Rasheed Kappan

The Government's laidback attitude is a cause for concern

BANGALORE: The Government is apparently in no hurry to find a successor to M.S. Thimmappa, who steps down as Vice-Chancellor of Bangalore University (BU) on Tuesday. The Search Committee to shortlist the candidates is still awaited. But the delay has not dented the enthusiasm of the contenders for the top post, whose numbers are on the rise.

The list is obviously long. But caste equations, political factors and academic credentials in that order narrow down the competition to a few players. The names of Ranganath from Mysore University, Shakuntala Katre from Bangalore University Department of Zoology, Govindaraju, UVCE Principal, Jogan Shankar, Ambedkar Study Centre visiting professor, and Prakash, Director of the Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI), are all doing the rounds.

The political stakes are high. Equally strong are the caste factors, hinging mainly on the representation of Vokkaligas and Lingayats.

According to one argument, Bangalore University cannot have a Vokkaliga vice-chancellor as Mysore University has one as its top man from the same community. Besides, Kuvempu University's Vokkaliga vice-chancellor retired only a month ago. In all probability, the post would go to a Lingayat or a Backward Class candidate, a university source told The Hindu.

But if the Government opts for a woman vice-chancellor, this argument would not stand because the strongest contender in this category is Dr. Shakuntala Katre, a Brahmin with adequate administrative experience and academic credentials.

The university source hinted that Biocon chief, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, could make a big difference to Dr. Katre's chances. Incidentally, Ms. Shaw was also a student of Dr. Katre.

However, if caste were to be a deciding factor, the woman contender might find her chances dim. Here's one argument: A Brahmin cannot replace another Brahmin.

Further, it is a big "if" whether the Government would go for a third woman vice-chancellor. The Women's University and the Karnataka State Open University have women at their helm.

The source said Prof. Ranganath had a "strong" presence in the contenders list. A non-controversial, academically clean man, this professor had a senior and equally influential retired professor as his mentor. Besides, he was from Hassan.

But Dr. Prakash had everything in him to emerge as the dark horse, the source said while indicating the interest of a senior BJP leader in this connection. He had apparently built up a good reputation in CFTRI as an able administrator and was academically strong.

If Lingayat votes, a major factor in the BJP's victory in the last Assembly elections, were to play a part, then Prof. Chandrashekhar from the university's History department could feel confident. The dean of arts faculty is a contender. With plenty of administrative experience, Surana college principal, K.E. Radhakrishna, is a contender too. But he is a Brahmin and his lack of a Ph.D to his name could be a drawback, the source said.

Among Dalits, Prof. Jogan Shankar and Siddalingaiah are the main contenders. Prof. Shankar, with his strong academic base, could be in the reckoning. Also in the race is H. Siddhaiah.

The candidates are many. But university insiders fear that the rogue elements would exploit the administrative inexperience of an acting vice-chancellor if the Government does not act fast. "The Government's laidback attitude really hurts," lamented a concerned university insider.