In Solidarity With ‘Politics Of Education’ Versus ‘Politics Of Jail’Mar 10, 2023 | Shalini Rai
Heterodoxy is a good metric of self-belief. Tolerance of dissent indicates confidence in a particular set of actions and beliefs. Crushing dissidence with an iron fist is a mark of inadequate faith in a chosen ideology and course of action.
What has happened over the past few weeks in Delhi indicates that the current political dispensation at the Centre is jittery from self-doubt and eager to crush any form of dissent, non-conformity and such like, preferably before it becomes noticeable and creates ‘problems’.
The arrest of Manish Sisodia, leader of the Aam Aadmi Party and deputy Chief Minister of Delhi, is a case in point. Sisodia was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on February 26 under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), in connection with alleged corruption in the formulation and implementation of the now-scrapped Delhi liquor or excise policy for 2021-22.
His arrest followed that of his colleague Satyendar Jain, who has been in jail since May 2022 on money laundering charges. To add to the intrigue, news came in that Sisodia was, on March 9, arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), a day before his bail plea was to come up for hearing in the PMLA case.
What was the rationale behind arresting first Jain and now Sisodia? Was it the fact that they belong to a political party which the BJP sees as a threat in Delhi and beyond? Was the AAP’s stunning win in Punjab a contributing factor in this decision? How much of a threat did Sisodia and his work in education (and other sectors) pose to the ruling Union dispensation?
Along with handling several other departments, Sisodia was instrumental in bringing in radical changes in the field of education. A cursory look at his Twitter feed shows that as Delhi education minister, his focus was on changing the face of education in the capital, specifically in government schools. He worked on ramping up school infrastructure, including construction of sports fields, auditoriums and modern classrooms, along with tech-based teaching aids.
He even proposed taking Delhi government school teachers for training to the Jyvaskyla University in Finland. However, this proposal was shot down by Delhi Lieutenant Governor V K Saxena in January 2023.
At that time, Sisodia had alleged that the LG “disrupted” the elected government’s functioning and conspired to derail Delhi’s “education revolution”. Sisodia cited the improvement in the result of Delhi government schools to 99.6% and hundreds of government school students getting admission in IITs and top medical institutes. One statewide program stood out under his leadership — Mission Buniyaad, in which all students of Classes III to IX were taught foundational reading, writing and numeracy from April 1, 2022 onwards and surprisingly, despite summer vacations in 2022, the Mission Buniyaad camps saw a daily attendance of 65%.
Sisodia alleged that instead of helping make the education model more successful, the Delhi LG, by disallowing the proposed Finland trip, was focused on stopping the AAP government’s unique initiatives and called it ‘shameful’.
Could this have had any bearing on his arrest, over than a month later?
On Thursday, March 9, Sisodia wrote an open letter on ‘Politics of Education’ vs ‘Politics of Jail’, in which he alleged that the BJP’s problem with politics of education is that it “builds nations, not leaders”. Sisodia wrote, “It is much easier to throw political opponents in jail than giving quality education to children. BJP’s real problem with politics of education is that it builds nations, not leaders.”
He added, “Politics of education is not an easy task and definitely not a recipe for political success. Today, politics of jail might be winning under the rule of the BJP, but the future belongs to politics of education.”
The common Indian on the street, bogged down as she may be by the daily drudgery of earning a living and saving for an uncertain future, nevertheless notices when someone, in this case a politician with a mission, is targeted and incarcerated on charges which later invariably prove to be unsubstantiated.
How long before Sisodia is released, just like other dissenters, ‘troublemakers’ and ‘traitors’ were let go of by the authorities?
That may be hard to predict but one thing is certain — such tactics by those in power end up damaging their reputation in general and in cases such as those of Sisodia, beyond repair.
With the general election scheduled to be held about a year from now, it will not help the BJP’s image as a party with a fanatical base bent upon crushing any ‘threat’ by giving free rein to the various ‘competent authorities’ to hound and harass anyone seen as a ‘dissenter’ or ‘threat’. Having been in power for close to a decade now, the saffron cabal would be committing harakiri if it does not stop actions motivated by political vendetta and decisions taken with a view to disrupting the smooth functioning of the administration of any other party.
It may not be rocket science to grasp this fact and take remedial steps but given the hubris and presumptuousness in the BJP, it just might turn out to be an uphill, impossible task.
(with PTI inputs)