Perhaps for the first time in the country, a political party has made education its electoral trump card, as Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia asked South Delhi voters on Tuesday evening to vote for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the upcoming election on the basis of its achievements in the education sector – one of the key elements of AAP governance.
The AAP has scored a strategic victory by steering the election debate into governance. It has deliberately stayed clear of contentious national issues, which leaves the main opposition BJP with no strong talking point against the party.
“It’s for the first time that a political party (AAP) has come to you to ask for votes on the basis of the work done by it in the field of education in Delhi. In the last five years, we made water free, bus ride free for women and have been providing free electricity up to 200 units, but the emphasis has been on quality education. We want all of you to evaluate our efforts and achievements in the education sector, and vote us to victory,” appealed Sisodia, while addressing a large crowd at Chittaranjan Park market, which is a part of the upscale Greater Kailash (GK) Assembly segment.
The gathering comprising senior citizens, women and youths in large number who had patiently waited for Sisodia’s Jan Sabha (public meeting) for more than an hour, endorsed his statement with constant cheering, sloganeering, clapping and greeted him with a standing ovation.
To convey its message, the AAP strategically chose Chittaranjan Park – also known as CR Park – a hub of the Bengali community in Delhi known for its pulsating markets full of eateries offering Bengali and Tandoori cuisine, street food and coming alive culturally on weekends and traditional festival with performances by bands and theatre groups. People from across Delhi and NCR visit this destination not only to buy variety of fish but also to enjoy the ambience, which according to locals is “intellectual churning” through addas (casual community discussion) comprising wide range of topics from sports and films to politics -- from football to the present-day issue of Citizenship Amendment Act.
On the call of any political party on any burning issue – the residents of this 40,000 plus locality can be found standing for hours even in chilling winter as active participants. As a result, every party ensures to have its rally at CR Park, and AAP scored first this time ahead of Delhi Assembly election which is scheduled to take place on 8 February.
Much before the scheduled public meeting, AAP volunteers and party supporters had already created a vibrant environment by playing the latest foot-tapping poll jingle composed by Vishal Dadlani—“Lagey raho, Lagey raho Kejriwal...Dilli bole dil se jamey raho Kejriwal” --which even compelled many passersby to stop, be a part of the rally and thereby increased the footfall.
Unlike regular politicians, Sisodia came in his regular aam aadmi attire and got straight to business – he gave a 40-minute address that focussed on AAP government’s work, achievements in social sector, on freebies and its positive intervention in the life of an aam aadmi (common man) in terms of economy.
Though Sisodia touched upon AAP’s achievements in various sectors, the common denominator of his poll address was education.
“For Delhi to be a model city, we need to provide quality life to every citizen and that can only be achieved by providing quality education to students from all segments of the society. At present only 5 to 10 percent of the total student population gets quality and high standard education. Our goal is to extend it to all and we’ve taken various steps to provide a quality education through government-run schools. Today, not only leaders from other political parties, but also from our neighbouring countries have approached us to know about our model of education,” said Sisodia.
Jugnu Agarwal, coordinator, School Management Committee (SMC) of government-run schools in GK Assembly constituency told Firstpost, “One of the biggest achievements of Sisodiaji as education minister was activating SMC. Unlike in the past, now the committee and school principals pay attention to what we suggest. Earlier Parent-Teacher Associations used to be a sham, but now it’s a part of the decision-making process.”
Education and not just infrastructure
Emphasising on quality education, the deputy chief minister said, “We can’t have development only by focussing on infrastructure like building flyovers, malls, etc. These are essential, but only quality education can bring paradigm and long-lasting change, and development in true sense. India has been in the category of a developing nation for the last several decades. Unless 100 percent students have access to high-quality education, India can’t be a developed nation.”
Sisodia cited two examples to drive his point home, “While our chief minister’s son studied in a private school and got selected to IIT, his batchmate is the son of a tailor and studied in a government school. In Dwarka, I met a presser who irons clothes in a building complex, whose son studied in our government-run school and has got selected to IIT. This is the change we’ve brought in our school education system.”
The AAP government every year allocated nearly 25 percent of the total budget to the education sector, unlike in other states, where it’s between 12 to 13 percent.
“The biggest challenge we faced after coming to power was government school buildings, which were in shambles. We used a large fund to remodel government schools, improve infrastructure in schools, increase teaching staff and introduced a professional approach. In this year’s budget, we’ve allocated 26 percent to education,” Sisodia said.
After the rally, Alka Mathur, a senior teacher, who now acts as a volunteer to bring change in government-run schools told Firstpost, “The Government Boys Secondary School in this area had been in shambles for years, which has now become a model school. The education minister promptly acts on feedbacks he receives from volunteers like us. The facilities available in government-run schools at present are not there in many private schools. The teaching standard has also improved a lot.”
The freebies provided by the Kejriwal government in terms of free water and subsidised electricity had been criticised by the opposition parties, stating it to be a ‘wastage of taxpayers’ money’.
Sisodia justified how Kejriwal government’s governance model and freebies have impacted the lives of millions in Delhi and are an attempt to provide a small financial relief to people to improve their living standard and increase purchasing power.
Citing Nobel prize-winning economist Abhijit Banerjee on increasing the purchasing power of common man, he said, “Due to free water and subsidised electricity, the citizens of Delhi saved some money and they utilised it on improving their living. It has increased their purchasing power. Abhijit Banerjee said that if you put money into people’s pocket, it will increase their purchasing power. And this is helping both the consumer and the businessman to keep the cycle moving. This is our approach to improve the existing economy.”
He said that the Delhi government stopped leakages and thefts in tax collection, power transmission, etc., and thereby saved money, which was passed on to citizens as subsidy and freebies.
Anup Tagore, a CR Park resident and an AAP volunteer remarked, “In the last five years, the BJP-dominated South Delhi Municipal Corporation virtually did nothing to improve civic amenities in this constituency. Finally, our MLA Saurabh Bharadwaj used his fund to improve the condition of roads and drainage system of this constituency.”
While leaving CR Park and rushing for another meeting, Sisodia told Firstpost that the AAP government would work next on higher education.
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Updated Date: Jan 22, 2020 16:22:30 IST