They are nearly two-thirds of the university's strength, but girls have little power when it comes to student politics at Panjab University.Isn't it high time that those hunks with moustaches and trimmed beards smiling on the posters of almost every party make way for some women power? Not once has a girl been president of the Panjab University Campus Student Council (PUCSC), though candidates have been put up sometimes. The situation prevails despite girl playing an increasingly vocal, and visual, role in the campaign.
Asked why the trend prevails, Simran Gill, 25, who was earlier in charge of the girls' wing of SOPU and is now general secretary of the NSUI, is ironically blunt: "Our patriarchal society is the only reason." But she hammers home another big point: "So far, no woman has ever become the university's vice-chancellor either, so how do you expect a student union president?"
Then, she launches a barrage: "Reasons given by party leaders - that a girl can't go out at night or she can't campaign in boys' hostels - are sheer nonsense. I return at three in the night sometimes from the library. Also, are boys allowed to enter girls' hostels for campaigning? These leaders get votes through the campaigning at hostels by their party's girls. Why can't a girl get the same votes?" But she does list out pragmatic reasons why girls are not leaders: "Mostly, ego clashes keep girls away. Also, girls do not come forward due to lack of support from parents."
Brinder Dhillon, national coordinator, NSUI, says girls are just not interested: "So far I haven't come across any girl who wants to be the president. You can't force someone. PU elections are not based on caste, community or gender; it's about friendships. Unlike boys, girls don't have a votebank that way. Boys will only let girls come forward when someone strongly wants to. Like at the JNU and DU in Delhi, at least a single girl should make the effort to be a game-changer."
But Jasleen Kaur, who was part of last year's student council executive body, has another take: "A girl rarely votes for another girl. The reason undoubtedly is the 'J' factor. For winning an election, strong backing is needed, which girls lack. I've seen that the reserved post of a female vice-president has practically no role."
"I really don't blame any party because in 90% of the cases girls usually don't want to take any extra pressure, says Harleen Kaur, a law student.
Not everyone is so dismissive. Deepika Thakur, who won as general secretary in 2009 as INSO nominee in alliance with SOPU, says, "There were five male candidates opposite me but I won by a large margin. INSO's alliance was based on the term that SOPU would have a male president candidate. Had INSO got to choose, things may have been different. Small parties still give girls the chance."
One who has got the chance is HSA's Akanksha Sood, the lone declared presidential candidate so far. "For 11 years, PU elections have been male dominating by boys as girls don't come forward. If any girl has stood up, other girls have not elected her doubting her ability. The only thing that I've been telling everyone so far is that if girls, who are in majority on campus, need someone even at odd hours in their hostels, a male president might not be able to come. A girl will always be accessible."