Insider job? Vinod Tawde's fake degree row could be due to his rising political clout

Mumbai: Despite the controversy over his fake degree row, Maharashtra Education Minister Vinod Tawde is unlikely to be stripped off his ministerial berth but for now, but given his rising political clout, he will face rough weather over the next couple of months.

On Monday, Tawde found himself at the centre of a controversy after a Marathi news channel reported that his engineering institute was not recognized by the government stating that it is bogus degree. Tawde has secured a BE (Electronics) from Pune’s Dnyaneshwar Vidyapeeth in 1984.

Interestingly, Dnayneshwar Vidyapeeth is an ‘Educational Trust’ and not an University under any Central or state government agency like UGC or AICTE.

Maharashtra Education Minister Vinod Tawde.

Maharashtra Education Minister Vinod Tawde.

Following the controversy, Tawde claimed that the degree is not bogus. “I was well aware that Dnayneshwar Vidyapeeth was not recognized by any government authority and still opted for the bridge course of Bachelor of Engineering (BE),” he said.

Explaining his position, Tawde said a bridge course was started at the Vidyapeeth with the objective of imparting practical experience to students along with theoretical knowledge. “I took admission to the course in 1980 and passed out in 1984. The course comprised part-time education and part-time internship. I knew, while seeking admission, that the course is not recognized by the government and accepted it," he added.

He further added that he has never enrolled as member of the graduates’ constituency (in state elections). “Other than this course, I have studied till 12th class and I have never hidden that. Even in my poll affidavit, I have mentioned all aspects of my education and places where I studied. Had I mentioned that I did a course from Mumbai University, Pune University or Shivaji University, that would have amounted to cheating. But I did no such thing," he added.

Questions are being raised over the four year course, which is being termed as a degree, because of the Bombay High Court direction in 2005.

Dinesh Kamath, a social activist from Thane, had moved to the Bombay High Court questioning the credentials of the Dnyaneshwar Vidyapeeth in the absence of approval from any competent authority. Subsequently, the High Court asked the Dnayneshwar Vidyapeeth (means university) to stop using university in its title and also stop conferring engineering degrees. Then, it started offering job oriented short-term courses till last year. Now, the trust undertakes no activities.

Experts said that Dnayneshwar Vidyappeth, an educational trust, can not award a degree but can award a certificate.

However, both the opposition parties, Congress and NCP, have demanded Tawde’s resignation over the issue. “Tawde should immediately resign from the post and a complaint should be filed against him," said Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, a senior Congress leader and leader of Opposition in legislative assembly. He added that Congress would use the issue to stall the monsoon session proceedings beginning from 13 July.

Mumbai Congress chief  Sanjay Nirupam said that while Tawde should step down immediately; he should also be arrested like ex-Delhi law minister Jitendra Singh Tomar.

NCP leader and Leader of Opposition in the legislative council Dhananjay Munde has also sought Tawde's resignation on 'moral grounds.'

While Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has backed Tawde stating that it’s a ‘non-issue’ and dismissed the Opposition’s demand of his resignation, no other senior BJP leaders or BJP ministers have come forward to defend Tawde. It has surprised many in the political and bureaucratic circles in the state.

Since the opposition has sharpened its knives against Tawde, BJP is struggling to defend him ahead of the monsoon session. "It seems to be a conspiracy against Tawde. He has taken many initiatives to improve education system. It may be an attempt to destabilise him," said a BJP leader.

Many in the political circles believe that it is an insider’s job within BJP. “It was known to everyone that he has a degree from that institute. But, his only fault seems to be that he has become so high profile that he is seen in newspapers and on the television channels everyday. He seems to be competing with the chief minister. Earlier, he had expressed his desire to become the chief minister. So, it might have led to this controversy and has shown his place,” said Prakash Bal, a political analyst.

He further added that Tawde was trying project himself as the only Maratha leader in the BJP. Tawde heads a committee that is fighting legal battle in the Supreme Court over Maratha reservation issue. So, it was seen that he was only fighting for their cause, he added.

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Updated Date: Jun 24, 2015 16:24:58 IST

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