Rajasthan is in the grips of a new controversy after it emerged that the political science paper for the Class 12 state board exam, held on April 21, contained as many as six questions related to the Congress party. The Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party quickly jumped in to accuse the ruling Congress government of politicising education in the state.
Some of the questions that were asked in the question paper in the exam held on Thursday were–
• Who gave the slogan Garibi Hatao?
• Which political party dominated the first three general elections?
• How many seats did Congress win in the 1984 elections?
• Discuss in brief the Congress as a social and ideological alliance.
• The General elections of 1971 proved to be an election for restoration of Congress. Explain this statement.
• Under what circumstances did the Congress contest the 1967 general elections and what mandate did it get? Explain.
A total of eight questions are related to the ruling party of the state and six of them are about achievements of the grand old party, alleged the BJP.
However, the paper also included other questions linked to political parties like the BSP, the Communist parties, world affairs, the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, and the 1989 National Front government.
The BJP attacked the state government over the incident, accusing the ruling party of imposing questions about Congress in government examinations.
“Was it a political science paper or a Congress history paper? Many students did not even understand whether the examination is in Political Science or the history of Congress. Gehlot Ji now considers Congress as a part of history,” said the BJP state president Satish Poonia.
Condemning the political science question paper, Poonia added, “The policy of the Congress party is to mislead the new generation”.
Rajasthan BJP MLA and chief spokesperson Ramlal Sharma also slammed the Congress party.
“The party is politicising education in the state. It looks like it was an examination for selecting Congress President,” Ramlal took a jibe at the state Congress party.
The Congress party denied the allegations and said that the government doesn't have any intention of politicising the education but instead called the question paper based on the historic facts.
Congress spokesperson Swarnim Chaturvedi said, “There was no intention of glorifying the history of Congress, but it was about the glorious past of our country. In the freedom struggle, there was no contribution from the BJP. For instance, event such as the 1971 war is a glorious past, where India defeated Pakistan. But the BJP removed Amar Jawan Jyoti, the war memorial for the 1971 war to hide its own absence in the struggle.”
Reacting to the controversy, the public relations officer of Rajasthan Board of Secondary Education Rajendra Gupta said that the question paper was made as per the NCERT syllabus.
He said, “A panel of subject matter experts had set the paper and the RBSE has no power to overrule it”.
Noted social scientist Rajiv Gupta told Outlook, “The curriculum should be based on facts and so should the question papers.
All these questions are part of the textbooks and are not maligning any party. As a political party, whoever is ruling, should keep its ideology away from the textbooks.”
Gupta, a former Dean of Social Sciences at the University of Rajasthan, added, “Recently we saw in Haryana that students were asked questions such as who is the past president of state BJP and several other ideologically motivated questions. This is wrong. But this is not the case in Rajasthan where questions are purely based on the freedom struggle.”
This is not the first time that textbooks or school examinations have been in the news. In the past when the BJP was in power in Rajasthan, the then Opposition Congress had slammed them for saffronising the school curriculum by removing major parts of the freedom struggle, including any mention of the first prime minister of India Jawahar Lal Nehru, from the state board textbooks.
Chaturvedi told Outlook, “In the last tenure, when the BJP was in power, it had revamped the books and had done major distortions by giving space to Hindutva ideologue Veer Savarkar as a great revolutionary and patriot. How can we forget that Savarkar featured in the chargesheet of the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi?”
“In the Class XII political science curriculum, the revised books had a mention of demonetisation as a ‘campaign to wipe out black money’. Wasn’t this again an attempt to glorify some political move like the note-ban in 2016 that caused panic among the nation?"
The revision was not only confined to school textbooks. The University of Rajasthan had axed foreign authors and had included Gita in the post-graduate commerce curriculum. Similarly, the History department of the university too had included a book in its suggested readings, Maharana Pratap aur Haldighati Ka Yudh, which clearly mentioned that Maharana Pratap was defeated by Mughal emperor Akbar.
Senior Congress leader Archana Sharma told Outlook, “The revised textbooks by BJP in Rajasthan mentioned lotus [BJP’s symbol] as a symbol of victory. Other than the saffronisation of education in schools and universities, the then ruling party BJP had not even spared cycles [meant to be distributed free to girls] by colouring them saffron and by changing the colour of school uniforms to brown [close to khaki, the RSS dress code] from blue.”
Four years ago, the Vasundhara Raje-led BJP government had introduced a new uniform for government schools comprising of light brown shirt and brown trousers or shorts for boys and a brown kurta with brown salwar or skirt for girls.
However, when Congress came to power in Rajasthan in 2018 December, the former education minister Govind Singh Dotasara once again revised the curriculum and removed the “distorted” version in the books. Recently during the Covid-19 pandemic, the Congress government led by Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot changed the colour of school uniforms in government schools to a combination of blue and dark grey.