Is retired Chief Justice of India R M Lodha a one-stop solution for all problems facing the country? The thought crossed the mind after it became known that Tamil Nadu Governor in-charge Ch Vidyasagar Rao has appointed him convenor of a search committee to propose names for a vice chancellor for Anna University. The appointment was made after the Governor rejected all three candidates on an earlier search committee’s shortlist after interviewing them. Rao was quoted by the state’s higher education minister K P Anbalagan as saying that though all the three were eligible, he wanted a person with better capabilities at the helm of the largest technical university in India.
While the intention is unexceptionable, one wonders if there was no other competent apolitical person around in Tamil Nadu to helm such a search panel. Rao may not know TN that well since he hails from Telangana, but he could have asked around for help in spotting a good headhunter. Surely the job of zeroing in on an eminent V-C nominee is not as knotty as untangling the BCCI web, which Justice Lodha was tasked with by the apex court earlier.
At the same time, Governor Rao promulgated an Ordinance to revamp the process of constituting a search panel and got his foot into the governance door. It is debatable if J Jayalalithaa or M Karunanidhi would have allowed the governor have a decisive say is such matters, but the fact remains that lightweight political appointments by successive governments diminished the office of the V-C. Add to that allegations of irregularities and a cleanup was on the cards.
But by wielding the vacuum cleaner himself instead of subtly nudging the government to do so, Rao has exposed himself to criticism that the Centre is poking its nose into a state subject. Justice Lodha is a honourable man. But even if one were to see him as the Sachin Tendulkar of jurisprudence, Tamil Nadu deserved someone from within who understood the nuances of the state and its problems better.