Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia will not be present during U.S. First Lady Melania Trump’s visit to a Delhi government school in the city on Tuesday, as their names were dropped from the guest list for the event, sources said.
Ms. Trump, wife of U.S. President Donald Trump, is scheduled to visit the school to sit through a ‘happiness class’ and interact with the students.
The U.S. Embassy had communicated to the city administration on Saturday morning that the names of Mr. Kejriwal and Mr. Sisodia did not figure in the list of invitees for the event, sources in the Delhi government said.
When contacted about the matter, a U.S. Embassy spokesperson referred the query to the Delhi government.
According to the original schedule, Mr. Kejriwal and Mr. Sisodia were to welcome the First Lady at the school and brief her about the rationale behind the introduction of the happiness classes, as well as the Delhi government’s overall reform initiatives in the education sector, officials in the city said.
“Names of Kejriwal and Sisodia have been dropped from the list of invitees for the event. We do not know who will receive and brief the First Lady about the ‘happiness classes’ when she visits our school,” said a Delhi government official.
Though there was no official reaction from the Delhi government on the issue, a series of tweets by Mr. Sisodia, credited for the educational reform in Delhi schools, indicated the AAP dispensation’s unhappiness over it. He said the ‘happiness classes’ is “the solution to all forms of hate and narrow-mindedness”.
“Education is meaningless without happiness. I am happy that Delhi govt. schools are showing a path to the world. And the world is curious to know what we are doing in happiness class,” he tweeted.
An AAP functionary argued that in the absence of the Chief Minister and his Deputy, there is no one to brief Ms. Trump on the ‘happiness curriculum’. “The Delhi government’s happiness curriculum has been lauded across the globe. Who will brief Melania Trump if the Chief Minister and the Deputy Chief Minister are not present during her visit?” he asked.
Expressing anguish over the exclusion of the names of the two leaders from the event, Aam Aadmi Party spokesperson Saurabh Bharadwaj said it has always been the “protocol” and the “convention” for State leaders to be present when a foreign dignitary attends an event in their States.
He also said the names of Mr. Kejriwal and Mr. Sisodia had been dropped from the guest list at the behest of the BJP-led Central government.
He referred to a press conference by a BJP spokesperson to clarify the saffron party’s stand on the issue. “The BJP is claiming that it [Centre] did not ask the U.S. Embassy to drop the names [of Mr. Kejriwal and Mr. Sisodia] from the guest list. The comments actually indicated that there is something fishy,” Mr. Bhardwaj said.
“If it [the Centre] has not asked it [the U.S. Embassy] to drop the names of the Chief Minister and the Deputy Chief Minister, then it could have simply requested the Embassy to include their names,” he said. “Instead of asking the U.S. Embassy for the same, the holding of a press conference by a BJP leader is a clear indication that it [BJP] is involved in the entire matter,” Mr. Bharadwaj said when asked about the issue.
On Mr. Kejriwal not being part of the guest list for Ms. Trump’s visit to the Delhi school, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said that there should not be any “low-level politics or petty politics” on issues which are of national interest. “India comes under disrepute if we start pulling each other’s legs. The Modi government does not influence the U.S. with regard to whom they invite or not,” he said.
The Delhi government had introduced the ‘happiness curriculum’ in July, 2018. According to the curriculum, students studying in classes 1-8 at Delhi government schools must spend 45 minutes every day attending ‘happiness classes’, where they participate in activities like storytelling, meditation and question and answer sessions.
Similarly, for nursery and kindergarten students, the classes are held twice a week.
The Arvind Kejriwal-led government has been spending a large chunk of its budget on education in the city in the last several years.
In its last budget, the Delhi government had set aside 25% of its total budget for the education sector, perhaps the highest among other States.