NEW DELHI: The Nalanda University, set up to become an international institution of national repute that is yet to get even its boundary wall, is likely to get a right tilt as academicians with RSS affiliation are tipped to become Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor of the varsity located in Rajgir, Bihar.
Sources in the government indicate that Chairman of Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) Yellapragada Sudershan Rao is the front runner to take over the reins of the Varsity as its Chancellor. “After looking towards Indian intellectual settled abroad and a foreign academician, the Government would be scouting for an eminent academician within the country,” the Government sources said. The appointment of Rao, a history professor at the Kakatiya University in Telangana, as the Chairman of ICHR in 2014 has invited criticism from the professional historians who saw it as the Narendra Modi-led government’s attempt to rewrite history.
“The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) might consider the names of the governing board members to be recommended to the Visitor (in this case the President),” Nalanda University officials told the Sunday Standard. The Governing Board has to recommend a panel of not less than three persons to the Visitor, in this case President Pranab Mukherjee. The newly-constituted Board’s members whose name can be considered are Professor Arvind Sharma from McGill University of Canada; Indian Council for Cultural Relations President professor Lokesh Chandra and Niti Aayog Vice-Chairman Dr. Arvind Panagariya.
“The appointment of the Chancellor is expected in January as his appointment is required for Vice Chancellor’s appointment,” sources in MEA said. The process to appoint a Vice Chancellor of the University has been kick started at the start of November as the term of the then Vice Chancellor Gopa Sabharwal was to end on November 24.
The University has been without Chancellor and Vice Chancellor after George Yeo resigned citing India’s “domestic politics” as after the Government that constituted a new Governing Board without consulting him. Before Yeo, Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen – the founding Chancellor of the varsity - had quit the University in 2015 citing political interference as the reason. The Nitish Kumar Government, which has provided the land for the project, is “unhappy” with the continuous meddling by the Centre in the institution and has even warned that the land allocated for the University will be stopped.
The University has received a total of 160 applications for the position and the three front runners for the post are said to be Osmania University’s Vice Chancellor Sunaina Singh, Art Historian and Professor of Buddhist Studies at the International Academy of Indian Culture Nirmala Sharma and Prof Makarand Paranjape of Jawahar Lal University.
Sunaina Singh, already been accused by the Comptroller and Auditor General for misuse of funds, is the choice of the BJP’s ideological fountainhead Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS). Prof Paranjape has also grabbed headlines for coming out against the Left during the nationalism controversy in JNU. The Governing Board will be appointing the Search Committee next month that will prepare a panel of three to five names in alphabetical order and submit it to the Chancellor in a sealed cover.
An important pillar of India’s “Act East Policy” that was to serve as the bridge with the South East Asia, the University has been a non-starter since it was mooted in 2009 during the East Asia Summit. The University was set up by a 2010 Act of the Indian Parliament, but has been dogged by continued mismanagement and cannot boast about even a building of its own.