Political background seems to be the deciding factor for appointing heads of major universities in the state.
Almost all universities in Gujarat have ex-office bearers of BJP as either vicechancellors (V-Cs) or pro VCs. Some so brazen that they are appointed in academic posts straight from the party office.
The appointment of former Ahmedabad mayor and gynecologist Dr Mukul Shahas Gujarat University's pro vice-chancellor (PV-C), a post which was vacant since 2008, has only strengthened the belief that one does not need to be an academician to qualify for the coveted top positions in the state academia. The saffron tag is enough.
"The BJP has been in power in the state for over 15 years, but has failed to cultivate leadership among the academicians who can be appointed to top positions in the universities in the state. Or the party leadership does not trust its people on the campus and therefore, appoint active party workers so that the government has complete control in the top institutions of education," said a senior academician in the GU. Needless to say, the spate of political appointments has the opposition Congress miffed.
"During our rule, we never appointed active party leaders or workers to the posts of V-C or pro V-C. Politically motivated appointments compromise the quality of functioning and standard of education in the universities," said former education minister and Congress leader Hasmukh Patel.
Patel alleged that the way BJP and RSS men are being doled out appointments to top positions in the universities, the state will soon see complete saffronization of education in Gujarat. Former vice-chancellor of GU K S Shastri said he was first a V-C and then fought elections on a Congress ticket. When Dr Shah asked if his political credentials got him the top job at GU, he refused to comment saying it was a decision taken by the state government.
A V-C in one of the state universities actively associated with the BJP confessed that his party background got him the academic job. There are many candidates who have doctorate degrees but a BJP tag is the clincher for top appointments, he confessed.