CM Kejriwal, his deputy Sisodia dropped from Melania's school event

PTI New Delhi, India Feb 22, 2020, 10.44 PM(IST)

File photo. Photograph:( ANI )

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Melania, the wife of US President Donald Trump, is scheduled to visit the school to watch "happiness classes" and interact with the students.

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his deputy Manish Sisodia will not be present during US 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.

Melania, the wife of US President Donald Trump, is scheduled to visit the school to watch "happiness classes" and interact with the students.

Sources in the Delhi government said the US embassy communicated to the city administration on Saturday morning that names of Kejriwal and Sisodia do not figure in the list of invitees for the event.

When contacted, a US embassy spokesperson referred the query to Delhi government on the matter.

According to the original schedule, Kejriwal and Sisodia were to welcome Melania at the school and brief her about rationale behind introduction of 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 happiness classes when she visits our school," said a Delhi government official, who wished not to be named.

Though there was no official reaction from the Delhi government on the issue, a series of tweets by Sisodia, credited with educational reform in Delhi schools, indicated the AAP dispensation's unhappiness over it.

He said "happiness class" is "the solution to all 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 said.

Earlier in the day, the deputy chief minister told reporters that the Delhi government had received a request about Melania's visit to a government school.

`"If she (Melania) wants to come (to a government school), we welcome her," he said.

An AAP functionary argued that in absence of the chief minister and his deputy, who will brief Melania about the 'happiness curriculum'.

"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 exclusion of names of the two leaders from the event, Aam Aadmi Party spokesperson Saurabh Bharadwaj said it has been a "protocol" and "convention" that the state leaders are present when any foreign dignitary attends events in their states.

He also alleged that the names of Kejriwal and Sisodia have 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 US Embassy to drop the names of Kejriwal and Sisodia from the guest list. The comments actually indicated that there is something fishy," Bhardwaj claimed.

"If it (the Centre) has not asked it (the US Embassy) to drop names of the CM and deputy CM, then it could have simply requested the embassy to include their names," he said.

"Instead of asking the US embassy for the same, holding press conference by a BJP leader is a clear indication that it (BJP) is involved in the entire matter," Bharadwaj said when asked about the issue.

On Kejriwal not being part of the guest list for Melania's visit to the Delhi school, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said that there shouldn't 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 doesn't influence the US, as to whom they invite or not," he said.

The Delhi government introduced the happiness curriculum in July, 2018. According to the curriculum, students studying in classes 1-8 at Delhi government schools spend 45 minutes every day to attend "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 per cent of its total budget for the education sector, perhaps highest among other states.

Kejriwal led AAP to a spectacular victory in the assembly elections earlier this month primarily riding on his development agenda including reforms in the health and education sectors.

The reforms initiated by the AAP government have been lauded by several prominent personalities.

On Friday, Kejriwal said his government will provide all possible help to the Maharashtra government to implement education reforms which he said reflected "cooperative federalism at its best".