The BJP spokesperson was quick to urge Opposition parties not to play ‘petty politics’ over the exclusion of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his deputy Manish Sisodia from the US First Lady’s visit to a Delhi government school today to witness the implementation of the happiness curriculum first hand. If truth be told, what is inexplicable is the decision to exclude the Aam Aadmi Party leaders from the visit as the unique curriculum was conceived and executed by Sisodia and his team in an attempt to reduce stress on school children.
It involves 40 minutes of meditation, relaxation and outdoor activities and has received universal acclaim. During the recent bitter election campaign ahead of the Delhi Assembly election, the BJP had posted videos that they said “exposed the poor state of Delhi government schools”. Therefore, the decision to showcase one such school and its ‘happiness’ class to the US first Lady is surprising. The AAP has claimed that the US embassy decided to drop Kejriwal and Sisodia from the list of dignitaries to welcome Melania Trump at the school at the Centre’s behest.
There is no official statement from the state or Central government on the issue. The BJP spokesperson remonstrated with the Opposition that petty politics should not be played on important occasions and that the government of India represents all Indians, so political affiliations should not count. However, when the Trumps visit Agra for the mandatory stopover at the Taj Mahal, it remains be seen if another chief minister, Yogi Adityanath of Uttar Pradesh, leads the welcome brigade.
Ever since the BJP dispensation came to power in 2014 there has been a systematic attempt to keep the Opposition out of the picture when high-flying foreign dignitaries visit. The practice of the principal Opposition leader calling on visiting Heads of State has been virtually stopped. During the UPA years or earlier when the Congress was in power, one saw Atal Behari Vajpayee and L K Advani calling on visiting leaders without fail. Now it is only when a foreign dignitary expresses a desire to meet the Opposition leader that such an interaction is facilitated.
It happened recently during the visits of Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh and Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar who met Sonia Gandhi and a Congress delegation. Another occasion for the Opposition to join in to greet visiting dignitaries is at the Rashtrapati Bhavan banquet. Nowadays the Opposition is generally given the go-by or included very selectively in the guest list.
Therefore, when the BJP slams the Opposition for failing to put the nation first, the government must also take the blame for failing to rise above its deep-seated rivalry with the Opposition to prioritise national interests. The complete lack of bipartisanship is a factor that is fairly recent in Indian politics. The bridge between the government and the Opposition now seems virtually impossible to bridge. It does not bode well for the country’s future or its politics.