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Departure after fulfilling mission

New Delhi, Sept. 19: The RSS would pen Murli Manohar Joshi’s name in bold letters if asked to choose its “favourite” Union minister in the NDA government.

The human resources development minister put in his papers today, but not before completing the mission for which the RSS deputed him. Joshi's brief — when he was put in charge of the HRD ministry, always a soft target for any ideology-based party — was clear: Undo the work of the Left academics, fill top posts with the academics having RSS leanings and rewrite textbooks.

Joshi succeeded in all three missions. On the education front, HRD officials say Joshi’s biggest achievement has been the launching of Sarva Siksha Abhiyan, a nationwide programme for universalisation of education. He has also worked towards upgrading technical education and regional technical colleges.

But what gladdened the RSS’ heart was his unabashed pursual of a “saffron” agenda. Topping the list of Joshi’s handpicked candidates was J.S. Rajput, the man chosen by the minister to head the National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT).

Rajput put in motion one of the most controversial and fractious exercises of Joshi’s tenure. The NCERT put together a new school curriculum,pushed out Left wing historians like Romila Thapar and Arjun Dev who had authored NCERT textbooks and virtually rewrote history, riding roughshod over all its opponents. Eminent academics and chief ministers of all Opposition-ruled states loudly protested. But Joshi scored a victory that left the RSS gloating over its critics.

The HRD minister’s list of appointees covered all kinds of educational institutions. Immediately after taking charge, he appointed B.R. Grover head of the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) — patronised by Left academics for decades. M.L. Sondhi, close to the Prime Minister, was appointed chairperson of the Indian Council for Social and Scientific Research (ICSSR). Sondhi, however, turned hostile to the RSS before long.

Soon Joshi stirred a hornet’s nest in the Simla Institute of Advanced Studies when he appointed G.C. Pande its chairperson. Pande, known to be an RSS acolyte, was reported to have made disparaging comments against Muslims during the Emergency.

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