Rajya Sabha chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar on Wednesday appealed to members in the Upper House to refrain from sensing political motives in actions related to constitutional functionaries, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
He intervened during Question Hour when an Opposition leader flagged political dividends that the BJP could reap in the general elections next year from the proposed selfie points with Modi’s pictures on educational campuses.
Last week, the University Grants Commission (UGC) asked all universities and colleges to set up selfie points on campuses with pictures of Modi to create awareness about India’s achievements in various domains.
Trinamul Congress leader in the Rajya Sabha, Shantanu Sen, on Wednesday asked a supplementary question to education minister Dharmendra Pradhan to clarify under which rules the UGC could issue such a circular.
“A few days back, a circular went to all colleges and universities from the UGC that there will be selfie points with the photograph of the Prime Minister in the background. According to which rules or guidelines of the UGC this could be done? This is apparently nothing but political publicity before the 2024 Parliament elections,” Sen said.
Pradhan avoided replying, saying the supplementary question was unrelated to the original question about the internationalisation of higher education.
“This is a separate question. Beyond that, I am proud of my Prime Minister. The country is proud of Prime Minister Modi. This is my answer,” Pradhan said.
At this point, Dhankhar intervened.
“President, Prime Minister (are) constitutional functionaries. They belong to the nation, they represent the nation as much as the chief minister represents the state. Therefore I appeal to all sections of the House, when it comes to all constitutional functionaries at the state level or the central level, let our vision be not through politics but in general,” Dhankhar said.
UGC restores designs
After the controversy, the UGC had on Saturday withdrawn its suggested designs for selfie points with pictures of Modi. However, all the designs were again uploaded on the UGC website on Wednesday. The letter asking the institutions to set up such selfie points continues to be on the website.
Each design was dedicated to a theme such as the internationalisation of education, unity in diversity, Smart India Hackathon, Indian knowledge systems, multilingualism, and India’s rise in higher education, research and innovation. Each design carried a large image of the Prime Minister with certain representative pictures on the theme.