the ten members of the team (there is also Prakash Javadekar, who is just the son of his parents) are from political families. Sons, daughters, relatives of political leaders.
First, their family standing and surname helped most of them get tickets to contest the elections and enter Parliament. Now, they are getting preferential treatment for leadership courses!
In a house of 543 MPs, were there no other “young MPs” who were found worthy of being chosen for this high honour?
(For the record, the India-Yale Parliamentary Leadership program is aimed at “providing insight and perspective to young leaders by giving them the exposure of different fields and ideas.”)
Who selected the MPs?
The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) or the Indo-US forum of parliamentarians? Does Yale know of the scam? Or is it a party to it?
How did H.D. Kumaraswamy get on the list? Did he serve as chief minister without these leadership skills? Or did his friend Rajeev Chandrasekhar, who headed FICCI till recently, swing it for him?
Off hand, I can think of at least three other MPs from Karnataka who have been elected on the strength of their own steam without any member of their family being in politics, who could have been on this trip: Dhruvanarayana (Chamrajanagar), Navin Kumar Kateel (Dakshina Kannada) and Janardhana Swamy (Chitradurga).
Looking at the number of “children” who were elected to the Lok Sabha, it seemed to me as if “We, the People” had internalised dynastic politics to the extent of becoming a Dynastic Democracy.
Looking at the Yale list, I am convinced.
Questions like whether leadership can be taught if not learnt in a classroom, and whether leadership for an Indian milieu can be taught by an Ivy League University, are evergreen.
But there are other questions bugging me:
# How is it that these “children” did not pick up leadership skills from their father, mother, uncles?
# Should a former chief minister like Kumaraswamy have been included in the list with first time MPs?
# Can an American university, howsoever great, really teach leadership for an Indian context?
# Are these first-time MPs in danger of being brainwashed and indoctrinated in the American way of thinking and learning?
# Should we not send delegations like these to places in India that are poor, disease-stricken so that they know the reality?
# Should not these MPs spend time with farmers, weavers, fishermen etc who face extreme hardships to make a simple livelihood and have little of no support from Goverment?
Going to Yale is good idea, but visiting different towns and villages at home in Bharat that is India will teach them more lasting lessons about leadership and challanges that an Yale can never teach.
Pretty soon, Parliament is going to take up the question of whether “foreign universities” should be allowed to set up shop in India. Is it reasonable to expect at least eight of the ten to have made up their minds?
Disagree with the choice of MPs?
Write to the president of Yale, Richard C. Levin.