NOVEMBER’09: New Delhi: A tussle between Congress leaders is depriving IIT Rajasthan of a permanent home two
years after its conception, replacing an earlier battle the party waged over the institute with the BJP when it ruled the state.
Coaching hub Kota, proposed by the former BJP state government as the venue for the IIT but dismissed by the UPA at the Centre, has now found powerful supporters within the Congress. The reason behind their demand: they had promised Kota an IIT in the Lok Sabha elections. The problem: others in the Congress had campaigned on bringing the same IIT to Jodhpur, home of current chief minister Ashok Gehlot. The Congress won in both Kota and Jodhpur seats in the Lok Sabha polls and is well ensconced in Rajasthan, where it is also in power. IIT Rajasthan, launched last year, however, continues to reside as a tenant on the IIT Kanpur campus. “It is a strange situation where we don’t know how to proceed. So we are likely to just sit on any decision for the time being,” a top government official said. Senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh has, in his capacity as party general secretary, written to human resource development minister Kapil Sibal, requesting that the new IIT be set up in Kota. Digvijay was a Congress observer for Rajasthan during the Lok Sabha polls and his letter represents concerns of several party MPs and MLAs from the southern parts of the state, sources said. Kota MP Ijyaraj Singh, too, has met junior HRD minister D. Purandeswari, requesting that the IIT be set up in his constituency. But accepting Kota as the venue for the new IIT will not prove easy for the HRD ministry, sources said, because of a clear position it had earlier taken against the town’s eligibility. The Rajasthan IIT is one of eight promised by the UPA under the Eleventh Five Year Plan and was announced in 2007. Vasundhara Raje Scindia, who was then chief minister, proposed Kota, the nearest big town to her family fief in Jhalawar, as the venue. But a central team sent to examine prospective sites advised against Kota, arguing that it was poorly connected and would not attract top teachers, students and industry. Scindia accused then HRD minister Arjun Singh of “playing politics” over the IIT’s location. Last December, after the Congress wrested Rajasthan from the BJP in the Assembly polls, new chief minister Gehlot appointed a team to propose afresh a venue for the new institute. The Gehlot-appointed panel recommended Jodhpur, the chief minister’s hometown. In the Lok Sabha polls that followed a few months later, the Congress campaign for party candidate Chandresh Kumari in Jodhpur promised the IIT to the city.