Sikkim Member of Parliament is an alumnus of IIT, IIM

Prem Das Rai says government must be accountable

The man we are talking about is Prem Das Rai, the lone Member of Parliament from Sikkim, and he is the first Member of Parliament who is an alumnus of both an Indian Institute of Technology and Indian Institute of Management.

It is a kind of qualification that legions in India can die for, so why is Rai sad? “Well, I am sad and disappointed that it took so long for an IIT-IIM alumnus to get into the Lok Sabha, because I firmly believe that there should be many more people in public life from such institutions,” Rai tells Deccan Herald.

There have been IITians and Indian Institute of Management graduates in Parliament earlier, but this is the first time that someone with both Indian Institute of Technology  and IIM degrees in his kitty has done so. Rai had done his B Tech in chemical engineering from IIT-Kanpur in 1976, followed by an MBA from Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad in 1978. He has also been a winner of the Eisenhower Fellowships in the United States in 2000.

Rai has clear ideas about how he would utilise his qualifications as an MP.
 “The more you talk of technology, the more you talk of better processes. Even the President’s address to Parliament that day spoke a great deal about accountability, especially in the government’s flagship programmes. It is in this that managerial capabilities of people like us can come in handy to ensure accountability through efficient implementation,” he says.

Programmes like the NREGS, he says, could be act as real social safety nets for the poorest of the poor of the country through an accountable implementation process.

Minimum qualification

But, the Sikkim Democratic Front MP does not believe that anyone coming to public life should necessarily have a minimum educational qualification, if not a brilliant academic record.

“I don’t believe in that, as in the rough and tumble of politics, I have seen that some of our finest brains, who perhaps did not get the necessary access to education, have shone in public life. Take my own chief minister Pawan Kumar Chamling for example, who I think in terms of political acumen and in terms of vision is second to none in this country,” he says.  At the same time, Rai does not believe that the recent trend of qualified professionals forming their own outfits to contest elections, or that of some of them contesting as independents,  would prove to be fruitful.

“While we cannot say that their efforts are wasted, as politics is a continuous learning process, the plurality of India would not allow for such outfits to be successful. You have this party of IITians – it is one of those elitist views as if only the IITians can save India,” he says.

Instead, such people, “who do believe that they need to change India or need to add their might for building the nation”, should funnel their energies through a political party, he says.

“A political party may not be the ideal mechanism, but nothing is ideal in this world. If you don’t have a political party behind you, you will end up losing than winning more often. A party is necessary. I would have never fought as an independent,” he says.

Coming from the North-East, Rai believes that the states in the region have been victims of their small size when it comes to getting ministerial berths at the Centre.

“Sikkim, since the time it got integrated with India, has never had a minister at the Centre. Yes, states like Sikkim, Tripura, Mizoram, Nagaland or Arunachal Pradesh do feel marginalised, though this time Meghalaya got a bumber harvest,” he says.

DH News Service

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