To the manner born?

St Stephen's, the elite Delhi college with pretensions to being the Oxford of India, has added another feather in its cap. Media reports have highlighted the fact that there are five Stephanians who are ministers in Manmohan Singh's government: Kapil Sibal, Virbhadra Singh, Salman Khursheed, Shashi Tharoor and Sachin Pilot. This is cited as proof of the role played by the college in instilling leadership qualities in its students. But I can't help being cynical and wondering whether it is a bit of the chicken and egg syndrome.

Is the college responsible for moulding its students so that they tend to distinguish themselves in later life? Or does the college admit students, not so much on the basis of their marks or potential, but on the basis of their family background? Were the students going to make it big in later life anyway, regardless of which college they went to? For instance, at least four of the five ministers, Singh, Sibal, Khursheed and Pilot , are from distinguished families which would have given them a head start in a political career in any case.

Why just St Stephen's, even posh schools such as Doon School and Mayo College have a disproportionate representation in Parliament compared to the neighbourhood schools that the aam aadmi's children attend. I mentioned in my Inside Track column a fortnight ago that there would be more Doon School alumni in the fifteenth Lok Sabha than those from any other school.

The alumni include newly-elected parliamentarians, Kalikesh Singh Deo, R P N Singh , Rahul Gandhi, Kamal Nath, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Jitin Prasada, Udayan Raje Bhosale and Dushyant Singh. I immediately got a response from a reader pointing out that Mayo College, Ajmer, also has eight alumni in the new Lok Sabha including, Jaswant Singh, Dileep Singh Judeo, Deepender Hooda, Kumar Ijjeyaraj Singh of Kota and Jitendra Singh of Alwar.

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