The Indian Council of Historical Research, the government body that funds research into the past, seems set to continue on its saffron trend as it gets ready to reconstitute its governing panel.

Three of the 18 candidates suggested by Y Sudarshan Rao, president of the council, are office holders in the Akhil Bharatiya Itihas Sankalan Yojana, the historical wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

Rao, who was a member of the organisation before moving to the council in Delhi in July, has spoken of the need to Indianise historical research. He also maintains that the Ramayana and Mahabharata are valid historical texts and that the Saraswati river needs to be discovered. In 2007, he argued that caste was an effective social system before the Muslim period.

The yojana, which also aims to rewrite Indian history from an Indian perspective, has declared several controversial projects over the years. It is now working on compiling all the Puranas and distributing them as the true history of India.

The Ministry of Human Resource Development is yet to decide which of these 18 names will eventually make it to the council. As the council oversees funding and therefore the path of historical research in the country, members of the governing panel are often historians eminent in their areas of specialisation.

Here are the academic profiles of the three nominees.

Narayan Rao, vice-president, Akhil Bharatiya Itihas Sankalan Yojana
The  73-year-old Narayan Rao's sole claim to fame seems to be his high position in the yojana. During his tenure, he has overseen many of the group’s more controversial announcements, such as tracing the route of the River Saraswati and shifting the date of the Buddha back by 1,200 years.

Rao has presented on historical chronology at conferences, but does not seem to have any published papers in reviewed journals. Before retiring in 2001, he taught at Berhampur University in Odisha.

Nikhilesh Guha, chairperson, West Bengal Bharatiya Itihas Sankalana Samiti
A professor of history at Kalyani University in Kolkata from 1978 until his retirement in 2007, Guha is known for his work on the history of Mysore. He has written several books and papers on the state and land revenue system under Tipu Sultan and his father Hyder Ali. He has also compiled the complete songs of Brahmo Samaj founder Raja Ram Mohan Roy and has written a historical profile of Shyama Prasad Mukherji, the founder of the Jana Sangh, an ideological parent of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

In 2007, just after he retired, he applied for an extension of his tenure by two years. After screening the last five years of his experience teaching and researching, the university denied him this extension. The Calcutta High Court upheld that decision later that year.

Ishwar Sharan Vishwakarma, general secretary, Akhil Bharatiya Itihas Sankalan Yojana
Vishwakarma is the youngest and most accredited of the three historians. According to his profile page on the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gorakhpur University website, the D Litt holder has had 28 research papers published in refereed journals, including the History Review. He has 21 years of teaching experience.

His specialty is the Vedic period. He has written papers on the measurement of distance, a historical geography of Varanasi (Rao has written a historical geography of ancient India), on Vedic language and literature and also on the depictions of Vishwakarma, the Hindu god of architecture associated with Brahma.