Kerala row the catalyst in newest chapter of TMC vs Bengal Governor saga

Taking the cue from a assertion that Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan made final 12 months throughout a confrontation with the southern state’s Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, the West Bengal Cabinet on Thursday determined to introduce a Bill to nominate CM Mamata Banerjee because the Chancellor of all state-run universities.

This has raised fears in regards to the autonomy of state-run universities being compromised and units the stage for an additional confrontation between the Trinamool Congress (TMC)-led administration and Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, who has repeatedly clashed with the federal government since he assumed cost in 2019. At current, the Governor is the Chancellor of 17 universities in West Bengal.

Last December, Dhankhar twice convened a gathering on the Raj Bhavan with the V-Cs of personal universities — as soon as on December 18 after which on December 23 — however each occasions the establishments’ heads have been a no-show. Earlier in 2021, a gathering with the vice-chancellors and government heads of state universities didn’t happen when the invitees didn’t flip up.

After the December conferences didn’t happen, the Governor took to social media to decry the “shocking unionism” and criticised the federal government for ignoring him whereas appointing V-Cs. “I direct all these appointments be revisited. UGC (University Grants Commission) needs to engage into serious probe about private universities as I find they are in breach of several regulations, particularly qua the visitor. It cannot be put under the control of the government, it has to be in accordance with the law of the land.”

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He made an identical declare this January too, alleging that 25 vice-chancellors within the state had been appointed “illegally” with out his approval. Labelling the appointment of Calcutta University V-C Sonali Chakravarti for a second time period as “a classic case of patronage”, Dhankhar claimed that he had directed the federal government to withdraw the appointment on September 16.

Following Dhankhar’s outburst in December, state schooling minister Bratya Basu mentioned the state administration was contemplating a proposal to appoint CM Mamata Banerjee because the interim Chancellor of all state universities. The Bengal minister referred to a letter that Khan had written to Vijayan two weeks earlier saying he wished to step down because the Chancellor of state universities and the Kerala CM may step into the function. Vijayan, nevertheless, didn’t heed the feedback.

Basu advised the media, “Instead of cooperating with the state government, the Governor is showing only hostility. If files are kept pending for his assent for an indefinite time and he continues to show little cooperation, we can think of implementing what the Governor of Kerala has said … if needed, we will look at the Constitutional aspect of it and seek legal opinion to have the Chief Minister as the Chancellor of the state universities for an interim period. If the statements of Kerala Governor is applicable for that state, it can be applicable for all states under the federal structure.”

This was not the primary time the TMC authorities had clashed with Dhankhar over his alleged interference within the functioning of state universities. In December 2019, the state administration clipped his powers as Chancellor by amending the present rules and making certain that every one communications between him and the V-Cs acquired routed via the schooling division.

The Governor has shared a turbulent relationship with the federal government since taking cost in July 2019. The first indicators of a pressure appeared inside two months when Dhankhar rushed to the rescue of then BJP chief and Union Minister Babul Supriyo (now a TMC MLA) when he confronted a gaggle of hostile college students at Jadavpur University in Kolkata. Since that incident, Dhankhar has not been invited to convocations of a number of state universities regardless of being their Chancellor. Last month, at a convocation ceremony of the Institute of Cost Accountants of India in Kolkata, Dhankhar raised this matter and claimed that some V-Cs “avoid” him.

Fears for institutional autonomy

The Trinamool authorities’s proposed Bill has raised fears in regards to the autonomy of state-run universities getting compromised. “In central universities, the Chancellor is appointed based on the statute of respective institutions. As a result, the Prime Minister is not the Chancellor of all central universities. But the way the state government is attempting to make the Chief Minister the Chancellor of all state universities is unprecedented in the country,” mentioned Union Minister of State for Education Subhas Sarkar.

While in most central universities the President acts because the “Visitor”, the Prime Minister is the Chancellor solely at Visva-Bharati University (VBU).
Senior CPI(M) chief Sujan Chakraborty described the TMC authorities’s proposed move as unlucky. Referring to rhymes Mamata Banerjee as soon as composed for a kids’s e-book, he added, “From Epang, Opang, Jhapang to dang dang. Now, Nabanna (state secretariat) will control the vice-chancellors. This is not only amusing but unfortunate as well.”

State BJP spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya additionally lashed out on the state administration. “This has been done to divert people’s attention from the monumental corruption in the education sector and several appointment scams. The state government is acting like a Union Territory.”

The get together’s Bengal co-in-charge Amit Malviya tweeted, “Mamata Banerjee’s decision to replace the Governor as Chancellor of state Universities with the CM is an attempt to evade accountability and transparency. The move is intended to distract from the SSC scam and cover up gross irregularities in the Universities. CM is paranoid.”

He added, “It is not just an assault on federalism but a brazen attempt to foist people with inadequate credentials as Vice-Chancellors, who are expected to politicise education. Several appointments made by the WB Govt, in gross violation of regulations, are already facing legal challenge.”

Raising questions in regards to the proposed Bill, former Presidency College (now Presidency University) principal Amal Mukhopadhyay mentioned, “The Chief Minister is the administrative head of the state. If that person is made the Chancellor then the interference from the government will increase. The vice-chancellor on the other hand will be compelled to abide by the decisions and instructions of the government.”

But historian and Indologist Nrisingha Prasad Bhaduri mentioned the proposed change wouldn’t hurt the autonomy of the schooling establishments. “The Governor should have played the role of a supportive guardian. Can we see it happening? Besides the government takes every decision while the Governor acts as a signing authority. Then what is the difference if the Chief Minister becomes to singing authority?”

TMC state normal secretary Kunal Ghosh dismissed the Opposition’s criticism and pointed to the association at Visva-Bharati. “If the Prime Minister can be the Chancellor of Visva-Bharati University, then what is the problem in Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee becoming the Chancellor of state universities? This is nothing but the double standard of the Opposition parties. The Opposition should first ask the PM to resign as the Chancellor of VBU before criticising the state government.”

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