To be fair to arch-rivals Hindu, only six out of seven in Manmohan
Singh’s new-look council of ministers completed their degree at St Stephen’s.
Jyotiraditya, the seventh, is reported to have procured admission in BA Programme, but he soon got through his undergraduate admission at
Harvard, before going on to Stanford for an MBA.
Principal Valsan Thampu remembers seeing Scindia in his English classes. If Thampu remembers correctly, this does place Scindia, in the royal category of Rahul Gandhi, who attended St Stephen’s, albeit notionally, and certainly without graduating.
That said, it is interesting to note that one single red-brick building, with the smallest number of students passing out with a degree from the University of Delhi each year (numbers have varied across the years from around 350 to 400) has six ministers in the rejigged Team Manmohan. They are:
• Kapil Sibal, communications and IT, who read history, before doing an LLM, teaching at Hindu, dropping out of taking up a career in
the IAS, and going on to Harvard Law School;
• Salman Khurshid, external affairs, read literature, before St Edmund Hall in Oxford and a lectureship at Trinity;
• Shashi Tharoor (@shashitharoor), the human resource development minister, a brilliant historian and President of the St Stephen’s Union Society, who then completed an MA, MA LLD and PhD from Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, all at the age of 23;
• Ashwani Kumar, who then did an LLB from Law faculty Delhi, and an MPhil from Jawaharlal University, not to forget an honoris causa from Panjab University;
• Sachin Pilot, the minister for corporate affairs, who read literature, spent some time at IMT Ghaziabad, and then the rigorous MBA at Wharton Business School;
• and RPN Singh, now the MoS for home affairs, read history at St Stephen’s.
So, where does this leave us? The PM has entrusted these men with the job of leading India’s surge in communications, foreign affairs, human
resources, law, and corporate affairs, and by way of assisting P Chidambaram the job of interior affairs, and if Scindia is included, power too!
If one dived a little deeper, the PM already has Montek Singh Ahluwalia, the deputy chair of the Plan Panel, in cabinet rank. Montek’s career, rather well documented to be repeated, includes a Rhodes Scholarship via economics at St Stephen’s, an MPhil (reclassified from BPhil) from Magdalen, Oxford, where he also became the University President, and an honoris causa from IIT Roorkee.
Since the national security advisor is in MoS rank, and he’s a direct reportee of the PM, one can't help but add the erudite Shiv Shankar Menon, who read history at St Stephen’s.
Critics would call it sheer coincidence just as Stephanians would shrug it off as only-to-be-expected, a generation that read in the college (spelt, to the infinite irritation of the rest of the universe, with a capital ‘C’) has reached dizzy heights in Team Manmohan.
Some names include, K Natwar Singh (external affairs minister), Mani Shankar Aiyer (petroleum, sports, and panchayati raj minister), Virbhadra Singh (steel), and KM Chandrashekhar (Cabinet Secretary). The present chiefs of the Intelligence Bureau, Nehchal Sandhu, and Central Bureau of Investigation, AP Singh, read there too, as did Mrs Sonia Gandhi’s trusted aide and Principal Secretary to PM, Pulok Chatterji.
As would be evident, not all have done spectacularly well.
Befitting therefore to end with a noting that K Natwar Singh made in the college Visitors' Book, “Whatever I am, I am because of the
Legend has it that Mani Shankar Aiyer was next. And his noting? “Why blame the College!”
Tail Piece: The PM’s home team has a conspicuous number of Stephanians too. Daughter Upinder read history at St Stephen’s and is now a
professor, married to her compatriot in the college from from philosophy, Vijay Tankha. Upinder’s other two siblings, Amrit and Daman read there too.
Sonia Gandhi has inherited Doon School/St Stephen’s folks like Suman Dubey as personal friends from her husband’s core team. But that’s
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