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Seshan’s school for politicians

Chennai, July 11: T.N. Seshan, who once famously proclaimed in an advertisement that he has politicians for breakfast, is making sure the ingredients will be more delectable than that on offer a decade ago.

The former chief election commissioner, the 10th and the most controversial, is set to head the new school of government in Pune, the objective of which is to create “knowledge-driven leaders”.

“It is a new kind of school to teach people how the government functions in all its multi-layered complexity,” Seshan, who conceived the project, told a news conference today.

The middle-class’s hero of the nineties, who stood up to the government and changed the face of Indian elections, described the school as an experiment to “empower the leaders of tomorrow”.

To be launched on August 15 with 60 students, the MIT School of Government will offer a one-year Masters diploma, “designed for the next generation of aspiring young MPs, MLAs, bureaucrats, heads of NGOs and political leaders”.

The MIT in the school’s name stands for Maharashtra Institute of Technology Group of Institutions, which is sponsoring the venture.

Youth seems to be the buzzword with the school trying to rope in the rising sons in the political firmament as visiting faculty. Rahul Gandhi, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Milind Deora, Navin Jindal, Sachin Pilot and Akhilesh Yadav are said to have responded positively to Seshan’s pet project.

“We are not going to teach politics here, but it is about how the government works, a small part of the larger concept of governance,” Seshan told the news meet he jointly addressed with Rahul Vishwanath Karad, the executive director of Pune’s MIT.

Karad said the school would be similar to the John F. Kennedy School of Government in Harvard University.

Applicants to the institute must be graduates in any discipline and below 35 years for “we want to concentrate on young leaders”, said Seshan.

Split into three semesters, the course will have nine core compulsory subjects, including the Constitution of India, the structure of government and elections and the relationship between the legislature, executive and the judiciary. There are also some optional courses like the legal system and how to reduce corruption.

Starting from how to “read budget papers” ' the thick volumes usually reserved for the “old paperwallahs” ' to the different levels of government, from the Centre to the village panchayat, students will also be taught the relationship between elected representatives and civil servants and how the Indian economy works, Seshan said.

If that sounds like piles of books to be devoured in the classroom, there is good news. The institute will focus more on practical group assignments rather than theory. For instance, students will be asked to “go and do a case study” on Imrana, the woman at the centre of a rape controversy.

The fee has been fixed at Rs 2.75 lakh, which might be waived for 10 per cent of the seats depending on the “merit and necessity of the candidate”, Seshan said.

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