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Why IIM-A still has no chairman after 8 months

The prestigious post has been the casualty over the ongoing tussle between Ministry of Human Resource Development and the B-School's Board of Governors

Vinay Umarji  |  Ahmedabad 

The tussle between the educational institutes of national importance such as the Indian Institutes of Management and the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) is nothing new. In the name of autonomy, premier institutes have been at loggerheads with the ministry since a decade. And it is this tussle that has led to the post of chairman of Board of Governors at IIM Ahmedabad (IIM-A) still being vacant after eight months since L&T Chairman A M Naik resigned from the same. The institute's BoG is being led by Cadila Healthcare CMD Pankaj Patel as the interim chairman. Irrespective of the government at the Centre, MHRD has been on the pursuit to gain greater control over these institutes. While in the past, the then IIM-A director Bakul Dholakia opposed the government's move to seek an 80% cut in the fees, the most recent efforts by MHRD to call the shots on IIMs have been through the controversial draft IIM Bill. Last year, in a press conference, Naik, as the incumbent IIM-A chairman, had stated: "The final bill, which was approved between all the IIMs and the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD), has been completely changed and made even worse than when we started three years ago with sweeping powers with the government, which virtually makes the institution really only a operational centre, with all the major dictates or the directions and approvals, regulations, all happening from Delhi." Since then, led by strong opposition voiced from all the major IIMs, the MHRD has relented and revised the draft, which is now awaiting a Parliament nod. In fact, many believe the former HRD minister Smriti Irani's transfer to Ministry of Textiles was a result of the outrage over her push for greater control over the IIMs, apart from stonewalling the premier B-school's efforts to find a replacement for Naik, among other issues.

A search committee, led by Naik and comprising Sanjay Lalbhai, CMD, Arvind Ltd, Pankaj Patel, CMD, Cadila Healthcare and D Shivakumar, Chairman and CEO, PepsiCo India Holdings, was set up soon after the L&T Chairman's resignation in January this year. The committee had shortlisted three contenders including Infosys R Seshasayee, HDFC chairman Deepak Parekh, and CMD of Hero MotoCorp Pawan Munjal. The shortlist was rejected by the MHRD, reportedly on the grounds of absence of a government representative in the search committee meetings, which have been otherwise refuted. With the Centre's obsession over a greater say in IIMs, the call for setting up of a new search committee seems predictable. Thus even as a new search committee comprising former NASSCOM President Kiran Karnik, Arvind Ltd CMD Sanjay Lalbhai and PepsiCo India Holdings, Chairman and CEO, D Shivakumar has now been set up, MHRD is reportedly pushing for a 'preferred candidate'. On its part, IIM-A has endeavoured to bring in the best industry talent, right from the post faculty member to director or chairman. With the recruitment of IIM-A director Ashish Nanda, the institute had been successful in bringing in an alumni with international experience to increase the premier B-school's influence nationally and globally. Given the changes in search committee and the history of the MHRD-IIM tussle, it needs to be seen who will win this battle over the IIM-A chairman post. In Nanda's own words, which he stated last year during the said press conference, the B-school would not mind oversight "but micro-management is not good".

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First Published: Tue, August 02 2016. 14:39 IST
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