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Javadekar and the art of doing what's practical and possible

By Aditi Phadnis
April 02, 2018 17:32 IST
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Javadekar, along with Piyush Goyal and Dharmendra Pradhan, is among the few ministers who have party as well as ministerial responsibilities.
He is one of the managers for the upcoming Karnataka elections. How he will deliver that responsibility remains to be seen, says Aditi Phadnis. 

IMAGE: Union HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar addresses the Smart India Hackathon 2018, in New Delhi on Friday. Photograph: Press Information Bureau of India

Hindu-Muslim riots broke out in Mumbai in 1992 after the demolition of the Babri Masjid and many politicians from the Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party had to be given police protection.

One such was Prakash Javadekar, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad activist and former officer in the Bank of Maharashtra.

Although he had no direct involvement in the riots, protection was given to him because of his background.


In those days, Javadekar had a Bajaj scooter. What do you do with an armed guard when you have only a scooter?

So he followed the only logical option. The guard would ride pillion and the two of them would zip through the streets of Mumbai, the guard clutching his gun with one hand and hanging on for dear life to the spare wheel of the scooter with the other.

His circumstances have changed, but as a person, Javadekar is still the same: a practical politician, committed to practical solutions.

In the BJP in Maharashtra, many politicians -- including Pramod Mahajan, Gopinath Munde and Javadekar -- owe their rise to Vasantrao Bhagwat, organising secretary of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in the BJP.

In fact, among those he has mentored, Bhagwat counted all three as his proteges.

Javadekar’s father was a printer and journalist and a strong supporter of the Hindu Mahasabha. The rivalry between the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha is well known; so there was a time when Javadekar's father moved out of his son's house, citing ideological differences.

During the Emergency, Javadekar was jailed along with many others but he had a heart condition that needed immediate surgery and jail authorities refused permission to him to go to hospital.

It took a strike by the entire jail to enable him to have an operation, which he survived -- in those days, a miracle in itself.

He was arrested while he was an officer in a government-owned bank and was suspended. However, the union was controlled by the BJP and his suspension was rescinded when the Emergency was lifted.

Javadekar and Kirit Somaiya, a chartered accountant, were inducted as full-timers in the BJP together. They became part of the BJP’s core team in Maharashtra, along with Mahajan and Munde.

But while Somaiya contested and won a Lok Sabha election, Javadekar stayed in state politics and was made a member of the legislative council when the BJP-Shiv Sena government came to power with Manohar Joshi as chief minister and Munde as deputy chief minister.

He was made vice-chairman of the State Planning Board.

Being a Brahmin, he had limited mobility in Maharashtra politics. But he remained Mahajan’s shishya and learned the art of making political friends and brokering alliances from Mahajan who was the architect of the Shiv Sena-BJP relationship -- a skill that he used with panache when he was entrusted with brokering the electoral arrangement between the BJP and the Telugu Desam in Andhra Pradesh in the 2014 general election.

Strangely, those skills have remained unleveraged in the last four years.

He did not contest the 2014 election from Pune although it was widely expected he would, leaving the seat to Anil Shirole of the BJP: possibly because he got cold feet.

He currently holds a Rajya Sabha seat from Madhya Pradesh. Paradoxically, it is the absence of a mass base that has helped him take tough decisions: including submitting himself, as a minister of state (independent charge) of environment, to a seven-day limit for clearing files -- something that cost the United Progressive Alliance government Rs 520 billion in delays.

As MoS (information and broadcasting) he said he would allow FM Radio to broadcast news, empower the Film and Technology Institute of India to become a better, more autonomous institution and would never agree to anything that would remotely fetter the media.

It is to him that Prime Minister Narendra Modi turned when Smriti Irani had to be shifted out, and in 2017, he became cabinet minister with the human resource development portfolio.

Javadekar might have had revolutionary ideas but he did what was practical and possible.

The outlay for education in ratio to gross domestic product has stayed at the same level in the National Democratic Alliance as it was during the UPA.

So how should education be funded and its reach expanded?

The principle of autonomy is sacrosanct but so is the idea that users pay. So he has rolled out the proposal of autonomy of universities; and zero government interference in the way Indian Institutes of Management should be run.

The latter idea was a UPA legacy and as minister, Irani tried to put her own imprint on it. But the Prime Minister’s Office put paid to those ideas and it is to Javadekar’s credit that he did not try to gild the lily.

The courses offered by the National Council for Educational Research and Training for schoolchildren have been pruned so that children don’t have to bear the heavy burden that is Indian school education.

He has stuck to the RSS-BJP script in arguing that universities with minority character -- like the AligarhMuslimUniversity and Jamia Millia -- should be divested of the minority tag.

Javadekar, along with Piyush Goyal and Dharmendra Pradhan, is among the few ministers who have party as well as ministerial responsibilities.

He is one of the managers for the upcoming Karnataka elections. How he will deliver that responsibility remains to be seen.

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Aditi Phadnis in New Delhi
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