Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Minority politics over AMU campus in Bihar

Competition for minority support has created a major rift between the Bihar government and the Centre with Janata Dal (United) lodging a strong protest over being blacked out of the foundation stone laying ceremony for a new centre of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) at Kishanganj, Bihar.

Bihar government made its displeasure known to the Human Resource Development (HRD) minister MM Pallam Raju over reports that he and Sonia Gandhi were slated to lay the foundation stone for the AMU centre on January 30 with Bihar education minister PK Shahi dashing off a three-page letter.

In his letter, Shahi accused the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) of not initially speeding up the project for two years, but scheduling a foundation laying ceremony "all of a sudden when general election to Parliament is to be held in the next couple of months".

What has particularly angered the state government is that it went out of the way to give 224 acres of free land for the centre and helped it start from a makeshift campus. JD(U)'s former ally BJP was not in favour of the centre but the Nitish Kumar government went ahead.

Shahi said what was more surprising was that "there is no intimation to the state government in this regard" and went on to accuse the Centre of treating the event as a means to make political gains. "You would not disagree that foundation laying ceremony of a government institution cannot be a political programme nor can it be aimed as an election plank. AMU is a central government institution and any activity including foundation laying ceremony has to be a government function," Shahi said. He also found it intriguing that instead of MHRD, the AMU vice-chancellor wrote to Bihar governor requesting him to be present for the ceremony.

By giving out a sequence of events through which free land was given by the state government, Shahi said the project was dogged by controversy created by MHRD right from the beginning. He said at one point, former HRD minister Kapil Sibal even said there was no approval by the central government to set up an AMU centre at Kishanganj nor had the President, as a Visitor of AMU, approved it. Shahi said despite the controversy, the site was finalized and given in December 2011 but all this while the Centre did not show any interest.

MHRD sources confirmed having received Shahi's letter. "A decision will be taken by the minister when he returns on Tuesday," a senior official said.

Source: The Times of India (Online Edition), January 28, 2014

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