One aspect of Indian politics is that no matter what ideology politicians may claim to follow, their actions when in power follow a well-trod path of convenience. This means resort to populism when the going gets tough, or an opportunity for self-advancement is seen on the horizon. Party ideology is ditched without a pang of conscience if caste or community can be leveraged for vote bank consolidation. In fact, in the present fifteen seconds of fame culture, when hitting the social media headlines for whatever reasons is considered a major achievement, basically anything goes.
So it is that the Samajwadi Party is socialist only in name and is basically identified with the Yadavs. The Congress and so many other parties have become family proprietorships instead of the meritocracies envisaged by Mahatma Gandhi, Ambedkar and other founding fathers of Indian Democracy. The BJP swears by Hindutva but has no compunction in ‘nationalising’ a swathe of Hindu shrines in Uttarakhand to be run by – horror of horrors – JNU generated ‘babus’. Free market policies may be the USP that brings them to power, but inspector raj continues in any field of activity that can be interfered with.
In the latest such ideological confusion, Uttarakhand Minister for Primary Education Arvind Pandey was all grassroots and plain-speaking when he advised parents to admit their children to government schools if they found private schools too extortionate, particularly in asking for fees during the pandemic lockdown. This was appreciated by many who believe in egalitarian principles, education in the mother tongue and Indian civilisational values. That is very BJP like thinking. Then the minister seems to have lost the plot and has now announced the setting up of two English medium government schools in each development block. Though this is unlikely to become a reality for a number of reasons, it promises to introduce a caste system in government schools – those for the poor and the others for influential people who hope to get ‘English Medium’ education for their children at the taxpayers’ cost. This is sadly becoming the culture in the state where the newly ‘empowered’ are seeking to consolidate their hold over resources. Ideally, every government school should be able to teach the necessary amount of English to its students required to cope with the demands of higher education, particularly in the technical streams. That would, of course, be a very hard and unappreciated task in the short term, so quick fixes are being offered. Where it fits into the BJP world-view is, however, another matter altogether. When the reckoning comes, they will ask, “What happened? How did it happen?” But, by then, it will be too late.