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BJP steps up attack, Modi falls silent

New Delhi, June 25: The BJP intensified its attack on Delhi University vice-chancellor Dinesh Singh, alleging his order for a four-year undergraduate programme was “illegal” and passed without the approval of the University Grants Commission.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s most vocal backer, Madhu Kishwar, threw her weight behind Dinesh and was the first to publicly scotch news of his resignation after she called on him at his residence.

The BJP spokesperson, Sidharth Nath Singh, said: “The BJP has nothing to do with the Left or the Right. Our sole concern is securing the future of undergraduates.

“If we are playing politics, it is to the extent of raising legitimate questions like why did (Kapil) Sibal and Pallam Raju (the UPA’s HRD ministers) allow this to happen? Was it incompetence or did they willingly participate in this illegal process?”

A senior BJP leader, with an “abiding interest” in education, said the issues the controversy threw up were “too serious” to be viewed in a “partisan manner”.

“It is not about one side against another, it is not a students versus VC matter because the present VC is one of the most learned and upright incumbents any university can get,” the leader said.

“It is about preserving the autonomy of the UGC as well as DU and not about playing one against the other. Unfortunately that is what has happened. The autonomy of both the institutions has been undermined and it will require a lot of repair and rectification to restore that.”

Asked what the government should ideally have done, he said: “Referred the matter to the President of India who is the University’s Visitor.”

Ironically, the BJP’s election manifesto for 2014, drafted by former HRD minister Murli Manohar Joshi, promised to “provide autonomy with steps to ensure accountability” to higher learning institutions, to restore the “credibility of the regulatory bodies” and adopt “merit and ability” in appointments to senior positions.

The manifesto also assured that the UGC would be “restructured and transformed into a Higher Education Commission rather than just being a grant distribution agency”.

The ultimate objective, it claimed, was to enhance the standard of education and research to make Indian universities worthy of competing with global counterparts.

Privately, sources said the turn events had taken in the DU dust-up cast “serious” doubts on whether the Modi government would travel even halfway towards fulfilling these goals. “Politics has overtaken our noble intentions,” a BJP insider said.

Undeterred by his party’s internal reservations, BJP spokesperson Sidharth Nath Singh blamed the Congress for “protecting” the VC’s “illegal” order. He questioned the “autonomy” principle and argued: “The VC’s autonomy is limited because he cannot appoint a principal without the UGC’s sanction.”

Prime Minister Modi, who has been quick to articulate his views on Twitter, was conspicuously silent on the DU impasse. On June 19, Modi —he had claimed that education, skill enhancement and research were close to his heart through his campaigns — had congratulated those who cleared the IIT-JEE on Twitter.

“My best wishes with the youngsters as they enter a new phase of their lives,” he had tweeted.


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