It’s no secret that many prominent leaders have received a world-class education to prepare them for the art of governance and statecraft. Indian politicians are no exception — this includes famous figures such as Oxford-educated Indira Gandhi, the country’s first and only female prime minister to date, and Manmohan Singh, who completed postgraduate degrees in economics at both Oxford and Cambridge before entering politics.
The world’s largest democracy is looking to start 2022 with massive elections in five key states that could alter the course of national politics. In February and March, the states of Uttar Pradesh, Goa, Punjab, Manipur, and Uttarakhand will see more than 180 million voters hit the polling station, undeterred by soaring COVID-19 cases.
The upcoming elections for the State Legislative Assembly aren’t short of candidates who had an overseas education either. Here are some foreign-educated names that will appear in ballot boxes beginning next month:
One of the key candidates running in the Uttar Pradesh polls, Akhilesh Yadav has been a mainstay of Indian politics since the early 2000s. The former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh represents the Samajwadi Party, a socialist political party founded by Yadav’s father in 1992.
After completing his undergraduate and master’s studies in civil engineering at the JSS Science and Technology University in Mysore, Yadav advanced his education further with a master’s degree in environmental engineering at the University of Sydney. Often considered the “modern face” of the Samajwadi Party, Yadav is slated to be the main challenger to Bharatiya Janata Party’s Yogi Adityanath for Uttar Pradesh’s lower house in the upcoming Feb. 10, 2022 state elections.
India’s elections may still have a long way to go in terms of achieving gender parity, but there have been women candidates who brave the waters to assume the mantle of leadership against their male counterparts. Mahua Moitra has emerged as a bold voice of the opposition in the Indian parliament, and will be running as candidate for the All India Trinamool Congress party at the coastal state of Goa when voting commences on Feb. 14, 2022.
Prior to her involvement in politics, Moitra was an investment banker at the American multinational JPMorgan Chase. She has worked in London and New York, and graduated from Mount Holyoke College in the US in 1998, studying mathematics and economics. The dual specialisation launched her career in international finance, until her entry into politics in 2009.
“I think the most important thing is you have to follow what you want to do. If you don’t do what your heart tells you to do, you’ll always be mediocre at it,” Moitra says when asked about passion and leadership by her alma mater. She has certainly heeded her own advice well, and is now one of the most recognisable faces in Indian politics.
This Texas-born politician leads the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) party after the death of its his father and founder, Ajit Singh, due to COVID-related complications last year. Chaudhary first received his undergraduate degree in Shri Venkateswara College at Delhi University, and then later pursued a Master of Science in Accounting and Finance at the prestigious London School of Economics in 2002.
The investment banker-turned-politician rose to prominence when he was elected as a Member of Parliament in 2009. Chaudhary put his education to good use during his first term by serving as a member of several parliamentary committees, including the Standing Committees on Commerce, Agriculture and Finance, and the Consultative Committee on Finance. He is known to be vocal about agrarian issues, such as the large-scale acquisition of arable lands in Uttar Pradesh, and a proponent of sustainable agricultural practices in India.
Sukhbir Singh Badal
Last but not least of Indian politicians who studied abroad is Sukbir Singh Bandal. First elected into the parliament in 1996, Bandal holds a Master of Arts in Economics degree from Panjab University in Chandigarh, and an MBA from California State University in the US. The Badal name isn’t a stranger to the Indian political scene; it’s a dynasty of its own in the state of Punjab. Badal took over the reins of the Shiromani Akali Dal party from his father in 2008, himself an imposing figure who became India’s youngest chief minister in 1970.