The appointment of former cricketer and two-time BJP MP Chetan Chauhan as Chairperson of the premier National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) not only set off questions about his eligibility to hold the post but also invited mirth on Twitter.
A loyalist of former Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) president and Union Minister Arun Jaitley, sources said Mr. Chauhan gained from the backing of the BJP, but were hard-pressed to explain what his credentials to hold the post were.
“I congratulate him on his appointment and only hope he spends less time at the DDCA where he is the vice-president,” Kirti Azad, BJP MP, said. “Mr. Chauhan has been rewarded by his invisible and visible political masters.”
Mr. Azad, who has locked horns with Mr. Jaitley over mismanagement of the cricket body, has been sued by Mr. Chauhan. The AAP government held a press conference questioning the wisdom of Mr. Chauhan’s appointment, especially when only last year, it had alleged financial irregularities in the cricket body and had targeted Mr. Jaitley.
The reason for Mr. Kejriwal’s opposition to Mr. Chauhan’s appointment, according to party sources, stems from his belief that the former Indian cricketer played “a major role in shielding” the Union Minister, against the criticism levelled against DDCA — especially of a financial nature — last year.
AAP attacks Chauhan
AAP spokesperson Raghav Chadha followed up at a press conference where he said Mr. Chauhan’s appointment was similar to the appointments to institutions such as the FTII and the CBFC.
“This is absurd. He (Mr. Chauhan) does not know ‘F’ about fashion and he is the same person who defended Mr. Jaitley. And his appointment has the blessings of Amit Shah and Modi,” Mr. Chadha said.
According to sources, in trying to side with the establishment, Mr. Chauhan alienated himself from the cricket fraternity, and his former teammates Bishan Singh Bedi and Kirti Azad. “When most had turned their back on the DDCA and Mr. Jaitley following charges of corruption, nepotism and mismanagement of affairs, Chauhan displayed his loyalty,” a source added.
The NIFT Act, 2006, says the chairperson to the statutory body under the Ministry of Textiles is expected to be an eminent academic, scientist or technologist or professional to be nominated by the Visitor of the institute, who is the President of India.
With less-known television actor Gajendra Chauhan as head of the FTII, a relatively unknown historian Y. Sudarshan Rao as chairperson of the Indian Council of Historical Research, and Pahlaj Nihalani as CBFC chairperson, the Union government continues to raise controversies over appointments to various institutes.