From Municipal corporator to MLA and then Minister of School Education, Sports and Youth Welfare of Maharashtra, Ashish Shelar has had a long political journey. In a candid conversation with the Free Press Journal newspaper, Shelar spoke about the opposition, education reforms in Maharashtra among a lot of other things.
Not the one to mince words, Shelar called the weakening position of the opposition in the political scenario a scary thing. Shelar said, “It’s unfortunate that opposition is so weak now, they are now fighting within themselves rather than working for Mumbai or Maharashtra.”
Shelar made headlines when he held yoga sessions in schools. He was accused of politicising the ancient form of fitness. “All these are just mere political allegations, if doing yoga is politics than entire world is doing politics. Yoga is a way of life, promoting it is does not have anything do with politics. There are many organisations which are helping create awareness about yoga and who are aligned to our ideology (BJP) also. Many nations who are friendly with India are now doing yoga...the opposition is just for sake of politising the topic.”
Lately, teachers of unaided schools and junior colleges staged protest regarding their salary structure. When asked about what the government plans to do to resolve the issue, Shelar said, “Practically, in this topic there are so many issues.” Explaining the issue further he added, “For example: Were the appointments done by following the set procedures? Were interviews conducted to fill the posts? Were advertisements for openings given? Was a fair chance given to others who had applied for the post? Has a roaster has been followed? These are processes which are supposed to be followed while filling up the vacancies.”
Teachers have been protesting saying that the state government has not fulfilled its promise to provide 20 per cent aid for private unaided schools. The state had announced 20 per cent aid but teachers are demanding 100 per cent government assistance that became cumulative since the year 2012. Teachers have demanded that their salaries should be at par with their counterparts in government-aided schools.
He slammed Congress for flouting rules when they were power for opening schools and appointing teachers without following set procedures. “Since Congress’ time, politicians have become ‘Education Samrat’, they use their political power to open schools in their respective constituencies and appoint teachers without following due procedures. And, hence, in such cases their appointments cannot be called legal. So, when someone says he/she has been working for 14 years, that person should understand these procedures and see if the criteria is met. And, as an education minister I have to follow these procedures,” Shelar said.
Coming to the state of education in Maharashtra, and Former President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, praising the Delhi government's initiative in overhauling the education system in Delhi, especially, the state of the state run schools, Shelar said, “Firstly, Maharashtra and Delhi can’t be compared. Maharashtra is doing much better in other sectors than the national capital. Population of Maharashtra and number of students in state is much higher than that of Delhi. And also we have BMC, they have their own schools which don’t fall under the state government. We are ready to take Delhi government’s education initiatives...we are not rigid about that. But, what we won’t accept is that they are doing good and we are (Maharashtra) are doing bad.”
Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Ashish Shelar represents Vandre West constituency. He filed his nomination papers on Thursday, for contesting the upcoming Assembly elections from Vandre West constituency. In 2014 state polls, Shelar defeated three time-MLA Baba Siddique of Congress and Shiv Sena candidate Vilas Chawri. He had polled a total of 74,779 votes. His margin of victory was 26,911 votes. Along with politics, Shelar is closely associated with sports as well. He was elected as the President of Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) in the year 2017. He is currently the Chairman of Mumbai district football association, representing Mumbai's 350 football clubs, and the Vice President of the Rajasthan Sports Club.