Prime Minister Narendra Modi opposed on Friday moves by some BJP-ruled states to eulogise him in school textbooks, saying living individuals shouldn’t be included and students should instead read about the lives of past Indian greats.
His disapproval came after the governments in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh planned to include the prime minister’s inspirational life story in their school texts. Born into humble beginnings, Modi rose from being an impoverished tea boy to a self-taught, political superstar.
After news broke of the plans by the governments in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, Modi sent out a series of tweets, making it clear he was not ready for fawning adulation in school texts. Earlier, Rajasthan had also announced its intention to include a chapter on Modi in its school curriculum.
"I am reading in the news that some states want to include Narendra Modi's life struggles as a part of their school curriculum,” the 63-year-old prime minister tweeted early on Friday, his third day in office.
"I firmly believe that the life story of living individuals should not be included as a part of the school curriculum,” a follow up tweet said, adding: “India has a rich history of several stalwarts who made India what it is today. Young minds should read about these greats & emulate them.”
Eulogising popular political leaders in textbooks is remotely uncommon in India, although the practice has also been criticised at times as politicisation of school curriculum.
In 2004, when Lalu Prasad became the railway minister and Bihar was ruled by his party, RJD, government schools in the state included a chapter on him titled Mitti ka Gaurav (Pride of the Soil). That reference was dropped when Nitish Kumar became the state chief minister in 2005.
School books in Maharashtra include a chapter on prominent political leaders from the state. But as far as fawning admiration goes, nothing probably comes closer to the ding-dong battle between J. Jayalalithaa and her rival K. Karunanidhi who purge each other from school textbooks when they are in power.
Prime Minister Modi’s official website has a separate section with information on his early life and struggles.
Modi’s reaction came after Gujarat Education Minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama Thursday said: "The chapters may include events starting from his birth, his humble family background, school days, how he faced struggle at different stages of his life and what are the circumstances behind his decision to become a monk."
Earlier, the school education minister of Madhya Pradesh, Paras Jain, was quoted as saying that the government has received suggestions from various quarters that a life-sketch of Modiji be taught in the schools, to inspire students from early age."