Bengal Minister Hits Out At Governor Bose Over Varsity Visits: 'White Elephant Moving Around'

West Bengal education minister Bratya Basu claimed that the two sides had earlier decided to work together but Governor Bose was making visits to state universities on his own.

WB Governor C.V. Ananda Bose

West Bengal’s education minister Bratya Basu on Friday called Governor CV Ananda Bose a “white elephant” on the move on his own over his recent visit to state universities, in what is being seen as the latest rift between the Mamata Banerjee government and the state governor.

The Trinamool Congress leader claimed that the two sides had earlier decided to work together but he could not comprehend why Governor Bose, also the titular chancellor of state-run universities, was making visits without keeping the state government in the loop.

Basu said Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee should take over as chancellor of state universities in light of the recent incident. 

"If the governor functions on his whims, without intimating the chief minister, the department, the minister or the institution concerned, I am forced to say that this is not done. He cannot function in such a manner,“ Basu told reporters at an event on the occasion of BR Ambedkar’s birth anniversary. 

Bose's recent visits to the universities without informing anyone are similar to "moving around of a white elephant disregarding norms", Basu said, adding that "in principle" he felt "the chief minister should be the chancellor" of state-run universities.

He was replying to queries on the Governor's unscheduled visits to the three state university campuses since April 10. The Governor refused to react to the minister's comments, PTI reported.

Banerjee and her government had previously mooted this proposal when it used to have frequent run-ins with former Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar over the management of state-run universities.

Although ties between the two sides have remained more or less amicable, it started souring after Bose's letter to vice-chancellors seeking weekly reports on the academic functioning of universities, and decisions on financial matters.

The governor has even been present at several celebratory functions hosted by chief minister Mamata Banerjee, including Saraswati Puja earlier this year which was, in fact, seen as a possible flashpoint between Bose and the BJP in opposition in the state. 

However, Bose made unannounced visits to Calcutta University, West Bengal State University in Barasat and Presidency University in Kolkata within a week. He met principals of affiliated colleges at CU, the VC and students. He also talked to students and faculty at two other higher educational institutes.

A bill passed in the state assembly to make the chief minister the chancellor has been pending with Raj Bhavan since the tenure of Bose’s predecessor. Basu said the governor should either sign the bill or send it back to the assembly secretariat "so that we can pass it for the second time" evaluating the draft again if required.

The education minister had earlier hinted the government would not stick to its demand to make the CM the chancellor if the governor and the state government were on the same page on various academic management issues.

"I am forced to say that we won't allow Raj Bhavan to gain control of the education sector. On the issue of autonomy of the state’s higher educational institutions, no unilateral action by Raj Bhavan will be allowed by this government," Basu asserted today.