Textbooks are turning to be the best friends for those hoping to contest local bodies elections. Rajasthan has been the first state to make education qualification mandatory for contesting Panchayat and Municipal elections. And persons hoping to contest the next elections are busy managing to attain required (school) educational qualifications. Education had been made mandatory qualification for those contesting local bodies elections in Rajasthan and eligibility requirements vary from class 5 to class 8 and 10. Incidentally all these classes have board exams and so mugging up the lessons is the only way to clear exams. The rule had been introduced for Panchayat elections in January 2015 and for Municipal elections in July 2015. There had been major uproar against the move in the last elections and rules had been, unsuccessfully, challenged in court too.
The implementation of the rule had left many hopefuls out in the cold. Many politically strong families at local level were found lacking on the education front and thus rendered ineligible.
“People were hoping that opposition to the rule would get it struck off, but that did not happen. As a result there has been an infusion of fresh young faces, especially young, educated girls who contested and won elections. But this time the situation is different. People are not willing to take chances and have started getting an education,” said Virendra Shrimali of Hunger Project, Rajasthan.
The fifty percent reservation for women in panchayat elections has prompted a spurt in education for girls and women. Not only are daughters being educated, the choice of a daughter in law now has education as a desired qualification.
Apart from the hopefuls, currently elected representatives are also taking the education route to safeguard future political interests. 44-year-old Suresh Sengar, Chairperson municipal corporation Abu Parvat, has cleared class 10 exams and appeared for class 12 exams clearing 3 papers.
“The education rule was amended a year after I was elected with education till class 8. I have used the time in between elections to study. I have cleared the mandatory class 10 and have partly cleared class 12 from open school,” said Sengar. “I had appeared for class 12 the same year as my son appeared for class 10. I need to clear two papers which I hope to do this time,” he added with a smile.
Similarly Kasturi Kanwar a councillor in Mt Abu is busy preparing for class 10 examinations along with her husband Shaitan Singh. The couple has two children who study in class 8 and 9. Evenings are a heartening sight at their home when the entire family sits together to study. “I got elected last time, but this time if I need to re contest, I have to clear class 10. My husband and I are both studying so that any one of us can contest,” said Kasturi Kanwar. “It is difficult to go back to books, but I am putting in my best effort,” she added.
Several social organisations have been opposing education being made a qualification and opposition Congress has announced that it would change the rule once it comes in power. But those hoping to contest elections are not willing to take any chances and the motto for them is School Chale Hum