The Shiv Sena’s youth wing leader Aaditya Thackeray on Saturday met Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss the virtual classroom project and adopt technology under the ‘Digital India’ programme to reduce the weight of school bags.
During the 90-minute meeting, Thackeray told the Prime Minister about his grandfather Bal Thackeray’s dream to bring down the burden from the shoulders of school children and spoke about the party’s initiatives.
After the meeting, Thackeray said, “I told the Prime Minister that it was Balasaheb’s dream not to overburden the children with heavy school bags. He always felt the children were being bogged down with the bags. We have introduced course material on tablet PC which would help the students to cope with lighter bags and also make it more convenient.”
“I told the PM about the virtual classroom programme in BMC schools. So far we have connected 200 schools through satellite where teacher can have two way communication with students,” he added.
At the meeting, Thackeray invited Modi for an interaction with the students of BMC schools through virtual classroom in Mumbai.
The Shiv Sena, which is the ruling party in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has initiated a campaign to provide tablet PCs to students of classes 8,9 and 10. The entire study material can be accessed from the tablets. The party had also urged the state education department to extend the scheme across state schools to students. Another initiative of the Sena is the “virtual classroom” where students get lessons from experts in various subjects.
A Shiv Sena leader accompanying Thackeray said, “The Prime Minister was impressed with the concept of virtual classroom and suggested it should be extended across the nation.”
Earlier, Thackeray had urged the state government to introduce free tablet PCs in state-run schools. Each tablet would cost Rs 1,800 to Rs 2,000. The minimum budget required for the initiative is pegged at Rs 250 crore.
Even as the agenda for the meeting was ‘Digital India’, the duration of the meeting signals a new beginning in the relationship between the Sena and the BJP who are alliance partners both at the Centre and in Maharashtra.
“Whether it is the controversial land acquisition bill or protest against the nuclear power plant at Jaitapur, we will adopt a pragmatic approach,” the Sena leader accompanying Thackeray said.
At the end of the meeting, Sena insiders were quick to point out how Modi gave importance to Aaditya who was dismissed as “bachaa” or a kid during the 2014 assembly elections. A year ago the BJP was upset as Uddhav Thackeray had deputed his son Aaditya for talks with senior BJP leader O P Mathur for seat sharing.
The move to promote the junior Thackeray at the Centre also signals the gradual phasing out of the old guard who have adopted an aggressive stance against the BJP and the Prime Minister through the Sena mouthpiece Saamana.
In retaliation, a right wing newspaper had written a hard hitting article last week daring the Sena to walk out of alliance if it were so unhappy with the BJP.
A senior BJP leader told The Indian Express, “Our Prime Minister always likes to promote and encourage generation next leaders.”
The BJP denied there was anything political about the meeting. A senior leader said, “All the political decisions are left to party president Amit Shah.”