The West Bengal government on Monday passed a Bill in the state Assembly to make the chief minister the chancellor of all state-run universities, The Indian Express reported. So far, the governor held the position of the chancellor.
The Bill, introduced by state Education Minister Bratya Basu was passed after 182 MLAs voted in its favour and 40 votes against it.
Basu said that there was nothing wrong with the chief minister taking over as the chancellor since the prime minister is the chancellor of the Visva Bharati, a central university in West Bengal.
“The governor, who is the present chancellor, has violated protocols on various occasions,” Basu also said, according to NDTV.
Since 2019, when Jagdeep Dhankhar took over as the governor of West Bengal, he and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee have been at loggerheads on several matters.
Dhankhar has been a vocal critic of the Mamata Banerjee government. On her part, Banerjee has accused Dhankhar of being a mouthpiece of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government. She has alleged that the governor interferes with the state government’s functioning.
In January, Dhankhar had alleged that the state government appointed 25 university vice chancellors without his consent. In response, the state government had claimed that the education department has the right to appoint vice-chancellors selected by the search committee if Dhankhar refused to approve the names.
Opposing the Bill, the BJP on Monday accused that the state government of wanting to control everything.
“The decision to appoint the chief minister as chancellor of universities is being taken to facilitate direct interference of the ruling party in the state’s education system,” said BJP MLA Agnimitra Paul, according to PTI.
Meanwhile, the Leader of Opposition, Suvendu Adhikari said that he will take up the matter with the central government since education comes under the Concurrent List of the Constitution, ANI reported. Both the state and central governments have the power to take decisions on subjects listed under the Concurrent List.
“I will meet the governor next Monday on the issue and will request to send it to Delhi,” Adhikari told reporters.
The West Bengal government’s move came nearly two months after the Tamil Nadu Assemblyunanimously passed a Bill allowing the state to appoint vice-chancellors to universities.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin had said that the governor is supposed to appoint vice-chancellors in consultation with the state.
However, Stalin had said, a new trend has emerged in which governors act like it is their prerogative to make the appointments. This behaviour “disrespects the elected government” and goes against the citizens’ rule, he had said.