Mamata Banerjee. Photo: ANI/File
Kolkata: The West Bengal Assembly on Friday passed a bill to replace Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee as the chancellor of all state-aided agricultural universities, amid opposition by BJP legislators.
The development came just days after the House passed The West Bengal University Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2022, to appoint the CM, in place of the governor, as the chancellor of all state-run universities.
State agriculture minister Sovandeb Chattopadhyay, after introducing The West Bengal Krishi Viswa Vidyalaya Laws (Second Amendment) Bill, 2022 in the House, said there was "nothing wrong" with the chief minister taking over as the chancellor.
"The chief minister gives the agriculture department utmost importance. You can go through the recommendations of the Punchhi Commission. It has been clearly stated the governor should not be burdened with positions and powers, which are not envisaged under the Constitution, to ensure that that he discharges the constitutional obligations fairly and impartially," Chattopadhyay said.
Opposing the bill, the BJP alleged that appointing the chief minister as chancellor would lead to "direct political interference" in the agricultural department.
Chattopadhyay snubbed the allegations as "baseless".
BJP MLAs later told reporters that they would urge the governor not to ratify the bill.
"The state government's tendency to interfere in every aspect of ducation is nothing but an attempt to politicise the institutions," BJP legislator Ashim Sarkar said.
The tussle over administration of universities is the latest flashpoint between the Mamata Banerjee government and Dhankhar, with the two sides having indulged in multiple feuds since 2019 when Dhankhar assumed charge in Bengal.
In December last year, chancellors and vice-chancellors of private universities skipped a meeting called by Dhankhar.
"These developments are alarming and indicate rule of the ruler and not of law. Such a scenario cannot be countenanced," the Governor had said.