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Govt sounds out Presi VC probable

The higher education department on Tuesday asked Anuradha Lohia, a professor of biochemistry at Bose Institute, whether she was willing to become the first full-term vice-chancellor of Presidency University, said an official.

Lohia is the second choice, after physicist Sabyasachi Bhattacharya, of the search panel set up to shortlist three candidates for the post.

“We have called Lohia, seeking to know whether she was ready for the job. Since Sabyasachi Bhattacharya declined the offer, the others on the shortlist will be approached in order of preference,” said an official in the higher education department.

“Sumantra Chattarji, a neuro-biologist at the National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore, will also be contacted. He is the committee’s third choice.”

Lohia, an alumnus of the erstwhile Presidency College, declined comment when asked whether she had been contacted by the higher education department.

Chattarji said the department has not yet approached him. “I came to know from news reports that my name figures on the shortlist.”

Bhattacharya on Tuesday sent a letter to governor M.K. Narayanan, also chancellor of the university, expressing his unwillingness to take up the assignment. According to sources, he had verbally conveyed his stand to the governor earlier.

Presidency officials said the government could have averted the embarrassment had it followed the cautious approach it is pursuing now before announcing Bhattacharya’s name on April 10 as the first full-term VC of Presidency.

“It is being said the search committee had not consulted Bhattacharya before recommending his name to the governor. Bhattacharya’s refusal has come as an embarrassment to the chancellor. His office is now exercising caution before taking a call on who would be the next choice,” said an official.

Bhattacharya on Tuesday declined comment when Metro asked him whether the search committee had sought his consent before finalising the shortlist.

Sources said the chancellor has made it clear that consent will have to be sought from a candidate before his/her name is announced.

“The extended tenure of the interim VC, Malabika Sarkar, ends on May 15. The chancellor is extremely keen that Presidency starts functioning under a full-term VC from May 16. Now that Bhattacharya has refused, very little time is left to select another candidate. The governor does not want any procedural blunders before a candidate’s name is announced,” said a higher education official. The chancellor is within his rights to pick a person he thinks is more suitable of the two.

It is not clear whether the committee had sought Lohia’s consent before including her name in the list. A source confirmed that Chattarji was aware that his name was being discussed by the committee members. “But his consent was not sought before his name was included in the shortlist.”

The search committee was authorised to consider the candidature of those who applied for the post as well as those whose names were nominated. The names of all three academicians on the shortlist were nominated.

Sugata Bose, the chairman of the mentor group and the state’s nominee in the search committee, could not be contacted on Tuesday.

Ved Prakash, the UGC chairman and head of the search panel, also did not take calls. “It is up to the chancellor to decide what would be the next option,” education minister Bratya Basu said.