The hype over international university rankings and the new found opportunity to bargain for advantages while forming poll alliances, have resulted in new students’ groups cropping up on the Panjab University campus almost every week during the past two months.
In addition to the about dozen parties that are already active at the varsity, at least six new outfits have emerged in recent months. Observers of the campus political scene appear to be surprised over the phenomenon with no definitive pattern taking shape as far as the upcoming student council polls are concerned.
While students from Himachal Pradesh had two student unions — Himachal Students Union (HIMSU) and Himachal Pradesh Students Union (HPSU) — a third group Himachal Pradesh Students Association (HPSA) was recently launched by Arun Dhumal, son of former senior BJP leader Prem Kumar Dhumal, despite the fact that the student wing of the BJP had been active on the campus for years.
Although no major activity was witnessed among Haryana students in this aspect, posters of Janhit Student Organisation (JSO) which is the student wing of Haryana Janhit Congress, were seen on the university campus. In fact, most student groups have come forward from Punjab, including Gandhi Group Students Association (GGSU) dominated by students from Khanna and Youth Organisation of India (YOI), a student group from Patiala. Among other entrants are Youth Welfare Association (YUWA) and Chhatra Yuwa Sangarsh Samiti (CYSS), a group of student supporters of Aam Aadmi Party. Known to be active in city colleges, posters of the Lokhit Student Organisation (LSO) were also seen.
Berinder Dhillon, national coordinator, National Students Union of India (NSUI) said last year, NSUI, ABVP won two and one seats, respectively, in the student council elections. “It was unexpected. Both the parties were considered negligible. In case of ABVP, it won the vice-president’s seat , because of its alliance with SOPU and PUSU,” he said, adding that was one of the reason, new entrants probably believed they could get a seat at the time of alliances during polls, thereby, explaining the formation of new groups during the elections. Many of these new groups have been termed as splinter groups of the main parties. University officials also say these student bodies have been formed to eat into existing parties’ vote bank. But, media is being blamed for the same as well.
“Although a few student bodies are active in Punjab and Haryana too, they do not get any media coverage since elections are not held there, as opposed to the media attention student parties receive at PU, especially due its international ranking, let alone a student leader, it is now prestigious to be a part of Panjab University,” said Vikramjet Middukheda, a senior leader of SOI. PU’s student council election has become very complex as there is no definite pattern.
Groups have not come up on the lines of regionalism, ideology and other main parameters. “There was an era of SOPU and PUSU, non-political outfits till national and regional parties’ student wings started spreading its wings. The emergence of so many student bodies is a new phenomenon. It will take at least two to three years to have a proper pattern in place,” said professor of political science, PU, Khaled Mohammed.