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CM as chancellor: House okays bill

Opposition parties and a section of Bengal’s civil society are critical of the Bengal govt’s bid to appoint the chief minister as the chancellor of state-run universities
Mamata Banerjee
Mamata Banerjee
File photo

Arkamoy Datta Majumdar   |   Calcutta   |   Published 14.06.22, 02:18 AM

The Bengal Assembly on Monday passed a bill to make chief minister Mamata Banerjee the chancellor of state-run universities by replacing the governor amid opposition from BJP MLAs.

On May 26, the state cabinet had taken the unanimous decision to ordain Mamata as the chancellor of state-run universities.

The West Bengal University Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2022, was introduced in the House by higher education minister Bratya Basu on Monday. It received 167 votes in its favour, while 55 BJP MLAs voted against it.

Opposition parties and a section of Bengal’s civil society are critical of the Bengal government’s bid to appoint the chief minister as the chancellor of state-run universities.

Taking a dig at the critics, Basu on Monday said there was nothing wrong with Mamata taking over the post.

“If the Prime Minister can function as the chancellor of Visva-Bharati, a central university, why can’t the chief minister be the chancellor of the state-run universities?” Basu asked.

The bill will now be sent to governor Jagdeep Dhankhar for his assent.

Dhankhar — given his strenuous relationship with the state — is unlikely to give his nod to the bill.

Sources said if Dhankhar sat on the bill, as he has allegedly done with other bills in the past, the treasury bench will pass an ordinance.

Opposing the bill, BJP MLAs alleged that the appointment of Mamata would increase political interference in universities.

Taking a dig at Mamata, leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Suvendu Adhikari said her dream to become a chancellor will remain unfulfilled even after her superannuation. “The bill will now go to the governor for his assent. He will send it to Delhi where it will remain stuck,” he said, apparently foretelling the possible action to be taken by the governor.

Reacting to Suvendu, Basu questioned if Dhankhar was acting on the BJP’s orders.

Number error

Voting on the bill was marked by controversy. Suvendu, not present in the House as he is under suspension, cried rigging as it was initially reported only40 MLAs had opposed the bill. He said he would move court against this voting process. He claimed that there were 57 MLAs present in the House at the time of voting and questioned “the missing 17 votes”  against the bill.

Later in the evening, an official of the Assembly admitted that an error had crept into the voting process.

 He said 55 MLAs had voted against the bill and 167 in favour of the bill. He added how the anomaly occurred was being looked into.

‘Revoke suspension’

The BJP legislative party on Monday moved a motion to revoke the suspension of seven of its MLAs. However, Speaker Biman Banerjee  rejected the application on technical grounds. He asked the MLAs to return with a fresh application on Tuesday.



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