University of Mumbai vice-chancellor Sanjay Deshmukh’s meeting with Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray has caused quite a stir.
While some academicians have called it an ‘unnecessary political move’ and ‘irresponsible’, others said a vice-chancellor was free to have a personal meeting with a politician.
According to senate members, the vice-chancellor meeting a political leader who does not hold a constitutional position in the government was uncalled for.
“As the head of an academic institution, Deshmukh should not have visited a political leader to discuss university issues. There is the academic and management council for that. A vice-chancellor should be apolitical during his tenure, “said a member of the senate, requesting anonymity.
Deshmukh’s visit to Thackeray’s house comes days after state education minister Vinod Tawde asked vice-chancellors of all state universities to appoint nodal officers to interact with politicians and administrative authorities rather than meeting them personally. Tawde was unavailable for comment.
Former vice-chancellor Snehalata Deshmukh said: “If it was a courtesy visit, I don’t see any problem. However, if the meeting had any political outcome or discussions, it is wrong. A vice- chancellor can call upon anyone to discuss the university’s roadmap,” she said, adding that during her tenure she had not visited leaders of political parties.
While the MNS chief may not hold office, the party’s student wing Maharashtra Navnirman Vidyarthi Sena (MNVS) enjoys a majority in the university’s student council.
The visit also created ripples in the political circle with Sachin Sawant, spokesperson of the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee, alleging that Deshmukh has violated the Maharashtra Universities Act.
“The governor must inquire whether section 13(e) of Maharashtra Universities Act 1994 has been violated,” said Sawant.
The university said Deshmukh can visit anyone. “He is the top officer of the university and his meetings and agendas cannot be questioned by us. There is nothing wrong with Wednesday’s meeting,” said MA Khan, registrar of the university.
Despite several attempts, the vice-chancellor was unavailable for comment.
WHAT THE ACT SAYS
As per section 13 (e) of the Act, the vice-chancellor may be removed from his office if the governor is satisfied that he is a member of, or be otherwise associated with, any political party or any organisation which takes part in politics, or is taking part in, or subscribing in aid of any political movement or activity.