By M Reyaz,
Over the years, several private universities – Amity University to IIPM and Lovely Professional University – that have mushroomed in country often have the owners, varying from educationist, philanthropist to hard core businessmen or even realtors, appointing themselves as Chancellors while they hire professionals, often semi-professionals, as Vice Chancellors.
On the other hand, retired bureaucrats, army personal and former IPSs are made Vice Chancellors of public funded universities, although a much criticised move, and some of them are even promoted to the honorary posts of chancellorship.
To be fair, few former bureaucrats did evolve into excellent educationist later, late Saiyid Hamid Saheb, who passed away recently, being a case in point.
But to the best of my knowledge, there has been no precedence for a business man, with practically no background in education, to be appointed as a Chancellor of a public funded university.
Zafar Sareshwala, a Gujarat-based industrialist, CEO & MD of Parsoli Corporation Ltd., has been appointed as the new Chancellor of Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad.
Sareshwala’s claim to fame rises from the fact that he is considered as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s highly trusted Muslim adviser. He has played a critical role in Modi’s attempt to reach out to the minorities, from organising conclaves for Muslim business leaders to facilitating kite flying with actor Salman Khan during election campaign.
But what is interesting about Sareshwala is that his credentials in business itself are dubious, though never talked about because of his proximity to Modi. His company Parsoli Group has faced the ire of SEBI (Securities and Exchange Board of India) on several occasions. In July 2013, the SEBI had cancelled the registration of Parsoli Corp with the National Stock Exchange and Bombay Stock exchange. His company was earlier also caught in a web of legal wrangles and business losses.
In last couple of months, Sareshwala has been noticed on TV panel discussions trying to build a ‘bridge’ between the Muslim community and the Modi-led government at the Centre. He was earlier speculated to be rewarded for his friendship with Modi with an appointment as the Union Minority Affairs Minister.
But the new development needs to be watched out more carefully. In recent months, the HRD Ministry has come under sever criticisms from its alleged attempts at saffronising of education to accusations of interference in institutions of excellence.
Is this a plain reward for the aid Sareshwala extended to Modi?
Or has Sareshwala been ‘assigned’ to extend the Modi government’s larger plans for the minority institutions, beginning with the MANUU?
(M Reyaz is the Assistant Editor of TCN and tweets at @journalistreyaz)
This post first appeared in twocircles.net