An ardent devotee of the Anoopam Mission, a Swaminarayan sect based at Mogri in the Anand district of Gujarat, Dr Manoj Soni has led an extraordinary life. The Mumbai-born Gujarati academic chosen by the Government headed by Narendra Modi to head the prestigious UPSC has come up in life selling incense sticks and semi-finished cloths at his young age after the death of his father who himself was an Anoopam Mission devotee.
Dr Soni is always seen sporting a prominent red dot with vermillion on his forehead, identification of his affiliation with the Swaminarayan sect, a much respected socio-religious movement popular since 200 years in Gujarat.
Barring the years when he served as Vice-Chancellor of MS University in Vadodara between the tumultuous years 2005 to 2008 and Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Open University, Ahmedabad between 2009 to 2015, Dr Soni taught International Relations at Sardar Patel University at VallabhVidya Nagar till 2016.
Believed to be one of the speechwriters of chief minister Narendra Modi, Dr Soni remained in the eye of the storm throughout his tenure at MS University. During his time as VC at the helm of the MS University a student of fine arts was attacked by VHP activists for depicting nudity. There was widespread outrage at that time and many accused the right-winger VC of complicity for not taking sterner action against the miscreants.
Apart from Dr Manoj Soni being a Gujarati, the current flavour of the political establishment, he is also a staunch RSS supporter. In the past, newspapers had reported that he was backed by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh for a place in the search panel for V-C’s by Gujarat University’s academic and executive council.