A pet project of Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, the Haridev Joshi University of Journalism and Mass Communication (HJU) in Jaipur admitted its first batch of students in 2013. Since the beginning, the Congress and the BJP have consistently sparred over the university.
To date, the state Assembly has passed four Bills pertaining to the university — related to its establishment during the Congress rule from 2008 to 2013, closure during the BJP’s time in power from 2013 to 2018, and its re-establishment after the Congress returned to power.
For the past several months, a tussle over HJU is going on between the vice-chancellor’s (V-C) office and the Raj Bhavan. The standoff has even resulted in the intervention of legislators, with independent MLA and advisor to the Chief Minister, Sanyam Lodha, alleging in a letter to Gehlot on Wednesday that a conspiracy was afoot to weaken HJU.
It all started in October 2012, a year before the Gehlot-led Congress government was voted out of power. The Gehlot administration pushed through the Assembly the Haridev Joshi University of Journalism and Mass Communication, Jaipur, Bill. The first batch of students was enrolled in November 2013, a month before Gehlot lost power.
After coming to power, the Vasundhara Raje-led BJP government formed a Cabinet sub-committee to review certain decisions of the Gehlot administration. In 2016, this committee proposed that HJU be closed and merged with the University with University of Rajasthan’s Centre for Mass Communication.
Then Minister of Higher Education Kalicharan Saraf said the Gehlot government’s decision to launch the university was a populist measure taken before the Assembly elections and accused the Congress-led administration of not doing the “basic homework”. The BJP maintained that there was no need for the university and it was a waste of resources since the Centre for Mass Communication was already running journalism courses. In 2017, the Raje government repealed the Act passed to set up the university and shut down the institution.
Gehlot had lashed out at the BJP government over its decision and even now often speaks about the incident at public gatherings, saying that the closure of the university was “unprecedented”. Sources in the Congress said the BJP government’s move had personally irked Gehlot as HJU was his pet project. This was why, Congress insiders said, the party mentioned HJU’s revival in its 2018 election manifesto.
At the very first Cabinet meeting after the Congress returned to power in December 2018, the government decided to reopen two universities, including HJU, that the BJP had closed. While the university restarted its undergraduate and post-graduate journalism programmes in 2019, it did not stop being a contentious subject.
BJP legislators have kept asking questions about HJU in the Assembly, with BJP MLA Dharmnarayan Joshi even alleging procedural violations. Joshi also warned that HJU would become the “JNU of Jaipur”.
Earlier this year, HJU’s then V-C Om Thanvi alleged that the Raj Bhavan was interfering with the institution’s functioning. Thanvi, who stepped down in March, levelled the allegation after the Raj Bhavan halted two meetings of HJU’s Board of Management (BoM) and advisory committee. Governor Kalraj Mishra is the chancellor of HJU.
The state government and the Governor also differed over an amendment Bill related to HJU passed in the Assembly in March. The Act enabled a professional from any branch of journalism and mass communication with a minimum of 20 years of experience in the private or public sector to be eligible for the post of V-C.
The Raj Bhavan sent back the Bill to the government for reconsideration, citing University Grants Commission (UGC) regulations, saying a V-C should be a professor with experience of 10 years.
Lodha, who is a member of the university’s BoM, alleged in the letter that the university was being controlled by the Chancellor’s secretariat and claimed that there was no sign of the politics surrounding HJU subsiding anytime soon. In his letter, Lodha mentioned that the university at present does not have a sufficient number of permanent faculty and claimed that the chancellor had stopped the recruitment process. He also questioned the postponement of the university’s BoM meeting scheduled to be held on July 21.
Earlier this year, Lodha also raised the issue of alleged interference in the autonomy of universities in the Assembly and in February criticised the chancellor’s decision to halt the meetings of the BoM and the advisory committee. At the time, Raj Bhavan said the steps were taken to ensure that no policy decision was taken towards the end of Thanvi’s tenure.