New Delhi: Former President Pranab Mukherjee showered praise on Delhi’s Aam Aadmi Party government and its leaders, Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia, at an event in the capital Thursday.
It was a far cry from the time of the Anna Hazare-led India Against Corruption movement in 2011-12, when Kejriwal and Sisodia were part of the anti-government protests and Mukherjee was the union finance minister who was given the responsibility to negotiate with the protesters.
Mukherjee had launched a broadside against Hazare when the latter had vowed to go on an indefinite fast in August 2011 over the demand for an anti-corruption ombudsman or Lokpal. He had alleged that the activist was challenging the Constitution and the authority of Parliament, and that such a step was not acceptable.
But at the launch of Sisodia’s first book as an author — Shiksha (Education) — on Teachers’ Day, Mukherjee was full of praise for Hazare’s former aides, who launched the AAP in 2013. Besides lauding the Delhi government’s success in the education sector, he also appreciated Sisodia’s skills as an education administrator and minister.
Underlining the importance of the Hazare-led civil society movement in drafting the Lokpal Bill, Mukherjee had earlier said this was the first time a law was made with public participation, hitherto an exclusive domain of legislature.
Delhi is showing the way
As expected, education was the theme of the day, and Mukherjee, who worked as a teacher for a decade before joining politics, spoke about how Delhi was showing the way to the rest of the country.
“I must congratulate them for having done well. Yes, there is a system that has to be followed and I wouldn’t comment on that, but as a citizen of Delhi, I want to thank them for all this (education)… Delhi has the largest number of students coming here for education and also a huge number of schools and colleges,” Mukherjee said.
He said when Kejriwal and Sisodia invited him for the book launch, he was reminded of how they had first invited him to teach again on this day in 2015. For two years, the then-President of India had taken classes on the Constitution in a Delhi government school, which were then telecast to the entire country because “the teacher in me who was dormant woke up suddenly”.
Mukherjee also talked about creating an atmosphere where students would be encouraged to ask more and more questions until they are satisfied with the teachers’ answers.
The Delhi government introduced a happiness curriculum in its schools in 2018. Mukherjee also talked about the link between education and happiness, saying: “The world is not just talking about GDP and services… The world needs more. It needs gross happiness… and the foundation of happiness is education.”
Praise for Sisodia
The former President thanked Sisodia for penning a book on education. The book tells the story of the changes in Delhi’s education system and the challenges Sisodia overcame to improve the infrastructure and quality of schooling. It is available in English and Hindi.
“He has three portfolios as minister, but chose to write on education, which speaks for itself. It is not just a book of theory, but also narrates the practicalities of the changes that have taken place,” Mukherjee said.
“A book like this is important during a time like this — it will be beneficial for teachers, officials and educators.”
Giving a heartfelt speech ahead of the release, Sisodia said he always wanted that government schools should not be looked down upon or thought of as an entity for the poor.
CM Kejriwal added: “We always wanted that everyone should get the same education, be it the rich or the poor. We didn’t want any difference. We can’t force anyone to come to government schools, but we wanted to make them so good that people would voluntarily send their children to government schools.”