Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit has alleged that crores of rupees exchanged hands in the appointment of vice-chancellors to universities before he took over.
Reacting to his remarks, the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) in the state said it had no role in the appointments of vice-chancellors.
In the "appointment of vice-chancellors...exchanging (of) money in crores, I could not believe that, then I decided that things had to be changed", Mr Purohit said at an event on education here Saturday.
He added that the people of Tamil Nadu would appreciate that "till date I have selected nine vice-chancellors, purely on merit, nobody can raise a finger (against him)...from vice-chancellors to primary school teachers -- all appointments should be clearly on merit".
The governor's remarks have virtually strengthened the opposition criticism against the AIADMK government on the appointment of vice-chancellors to the state-run universities.
The Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) had in February demanded a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into alleged corruption in the universities of Tamil Nadu.
Higher Education Minister K P Anbazhagan said, "I am duty bound to clarify that the government has no role in the appointment of vice-chancellors."
He dubbed Mr Purohit's remarks as "surprising" since the recommendations to the governor to appoint vice-chancellors were made by search committees, over which the government had no control.
The government appointed only one member -- an eminent educationist of standing or a government secretary -- to the search committees to recommend the names of vice-chancellors, while the two other members were named by the university syndicate and the governor respectively, the minister said.
The government does not even see or ask who were recommended for the top posts by the committee, he said, adding that only the governor selected the vice-chancellors on the basis of the search committee's recommendations.
The minister said this was the norm being followed in the selection of vice-chancellors even before the incumbent governor assumed office.
Speaking to reporters at Dharmapuri on Saturday, the minister said, "What the governor had in mind when he made the remarks can only be answered by him."
Fisheries Minister D Jayakumar said the government would take action "if there is truth in the allegations and if the identity of those who got posts by shelling out money becomes known".
In February, then vice-chancellor of Bharathiyar University, Coimbatore, A Ganapathy, was arrested by the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC) in a bribery case, following which he was suspended.
In November 2016, the now defunct Coimbatore-Anna University's former vice chancellor R Radhakrishnan was convicted in a graft case by a court and sentenced to undergo five years of rigorous imprisonment.
In August last, a scam in awarding marks during revaluation was exposed in the premier Anna University.
Besides graft allegations, the appointments of vice-chancellors to some universities have also been mired in controversies for other reasons as well.