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Foes turn friends in varsity probe glare

Patna, Dec. 17: Political rivals in Bihar have closed ranks against Governor Vinod Pandey after his office sacked two senior members of the Bihar State University Service Commission and ordered a probe into alleged irregularities in the appointment of lecturers.

In an unusually pro-active move last week, Pandey sacked Durga Prasad and S.D.N. Singh, the acting chairman of the state University Service Commission, before ordering the probe into the recruitment of at least 1,100 lecturers for state colleges and universities in 2001-02. The commission’s recruitment norms, which placed 60 per cent weightage on the interview and 40 per cent on academic records, allegedly allowed for malpractice.

On any other issue, the move would have sparked a predictable volley of protest from the ruling Rashtriya Janata Dal, which by resurrecting the demon of a Central conspiracy would have again pitted the chief minister’s office against the Governor’s. But this time, RJD chief Laloo Prasad Yadav found unusual allies in the Janata Dal (United), the BJP and the Lok Janshakti. The reason: a few hundred of the lecturerships have gone to the kin of the Opposition leaders.

Chief minister Rabri Devi said in a statement that the Governor did not know anything about the functioning of his office. “There is a man called Mithilesh Kumar, who happens to be the secretary of the Governor. It is he who wields power in the office of the Governor,” she said, accusing him of being instrumental in sacking Singh.

Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, Sushil Modi of the BJP, said: “The decision on this issue by the Governor appears to be wrong.”

Elaborating on the party’s stand, BJP vice-president Kiran Ghai said: “The Governor’s office is fighting an ego battle at a time when the universities of the state are facing an acute shortage of lecturers. The intervention of the Governor has resulted in curbing the autonomous status of the commission. This is per se not desirable.” Ghai is a lecturer in a noted Patna college.

Such is the political unanimity against the Governor that the RJD is planning to table a censure motion in the Assembly. “If the treasury bench initiates the move, we will support it,” said Narendra Singh, MLA and the president of the Lok Janshakti.

Preliminary inquiries by the Governor’s office have showed that the unique political alignment owed its origin to the personal interests of the politicians.

“At least 300 relatives of politicians grabbed the posts of lecturer, violating laws. That is why the BJP and the RJD have found a common ground to attack the Governor,” said a Governor House insider.

But an RJD statement said Mithilesh had sent a list of names he wanted to be recruited as lecturers. When his wish was not granted, he resorted to the unconstitutional means.

Stung by the mud being hurled at the Governor’s office, Pandey’s secretary told reporters that the Governor was authorised under Section 4(1)C of the Bihar State University Service Commission Act to sack the officers.

The commission’s first sin, said Mithilesh, was alteration of the marking pattern — 75 per cent weightage on academic records and 25 per cent on the interview.

“The court had termed this arbitrary and vice-chancellors had complained against this, too,” he said. Moreover, the recruitment drive violated a Cabinet decision of July 23, 2001, that “no appointment should be made before identification of posts at all levels of post graduate and undergraduate colleges”, added Mithilesh.

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