Bengal CM, not governor, to be chancellor of universities, decides Mamata cabinet
KOLKATA: The West Bengal cabinet on Thursday decided to table a bill in the state assembly to replace the governor with the chief minister as chancellor of all state-run universities, education minister Bratya Basu said, a move that is seen as a fallout of the long-running battle between chief minister Mamata Banerjee and governor Jagdeep Dhankhar.
“The cabinet unanimously decided that the chancellor of all state-run universities will be the chief minister in place of the governor. This decision will be placed before the legislative assembly in the form of a bill during the next session and a law will be passed,” Basu told reporters after the cabinet meeting.
There has been no reaction from Raj Bhawan to the decision. According to the governor’s official website, Dhankar is the ex-officio chancellor of 17 universities in Bengal.
A TMC leader, who did not want to be quoted, said the decision was taken because Dhankhar, in his capacity as chancellor, had been raising questions on the selection of vice-chancellors which was the prerogative of the state government.
The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) reacted sharply to the Bengal cabinet’s decision.
“Mamata Banerjee wants to have all powers in her own hands. This is one such move in that direction. She wants to run an authoritarian regime where nobody can question her actions. This is a tactic to divert people’s attention from burning issues,” said Bengal BJP’s chief spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya.
TMC state general secretary Kunal Ghosh took on the governor.
“A governor enjoys a constitutional post but this governor is an agent of the BJP,” Ghosh said.
Former principal of Kolkata’s Presidency College, which is now a university, Amal Mukhopadhyay said the government’s action will politicise the education system.
“The state’s education system will be adversely affected by political interference,” he said.
The TMC government’s acrimonious relationship with Raj Bhawan has been in the news for various reasons ever since Dhankhar was appointed governor in July 2019.
In February 2020, Dhankhar set up a faceoff with the state government when he issued a show-cause notice to Debkumar Mukhopadhyay, the vice-chancellor of Cooch Behar Panchanan Barma University in north Bengal for not informing him about the university’s convocation
In July 2020, after vice-chancellors of 20 state-run universities did not attend a virtual meeting convened by him, Dhankhar attacked Mamata Banerjee, accusing the government of caging the state’s education system in politics. Mamata Banerjee hit back, saying Dhankhar was “more dangerous than a mouthpiece of the BJP”.
The 17 Bengal universities which have the governor as chancellor, according to Dhankar’s official website, are the University of Calcutta, Jadavpur University, University of Kalyani, Rabindra Bharati University, Vidyasagar University, University of Burdwan, North Bengal University, Netaji Subhas Open University, West Bengal University of Technology, Bengal Engineering and Science University, Uttar Banga Krishi Viswavidyalaya, Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswavidyalaya, University of Animal and Fishery Sciences, West Bengal University of Health Sciences, Aliah University, Gour Banga University and West Bengal State University.
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