West Bengal government to appoint CM as Chancellor of all State-run universities

Bill to be introduced in Bengal Assembly to this effect

May 26, 2022 05:01 pm | Updated 11:15 pm IST - Kolkata:

West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC Supremo Mamata Banerjee with State Governor Jagdeep Dhankar. File

West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC Supremo Mamata Banerjee with State Governor Jagdeep Dhankar. File | Photo Credit: PTI

The West Bengal Cabinet on Thursday passed a resolution to nominate Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee as the Chancellor of all State universities. Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar is the Chancellor now. The development can add a fresh twist to the already strained ties between Raj Bhawan and the government.

“It was unanimously decided at a Cabinet meeting held today that Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee will be appointed as Chancellor of all State universities. An Act to this effect will be tabled in the Assembly soon,” Education Minister Bratya Basu told media persons after the Cabinet meeting.

The government had given hints a few months ago that it is going to nominate the Chief Minister as the Chancellor of all universities.  In December last, the government took note of the tussle between the Kerala government and Governor Arif Mohammed Khan over appointment of Vice Chancellors.  Mr. Khan has asked Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan to take over as Chancellor of the universities, a post held by the Governor in respective States. Recently, the DMK government in Tamil Nadu tabled two Bills that sought to empower itself to appoint the Vice Chancellors to 13 universities.

The development in West Bengal on Thursday also points out that the government is resorting to legislation to curtail the powers of the Governor. Sources in the government said that if the Governor did not accord assent to the Bill, the government may try the ordinance route.

Differences between Mr. Dhankhar and the government have cropped up on hosts of issues. The functioning of universities and appointment of Vice Chancellors have been a crucial issue where the Secretariat and the Raj Bhawan have not only differed but targeted each other in public domain. Mr. Dhankhar in the past has expressed disapproval over the nomination of Vice Chancellors by the government. In December last, he said that Vice Chancellors of 24 universities have been appointed “in disregard of law “without the approval by Chancellor-the Appointing Authority. 

Summons to VCs

The Governor has on several occasions summoned Vice Chancellors of the State-run and private universities.  On certain occasions, no Vice Chancellor has turned up for meeting with the Governor .  In July 2020, when no Vice Chancellor turned up for a virtual conference of the Governor, Mr. Dhankhar dubbed the education system in the State “politically caged”. The Chief Minister had then assured the Vice Chancellors that they would not face any action. “ If there is any coercive action against them [Vice Chancellors],  Bengal will fight that,” she had stated.

There were also incidents in the recent past where the Governor’s attempt to preside over convocation ceremonies at State- run universities have triggered protests.  In December 2019, Mr. Dhankhar had to face protest by a section of students and employees of the Jadavpur University when he went there to participate in the convocation. A similar situation erupted at a special convocation of the University of Calcutta in December 2020 when the varsity honoured Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee.

 Recently, on May 23, the Governor summoned the Education Minister and senior officials of the department on “issues connected with education” where he stressed on “adherence to transparency enforcement of accountability”.

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