Governors queering pitch for non-BJP govts

Arif Mohammad Khan
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Arif Mohammad Khan

Highlights

Allegations have been mounting that the Governor of Kerala, Arif Mohammad Khan, in his over enthusiasm to please his political bosses has been interfering in the affairs of the state universities and taking arbitrary decisions, misusing his position as the Chancellor of these universities

Allegations have been mounting that the Governor of Kerala, Arif Mohammad Khan, in his over enthusiasm to please his political bosses has been interfering in the affairs of the state universities and taking arbitrary decisions, misusing his position as the Chancellor of these universities. Similar charges are levelled against almost all the Governors of the non-BJP ruled States. Former Governor of West Bengal, too, was no different.

Now, the Kerala Governor appointed a search committee for the post of Vice-Chancellor of Kerala University bypassing the provision in the Act that there has to be a three-member search committee. But the Governor has set up a two-member committee without the university's nominee. The experience in Kerala is similar to what has happened in other non-BJP ruled states. If the Governors of these States are right in doing what they do, why don't the Governors of the BJP-ruled States, too, do the same? The powers that be which defend such Governors should answer this question.

This is obviously a part of the central design of the BJP/RSS to use the Governors who act as Chancellors of state universities to get their chosen persons appointed as Vice-Chancellors and to otherwise dictate terms to the state-run universities. It is in order to check such arbitrary actions of the Governor in his role as the Chancellor of the state universities that the Kerala Assembly passed the University Laws (Amendment) Bill last week. The amendment has increased the strength of the selection committee to select names for Vice-Chancellor to five from the existing three. The two additional members would be nominated by the state government and the vice-chairperson of the Kerala State Higher Education Council respectively.

In Tamil Nadu, the DMK government in April, this year, introduced and got passed in the Assembly two bills to amend the laws of 13 universities to empower the state government to appoint the Vice- Chancellors. The West Bengal Assembly amended the West Bengal University Laws in June this year, whereby the Chief Minister has been made the Chancellor of all state-run universities. Though the BJP MLAs opposed these bills in the Tamil Nadu and West Bengal Assemblies, it should be pointed out that in Gujarat, the university law provides for the state government to appoint the Vice-Chancellor from a list of three names recommended by the search committee.

It is a democratic principle that in a state-run university, the state government should have a say in the appointment of the Vice Chancellor. The Justice Madan Mohan Punchhi Commission on the centre-state relations had recommended that the Governors should not be vested with the powers to appoint Vice-Chancellors as this was not provided for in the Constitution.

The Left has rightly pointed out that the Congress party, as is its wont, opposed the Amendment Bill in the Kerala Assembly accusing the state government of eroding university autonomy. The same Congress supported the far more sweeping legislation in Tamil Nadu Assembly which empowers the state government to appoint Vice-Chancellors. If the Left suspects that in its hostility to the LDF government, the Congress in Kerala is willing to facilitate the BJP agenda through the Governor, it is not off the mark.

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