A story in the Mahabharata tells us how Yudhishthir was briefly sent to hell for deceiving Dronacharya in the war.
The significance of this minor punishment to Dharmaraj Yudhisthir is immense: In the Indian value system, even half-truths are punishable and sometimes there is hell to pay for them.
In a country that looks at its values, morals and culture through mythology, to argue that the issue of Narendra Kumar Damoderdas/Damodardas Modi's varsity degrees is insignificant amounts to ignoring the psyche of Indians. At stake here is not the academic qualification of the PM. The real questions are as follows:
Did the man India chose as its prime minister needlessly embellish his CV?
Did he claim for himself non-existent academic achievements?
To put it bluntly, did Narendra Modi lie to us about his past?
Now that the BJP has mainstreamed Arvind Kejriwal's allegations, turned the issue of the prime minister's education into national gossip, it will have to decisively win this battle of perception. The entire country is closely watching the controversy, simultaneously weighing every argument and making up its mind. The stakes have become so high that if doubts over Modi's degrees persist, they will erode his image, even if he doesn't have to pay hell for it.
At the moment, the BJP appears to be leaving too many question marks. If the very idea of responding to Kejriwal's allegation and asking Amit Shah and Arun Jaitley to give the Delhi chief minister the honour of a rebuttal, wasn't bad enough, the discrepancies in the two degrees and questions about their veracity are further undermining the prime minister's cause. Take for instance the Master's degree awarded by the Gujarat University.
According to the varsity, Modi completed his Master's in Political Science in 1983.
But, Professor Jayanti Patel, who claims to be a faculty member of the political science department between 1969 and 1993, argues that the varsity's statement doesn't add up.
This does raise a question: How does Professor Patel remember so much about one student among the hundreds he must have taught from more than two decades ago?
The other discrepancies have already been widely discussed. There are minor differences in the way his name is spelt — on one certificate, he is Narendra Kumar Damodardas and just Narendra Damoderdas in the other. The total marks in the various subjects do not add up. In his first year of graduation, Modi scored 23 in English, 23 in Hindi, 67 in History, and 23 in Political Science. But the total in the mark sheet is mentioned 165 instead of 136. Perhaps this, like the different spellings of his name, is a clerical error. But, then so many discrepancies in one person's academic documents is an uneasy coincidence.
The AAP has also argued that the PM got his graduation degree from Delhi University in 1978 in spite of appearing in the exams for third year in 1977. The BJP has, however, clarified that Modi failed in his third year, forcing him to reappear in 1978.
But, read his mark sheet again. It shows Modi failed in three subjects (scored 23 marks each in English, Hindi and Political Science when the minimum required was 36). So, how did he make it to the second year after failing to clear the first year exams in three subjects? Did university ATKT (allowed to keep term) rules permit that?
We do not have any reason to believe that the PM's degrees are either fake or forged. There are no basic qualifications for the post of prime minister and Modi had no compelling reason to manufacture a degree, unless of course he was keen to add more academic gravitas to his personality. The timelines show that Modi went to college at the age of 24-25 and then did his Master's when he was almost 35. That's not the usual age at which we go through college and so has a ring of truth to it (if the degrees were suspect the tendency would have been to make them seem real by showing his age closer to the age when we normally complete degree and PG).
Clerical errors, especially in handwritten degrees, are quite common in India, as Sreemoy Talukdar wrote yesterday how he became 'Srimay' on his degree certificate. The mystery of the vanishing Kumar, the 'e' in Damodardas and the wrong total on the mark sheet could well be a reflection of how the staff in our institutions functions.
But, to ensure that his image doesn't get sullied by the controversy, the BJP — now that it has accepted Kejriwal's bait — should go all out to ensure there is not even an iota of doubt over the prime minister's degrees. If this is another of those cheap tricks of Arvind Kejriwal to stay in the news, it's to the BJP's advantage to expose the same.
Updated Date: May 12, 2016 19:38 PM