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‘Feel like laughing’: Bihar BJP chief jabs ally JD (U) for Agnipath rethink push


PATNA: Bihar Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Sanjay Jaiswal on Thursday responded to criticism of the Centre’s new defence enlistment policy Agnipath by its alliance partner Janata Dal-United, saying that the JD (U) should be thinking about how to ensure that students get their graduation in three and not six years rather than call for a rethink of the new recruitment process.

“I feel like laughing at the JD (U) for its demand on a rethink on Agnipath scheme,” Jaiswal said at a function to mark Balidan Divas on Thursday, a reference to multiple leaders of the JD (U) advocating on Thursday that Prime Minister Narendra Modi reconsider the scheme when violent protests were being reported from many parts of the state.

Jaiswal stressed that the education portfolio is with the JD (U).

“Education is with the JD (U). They should rethink how the students will get their three-year degrees on time. A student enrolled for a bachelor’s programme in 2019 is yet to take his second-year exam. The Agnipath scheme has made it easy for students to clear graduation on completion of training, as they will be required to clear just two subjects. Two other subjects will be cleared as part of the training on specialised fields,” he said.

Sanjay Jaiswal’s harsh comeback to its ally comes against the backdrop of Bihar education minister Vijay Kumar Choudhary signalling that the state government intended to play a more active role in running universities rather than let the governor, who is the chancellor of the state, continue to have a free hand.

On Tuesday, Choudhary started dealing directly with the vice-chancellor rather than stick to the circuitous route via Raj Bhavan. “There is a need for better coordination between the department and the universities,” Choudhary told the vice-chancellors, stressing that they should be quick on their feet to respond to information sought by the government.

Choudhary’s JD (U) hit out at Jaiswal immediately for his swipe, pointing out that the governor, not the state government, was the administrative head of the state universities. “Are those questioning higher education raising fingers at the Chancellor?” asked JD-U spokesman Neeraj Kumar.

Kumar said the chancellor was holding the chancellor’s office in the capacity of the governor on the recommendation of the Central government. “Does it mean that questions are being raised on the Centre’s recommendation or the appointing authority on the basis of the recommendation?” he asked.

The Nitish Kumar government’s attempt to tighten its grip on the state universities comes after months of back and forth between the government and Raj Bhavan, most prominently over raids by the state vigilance on Magadh University’s vice-chancellor. Raj Bhavan had then called the vigilance action an “infringement on the autonomy of state universities”.

The government also tried to bring a bill to take control of universities but didn’t get far. Later, a decision was made to make the chief minister the chancellor of the three proposed medical, engineering and sports universities.

A former additional chief secretary, Sanjay Kumar, had earlier denounced the ‘diarchy system’ in Bihar, with administrative control of varsities with the chancellor although the state government finances them.

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