The function to rename Pune university had a surprise guest in Union Minister of State for Rural Development Upendra Kushwaha. He was not scheduled to attend the function, but said he decided to make it to the event as a “mark of respect” for Savitribai Phule after whom the varsity was renamed on Saturday.
Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and his deputy Ajit Pawar, whose names were printed on the invitation cards and official banners, skipped the function citing “exigencies of work.”
Kushwaha said he had come to know about renaming of the university after Savitribai a couple of days ago.
“Savitribai and her social reformer husband Mahatma Phule paved the foundation for social equality. Their life and work inspire all of us. We often read about their contribution in the field of women education and other social reforms,” the minister and Member of Parliament from Bihar said.
Kushwaha, whose Rashtriya Lok Samata Party is an ally of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), said the university should strive to reflect Phule’s ideology. “The renaming after a social great like Savitribai will serve its purpose only if the varsity takes it to the desired height and delivers in keeping with values and principles preached and practised by Phule,” he said, appreciating the decision of the state government to name the university after Phule.
Press Information Bureau (PIB) officials who are in the know of union ministers’ schedules, said they came to know about Kushwaha’s visit on Friday afternoon.
In his introductory speech, Vice-Chancellor Wasudeo Gade said both CM Chavan and deputy CM Pawar cancelled their visit at the ‘last minute’ due to exigencies of work. “Both conveyed their best on the renaming of university,” he said.
When contacted, political workers said Chavan was attending important events in his home town Satara, while Ajit Pawar’s Saturday schedule was not known.
Meanwhile, descendants of Savitribai Phule living in the city, and others, held a function to inaugurate the name at the main gate.
Governor K Sankaranarayanan and NCP chief Sharad Pawar, among others, had first inaugurated the statue of social reformer and jurist Dr B R Ambedkar on the university campus and later unveiled a bust of Savitribai Phule at the main building.
Neeta Hole, a descendant of Phule, said, “It should have been inaugurated first. We have no idea what went wrong. Since it was unceremonious that the name was not unveiled despite the function kicking off, we unveiled it,” said Hole, who was not invited by the university.