| PA Sangma (right) with deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi in Patna on Saturday. (PTI) |
Patna, July 14: The decision to set up two central universities in Bihar has put the BJP in a fix as it found it hard to target the UPA on a day the Opposition presidential candidate Purno A. Sangma came calling.
While Bihar BJP chief C.P. Thakur was “compelled” to welcome the double bonanza, senior leaders Ravi Shankar Prasad, Vijay Goel and Shahnawaz Hussain courted Sangma and had to attack the UPA on inflation and corruption issues. “We appreciate the Centre for gifting two central universities to Bihar,” Thakur said.
Senior BJP leaders admitted in private conversations that Kapil Sibal’s announcement — that two universities would come up at Gaya and Motihari — had put the party on the backfoot.
It is really an awkward situation for us with Sibal timing his announcement with Sangma’s visit to Bihar,” said a senior BJP leader.
The NDA is already divided over the presidential elections with the JD(U) backing UPA’s Pranab Mukherjee and the BJP rooting for Sangma.
The Union human resource development ministry yesterday cleared two central universities for Bihar overriding its own earlier opposition. One central university had been approved but HRD minister Sibal was firmly opposed to locating it in Motihari, the state government’s choice, and had argued against it with JD(U) MPs in the Rajya Sabha.
JD(U) leaders said the grant of the two universities was a victory for the party. “It has pleasantly surprised us. The coincidence (of the presidential polls) is too stark to be missed,” said a JD(U) MP at the forefront of the party’s fight with Sibal.
Even the RJD jumped on to the bandwagon, claiming credit for the varsity gift. RJD cadres brought out a grand and colourful victory procession in Gaya, saying it was because of Lalu Prasad’s insistence that Sibal had relented.
“I had personally met Sibal-sahib for two CUBs. I undertook a padayatra also to press for the universities. Sibal-sahib has gone by what we suggested,” Lalu Prasad told The Telegraph. “Nitish had a myopic vision. He was asking for a CUB only at Motihari.”
In both Motihari and Gaya, people took out victory processions to celebrate what they said was a “momentous decision”.
But what seems to have got drowned in the immediate euphoria is the hard reality that two universities may not get additional funds now.
HRD sources said the initial financial commitment of Rs 240 crore, which was meant for the Central University of Bihar, would be divided for the two institutions.
In view of the limited funds, both the universities may not be able to start all departments initially. While one university may focus on humanities, the other one may start departments in science and commerce.
Bihar is not the only state to have got two institutions under the Central Universities Act of 2009. Jammu and Kashmir has got two, one in Kashmir and another in Samba in Jammu. However, the two central universities for Jammu and Kashmir got separate grants.