CPM smart, BJP not smart at all. For every Chitlangia that the BJP tries to foist and fails, the CPM has a Surabhi Banerjee who it foists silently, successfully.
Jyoti Basus biographer quietly took over as pro-vice-chancellor (academic) of Calcutta University yesterday. Nary a murmur was heard anywhere. There was an air of inevitability about the appointment: as though Banerjee and the post of pro-VC were made for each other.
The pattern is familiar, which has kept repeating itself ever since Jyoti Basus party assumed charge of Bengal, education and everything else.
The entire process of selection in the states education system is politicised. And, the politicisation institutionalised. A Left Front education cell vets all important appointments. This time, though, it was as ignorant as anybody else.
Only three people the Big B trio of the CPM knew of Banerjees appointment. Basu, (Anil) Biswas and (Biman) Bose.
Even two senior members of the cell who are in charge of higher education on behalf of the party, Anil Bhattacharya and Shyamapada Pal, had no clue.
If this is the way the education cell functions, what is the point of instituting it? It might as well be wrapped up and let just one or two
people take all the decisions unilaterally, said a member of the cell.
The more appropriate questions would perhaps be: Why have an education cell at all? Does it exist anywhere else in the world? Why should the chief minister and two party apparatchiks decide who should become pro-VC? How are appointments made in other places?
The answers to those questions are: 1. To control appointments (Murli Manohar Joshi, who made such a hash by picking businessman P.D. Chitlangia to lecture education ministers, please take lessons); 2. No; 3. For no particular reason other than to appoint a person of their choice; 4. By advertising in newspapers and then selecting the best candidate.
In Bengal, things are done differently. Surabhi Banerjee filled a post vacant for nearly a year for want of a suitable candidate. A little more than a year ago, her authorised biography on Jyoti Basu hit the stands. What has happened in the interim that so marked her out as the suitable woman?
The answer, for the triumvirate that runs education in the state from Alimuddin Street, is that she has the necessary qualifications.
It is not entirely true that Banerjee was made pro-VC (academic) because she has written Basus biography, says Anil Biswas, state CPM secretary who heads the Left Fronts education cell.
By and large we have decided to give the post to a woman; it has almost become a convention. Bharati Roy had occupied the chair as had Karuna Bhattacharya and now it is Banerjee. [Karuna Bhattacharya was pro-VC (finance)].
Without going into the debatable merits of reserving so senior a position on the basis of gender, the claim that Banerjee is the most suitable candidate sticks in the gullet of some of CPMs critics.
Says former vice-chancellor Santosh Bhattacharya: I am not fully aware of the academic and other credentials of Banerjee. But in a situation where the senate and the syndicate are controlled by one party (CPM) and the new pro-VC is also appointed by this very party, it is not difficult to figure out how Banerjee is going to function.
Bharati Roy is happy that a woman was appointed. The pro-VCs job is very demanding. I would not be able to say how well Banerjee can handle it. Let us say I do not have sufficient knowledge of her administrative and other abilities, she said.
Biswas dispels fears over Banerjees ability. Criticism was levelled against us even when Bharati Roy was made pro-VC. But she proved everyone wrong by doing a decent job. We are sure Banerjee will also live up to our expectations, he said.
Roy went on to become a CPM MP. Talk about appointments being guided by political considerations is hard for the CPM to dismiss, given such a record.
Banerjee, too, brushes aside suggestions of the Basu biography deciding her appointment. This is an absurd question. You are not asking about academic issues. I have written at least 20 books in English and Bengali, most published by reputed houses, she said.
She must have. Her scholarship shows in a description in the biography of how she impressed Basu with a Shakespeare quote: There is a tide in the affairs of men...(the rest goes thus)... which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.