The Times of India
BHOPAL: Going to college is no qualification for netas. School dropouts wield mammoth clout in corridors of power. In Madhya Pradesh, muscle, money and the much-hyped people's connect are the only qualifications for candidates to win at the hustings. This, at a time, when GenNext voters feel education is a big yardstick to judge their netas.

Explosive findings of Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and National Election Watch (NEW) show that one among 3 sitting MLAs has never gone to college or has a higher-education degree. Only Eighty-one of 230 sitting MLAs have been to college. And just four have been termed literate, which means they did not pass a school examination. Seven MLAs have studied till Class V. And 15 have studied till middle school. Eighteen are high school graduates (10th pass) while 37 are either college dropouts or higher secondary pass-outs. Five candidates have not stated their educational qualifications.

The NEW report has analysed 220 of 230 MLAs of states as per affidavits filed with the Election Commission of India during the 2008 elections.

A quick look at constituencies represented by dropout MLAs reveal they hail from tribal belts like Badwani, Shajapur, Khargone and Dindori.

Incidentally Congress has 40% MLAs who are college dropouts - 26 of 66 party MLAs never went to college. Besides, BJP has 52 semi-literate MLAs. SP has one MLA and BSP has four.

TOI spoke to some of these sitting MLAs to find out their views. Blurring party lines, they said people's connect was crucial and not education.

Three-time BJP MLA Harendra Jeet Singh 'Babbu' represents Jabalpur South, a tribal constituency. He's a school dropout. "My constituency comprises 90,000 slum dwellers. Only those like my people can represent them. A well-heeled candidate can never win as they are addicted to luxury. Also I'm well versed with technology, so I can connect with the youth as well," he said.

When asked about education qualifications, he said, "Why would a qualified, literate person join politics and work his way from the grassroots? He would go for a regular secure job."

He also highlighted that among the voting population, 50% are from the low-income group. "Lakhpatis and crorepatis seldom step out of their air-conditioned homes to vote. They can only indulge in arm-chair criticism. It is the poor that votes governments to power."

Prem Singh Patel, whose education is listed as 'literate' was more vocal. "If a woman like Rabri Devi, who never received education, could become chief minister of Bihar, then it doesn't really matter."

"There are uneducated MLAs in both Congress and BJP. But only those who can identify and redress people's problems will be elected," said the MLA from Badwani.

Bhagwanpura MLA from Khargone district, Jamna Singh Solanki is another such MLA who is a Class VIII pass-out. "I won last elections with a margin of 17,000 votes. This shows there is no relation between educational qualification and his popularity. However, despite this, if the party wants to field someone else, it would be a mistake," he said.

Incidentally, Solanki is one of the 'silent MLAs of the state who hasn't ever asked a question in the Vidha Sabha. His explanation, "We are government's people and our work shows." However, he failed to answer why other MLAs of his own party have asked questions.

But there are some who understand the need of the changing times.

"People's connect is important. However, a leader should be qualified as per the aspirations of the youth. Besides, he should have an indepth knowledge of his region," said Laljiram Malviya, MLA from Agar, Shajapur. He is incidentally a school dropout.

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