New Delhi: Nobel laureate Amartya Sen has withdrawn his candidature as chancellor of Nalanda University, alleging that the government does not want him to continue to head the prestigious multi-country initiative. The government denied the allegations even as the opposition Congress asked it not to politicise the issue.

Sen in his letter to the Nalanda governing board, said he was withdrawing his candidature citing delay in the government approval for his continuation.

External affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin clarified that there was no attempt to curtail the tenure of Amartya Sen as chancellor of Nalanda University.

Akbaruddin also said the ministry has not yet received the approved minutes of the meeting of the governing board of Nalanda University from the members, in order to forward it to the Visitor, the president of India, for approval.

The governing board had in its meeting in January approved giving Sen another term as chancellor.

Akbaruddin said the draft of the minutes of the meeting was received Feb 13 with a covering that it is to be approved in two weeks time.

He said the approved minutes has not yet been received, and there was "still time".

According to the spokesperson, the January meeting had also put forward two options - of giving Sen another term after it ends in July, and also to provide the Visitor, President Pranab Mukherjee, with an alternate list of three names to choose from.

He said it is up to President Mukherjee to take a call on the issue if Sen decides to withdraw his candidature.

Sen, who is also a recipient of the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian honour, in his letter wrote: "This delay, as well as the uncertainty involved, is leading, in effect, to a decisional gap, which is not helpful to Nalanda University's governance and its academic progress.

"I have, therefore, decided that in the best interest of Nalanda University, that I should exclude myself from being considered for continuing as chancellor beyond this July, despite the unanimous recommendation and urging of the governing board for me to continue."

He also decried that "academic governance in India remains so deeply vulnerable to the opinions of the ruling government, when it chooses to make political use of the special provisions".

The Congress party, which had appointed the famed economist when it was heading the previous United Progressive Alliance government, said Sen was a "national treasure" and the government must refrain from politicising the issue.

"Amartya Sen is an asset to our country. His work in the field of economics, food security, education is a good contribution to the country. There is no reason why they (the government) should not extend his term. I hope they have a change of heart and not politicise this issue," party spokesperson Ajoy Kumar told the media here.

Sen, whose term as chancellor ends in July, was unanimously picked by the Nalanda University governing board at its last meeting Jan 13-14 this year.

He said the board's unanimous "firm and enthusiastic" decision was conveyed to the Visitor, President Pranab Mukherjee, in mid-January.

"More than a month has passed since then and it now seems clear that the visitor has been unable to provide his assent to the governing board's unanimous choice in the absence of the government's approval.

"The governing board has not been favoured with a reply to its request, either from the president's office or from the ministry of external affairs.

"Non-action is a time-wasting way of reversing a board decision, when the government has, in principle, the power to act or not act.

"It is hard for me not to conclude that the government wants me to cease being the chancellor of Nalanda University after this July, and technically, it has the power to do so," he wrote.

In an interview to NDTV news channel, he said that despite President Mukherjee being in favour of his continuing as chancellor and the university governing board having immediately "minuted" its decision to select him, there was a "clear view" that the government does not want him.

On his criticism of Narendra Modi before he became prime minister and of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Sen said "as an Indian voter it is my liberty to like or not a candidate".