The nomination of Jawaharlal Nehru University Vice Chancellor M Jagadesh Kumar as the head of a panel to pick Madras University’s vice chancellor has sparked a political row in Tamil Nadu, with the MK Stalin-led Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam alleging that it was an attempt to saffronise educational institutions in the state, The News Minute reported on Friday. The Pattali Makkal Katchi also criticised the move, saying that an educationist from the state should have been chosen instead.

“JNU saw a brutal attack on its students even while its vice chancellor [M Jagadesh Kumar] watched on and displayed negligence,” Stalin said in a statement posted on Twitter on Thursday. “It is almost as if the post has been given to him as a reward for how he acted by the Governor and it will set a terrible example.” He added that this is an attempt to create the impression that the state did not have a person qualified enough for the position.

PMK chief S Ramadoss also condemned the move, asking if there was no one qualified enough in Tamil Nadu to lead the panel. “Handing over charge of Tamil Nadu’s universities to people from other states is dangerous,” he said.

The JNU administration, under Kumar as the vice chancellor, had come under intense scrutiny after mobs entered the campus and attacked students and teachers with sticks and iron rods on January 5. A Congress fact-finding committee that inquired into the violence alleged that Kumar was the “mastermind” behind the attack and called for his immediate dismissal. He was also criticised for his handling of protests by students over a hostel fee hike proposal.

Staff of the Madras University also opposed Kumar’s nomination as the head of the search panel, citing his record at JNU and his lack of experience and qualification for the role.

Ramu Manivannan, a professor at the university, told The News Minute that the decision to nominate him was clearly a push for the Bharatiya Janata Party’s agenda. “Jagadesh Kumar is someone who is accused of handling protests in JNU in an undemocratic manner and of violence against students,” the professor said.

The other two members on the panel are P Ramasamy, the former vice chancellor of Alagappa University, and P Maruthamuthu, former vice chancellor of Madurai Kamaraj University. Madras University Vice Chancellor P Duraisamy’s tenure ends in May.