Data | Dispute over Unacademy tutor Karan Sangwan’s remark is much ado about nothing

A majority of MLAs and MPs are graduates; very few are illiterate

Updated - August 29, 2023 01:51 pm IST

Published - August 29, 2023 11:21 am IST

Himachal Pradesh has the highest share of MLAs who are graduates and above followed by Uttar Pradesh and Chhattisgarh

Himachal Pradesh has the highest share of MLAs who are graduates and above followed by Uttar Pradesh and Chhattisgarh

A week ago, Unacademy, an online education platform, fired an instructor, Karan Sangwan, after a video of him talking to students about voting for educated candidates went viral. Unacademy said that Mr. Sangwan had breached the “code of conduct,” while the instructor argued on his YouTube channel that his statement was “not political in nature” and that he had never asked students “to vote for educated candidates”. He also accused the company of buckling under pressure. “There is a pressure which gets built and you burst under its load. You could not deal with the pressure,” Mr. Sangwan said.

The controversy has snowballed since Mr. Sangwan’s termination. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal wondered why asking people to vote for an educated person was a crime. “If someone is illiterate, personally I respect them. But public representatives cannot be illiterate,” he said. Senior Congress leader Pawan Khera asked why the teacher’s comments were taken personally. “Nobody from the Congress felt like he was talking about us,” he said. Chatter on the subject continues on social media.

Data show that 72% of the current MPs completed graduation (Chart 1). Among the rest, about 23.5% did not go to college; they at least completed fifth grade in school. Information about the educational qualifications of 4% of the MPs is not available. This means that only less than 0.5% are recorded as illiterate or just literate in the current Lok Sabha.

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The trend holds true among most State MLAs too. That is, a very small share of MLAs are illiterates or just literate. However, there were significant differences among the States, though graduates dominated most Assemblies. In all the major States, except Gujarat, a majority of the current MLAs are graduates (Chart 2).

Himachal Pradesh has the highest share of MLAs who are graduates and above (76.5%) followed by Uttar Pradesh (75.2%) and Chhattisgarh (68.9%). On the other hand, Gujarat had the lowest share of graduates (45.6%) followed by Maharashtra (54.9%) and Punjab (57.3%). In Gujarat, 47.3% of the current MLAs did not go to college but had at least completed fifth grade in school.

Data about educational qualifications of Lok Sabha MPs is available from 2004, and the latest trend holds true for all general elections since. However, among MLAs, some States showed distinct trends over time (Chart 3). 

The share of graduate MLAs in Chhattisgarh surged from 49% in 2008 to 69% in 2018. Similarly, the share of graduate MLAs in Uttar Pradesh improved from 61% in 2007 to 75% in 2022. Notably, the share of MLAs who are graduates is on a rising trend across all the States. It is important to note that the education data of MLAs was not publicly available in some years in select States (in 2016 in Tamil Nadu, in the 2006 Assembly elections in West Bengal, and in 2005 in Bihar).

With a majority of MPs and MLAs being graduates and the share of graduate MLAs on an increasing trend, the controversy over the remark is not backed by data, as voters’ choice favour the educated already. More importantly, the share of illiterates is negligible among MPs and MLAs.

Source: Political Career Tracker for Candidates in the Indian National and State Assembly elections, Trivedi Centre for Political Data, Ashoka University

Also read: Data | Zero Muslim MPs in many States with over 10% Muslim population

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