In politics as in argument when you try to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds theres an inherent risk of losing ground.
Shivraj Singh Chouhans government learnt this the hard way when it issued a gazette notification on introducing the teachings of Gita in Urdu schools in keeping with its ideological commitment and agreed to withdraw it under pressure to keep the Chief Ministers secular image intact.
No notifications were required in the first place because the books containing portions based on the epics message had already been distributed in government schools,including Urdu-medium schools and madrasas,without inviting any opposition.
When the first general notification went almost unnoticed,the BJP government issued another,less than a month later,meant for Urdu schools but chickened out when Muslim organisations mulled boycott of the iftaar party at the Chief Ministers official bungalow. Then he hosted the party and wore a saffron cap. Two days later,on Eid,he sported a scull cap.
This has been a pattern with mild-mannered Chouhan who takes care to not come across as an ardent votary of Hindutva but takes steps to refurbish his Hindutva credentials by occasionally tinkering with education in general and school syllabus in particular.
Under his watch,mass surya namaskar in schools has become an annual exercise,history books have been revised to give revolutionaries their due and to cut some historical and political figures to size,and a childrens magazine published by an RSS-affiliated trust is distributed in all schools. He has plans to make yoga compulsory.
But then participation in surya namaskar is not compulsory. After the Gita episode,Chouhan reiterated that chapters based on other religions are also part of the syllabus in some way or the other. When pointed out that only Hindu girls were present in posters of a scheme meant for girls he was quick to make amends.
His minders claim that some steps are taken without his knowledge by his hawkish Education Minister Archana Chitnis,who insists when she takes a decision officers better implement it.
Milind is a senior assistant editor based in Bhopal