Ahmedabad: The governing council of the prestigious Gujarat Vidyapith, a deemed university founded by Mahatma Gandhi, has named state Governor Acharya Devvrat, who is close to Baba Ramdev and has moorings in the RSS, as chancellor.
The 24-member council passed the proposal on Tuesday, with 13 members approving it. Nine members, most of them Gandhians, voted against it, and two abstained.
This is for the first time that a person with an RSS background, and not a Gandhian, has been named chancellor of the university, founded by the Mahatma in Ahmedabad in 1920.
The post became available a few months ago when Ela Bhatt, 89, the internationally known Gandhian activist and founder of the Self-Employed Women’s Association, requested the council to accept her resignation on account of her age.
The resignation was accepted at Tuesday’s hours-long meeting. However, the council has requested her to continue till Oct 18, when the university will hold its 102nd convocation.
Gandhi remained the chancellor of the university until his assassination. Subsequently, stalwarts such as Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Dr Rajendra Prasad and Morarji Desai were at the helm of affairs.
Sources said a team of officials will call on Devvrat to apprise him of the decision. He will not be appointed ex-officio, as the governor of Gujarat, but in an individual capacity.
One of the trustees confirmed the decision to the Free Press Journal. Vice-Chancellor Rajendra Khimani and other trustees could not be reached despite repeated attempts.
The vice-chancellor voted in favour of Devvrat. On Sep 21 the Gujarat High Court set aside a petition filed by Khimani in March challenging a decision taken by the University Grants Commission (UGC) in November 2021 to remove him as V-C.
The court gave the university eight weeks to pass appropriate orders based on the UGC report, which sought Khimani’s dismissal on the grounds that there were procedural lapses in his appointment. The report also said Khimani had committed administrative and financial irregularities during his time as registrar at the university.
In fact, the UGC went to the extent of issuing a show-cause notice to Gujarat Vidyapith as to why its status of deemed university not be revoked.
According to the Raj Bhawan’s website, Devvrat is former chief of the Haryana wing of Bharatiya Kisan Sangh – a farmers’ wing of the RSS. Born in Pauti village in Haryana’s Samalkha tehsil, the 1959-born Devvrat was principal of Kurukshetra-based Gurukul when he was picked to be governor of Himachal Pradesh in 2015, before being posted to Gujarat four years later.
When he became governor for the first time, journalists asked him if Ramdev had any role in it. He replied: “He [Ramdev] has always been a guide and his blessings are with me. Gurukul is my family as I have spent 34 years of my life there. I feel it was the result of my hard work that I got this opportunity.”