Her credentials were questioned not only by the academia but even by rightwing ideologues like Madhu Purnima Kishwar. In July 2016, two years later, after being shifted to Ministry of Textile on Tuesday, there was a sense of relief in Shastri Bhawan - the seat of the HRD Ministry. Her photos and caricatures made it to the front pages of almost all the papers.
The justification often forwarded for the 2014 preposterous move was that though Irani would be in the driving seat, the Ministry was being guided by Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) pracharaks. This was a foolish tactic given the challenge which is posed to the HRD Ministry in its day-to-day functioning by the largely left-leaning Indian intelligentsia.
During NDA I government, a well-educated Murli Manohar Joshi was able to counter the left-wingers largely on the account of his personal scholarship. Irani proved to be unequal to the challenges of her Ministry. That her histrionic abilities failed to win her any accolades from the party leadership is evident from her being shunted out from the charge of helming the nation’s education policy.
The Ministry would now be headed by Prakash Javadekar, who actually is the only one to have gained substantially both in stature and applause from the reshuffle which Prime Minister Modi carried out on Tuesday. As a former activist of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of the RSS, Javadekar comes to the Ministry with a firm ideological grounding.
He for sure would not need a backseat navigator from Keshav Kunj, the RSS hospice in the national Capital, to run the Ministry. During his activism days he must have rubbed shoulders with several of Vidyarthi Parishad members, who today in large numbers form part of the university community.
Thus, he should not have a problem in gathering fruitful feedback on the functioning of his Ministry and save the government from such embarrassments which it is currently facing on account of the agitation by the Delhi University Teachers Association (DUTA), the premier teacher body the country.
However, the real challenge for Javadekar would not be in diffusing crisis erupting on various campuses from time to time. The true challenge for him would be to build quality right-wing scholarship to taken on the tyranny of the left, as once former DUTA president and present Goa governor OP Kohli put it.
The academic rigour of the left cannot be countered by the recitation of mythological legends, as sought to be done by the likes of Deenanath Batra. There is a serious dearth of right-wing intellectuals, academic colossuses who could take on the giants from the Marxist school.
However, building up right-wing scholarship should not end in an ABVP tag being treated as a passport for a cushy job on the campus. Under Irani, the campuses suffered greatly on account of unfiltered ideological parochialism leading to many undeserving candidates ending up with an appointment letter.
Javadekar will have to create an environment of equal opportunity as Madan Mohan Malviya envisaged while building the Banaras Hindu University and ensure that no scholar of substance suffered on the account of his or her ideological leaning.
Javdkar will have to ensure that centres of education turn into campuses where 100 faiths can bloom; where there should be space for debate, discussion, and dissent, and where forces of secession are made to beat a hasty retreat by the force of scholarship and not the presence of para-military.