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|December 5, 1998||
'Misled' Vajpayee's fury over Vande Mataram costs UP minister dear
Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow
Uttar Pradesh Minister of State for Basic Education Ravindra Shukla has been sacked from the Kalyan Singh minister for his ''irresponsible behaviour'' in ''misleading'' the prime minister as well the chief minister on the question of making Vande Mataram mandatory in the curriculum of government-run primary schools in the state.
According to an official statement on Friday night, Shukla committed serious breach of trust by keeping the state cabinet in dark about the scheme.
Shukla's removal from the council of ministers was stated to have come at the insistence of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The PM is said to be upset over being misled by the UP minister on the controversial directive.
The marching order was issued minutes after Chief Minister Kalyan Singh returned from a day trip to Chandigarh.
Officials said the prime minister summoned Kalyan Singh, who called on him in New Delhi, en route to Chandigarh.
The government order making the recitation of Vande Mataram compulsory had provoked a major controversy, with Muslim leaders and Islamic scholars and clerics protesting against the ''totally unIslamic'' exercise.
However, during his recent visit to Lucknow, the prime minister told the media that the Bharatiya Janata Party-led UP government had never issued any formal order to make the recitation of Vande Mataram mandatory. ''I have checked up with the state government and no such order has been issued,'' he had said.
However, on being contacted by the media, Shukla maintained, ''The order was issued way back in July 1997 and I see nothing wrong in it.'' He also confirmed on Wednesday that the recitation of Vande Mataram and Saraswati Vandana had been included in the school curriculum. ''The plan has already been implemented in several districts of the state,'' he added.
His interviews, flashed in all national dailies, were understood to have infuriated the prime minister, who directed the chief minister to fire the minister forthwith.
The chief minister also gave marching orders to Basic Education Secretary R C Dwivedi who was ''directly involved'' in pushing the plan.
On being contacted over the telephone in Bombay, where he was attending on his ailing wife, Shukla told Rediff On The NeT, ''It least bothers me if I have had to sacrifice my position for the sake of sticking to my ideals. So many people have laid down their lives for reciting Vande Mataram during British rule, when it was the most popular song of defiant freedom fighters.''
The Uttar Pradesh government has also scrapped its Kalp Yojna scheme under which the recitation of Saraswati Vandana and Vande Mataram had been made compulsory in government schools in the state.
A decision to this effect was taken at a high-level meeting chaired by Kalyan Singh late last night.
Later, the education department was directed to withdraw the scheme with immediate effect, as it was enforced without cabinet approval. Any decision regarding the matter would be taken only by the cabinet, it was decided at the meeting.
The state government's decision over the controversial issue was taken after the central government had asked for clarifications in this regard.
Additional reportage: UNI
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