For a first-year student of Panjab University, the first brush with student elections can prove to be quite overwhelming, and confusing, to say the least. In such cases, from what we have learnt, always trust the seniors. As Muktsari munda, Mandeep Ahuja, a second-year student of Philosophy, suggests, “Asli votes tan door-to-door campaigning and welcome speechan naal hi aandiyan ne.”
Reinstating the fact that first impressions truly are the last, it is the welcome speeches or door-to-door campaigning (class-to-class in this case) by student leaders that helps them garner maximum number of votes. With the open-house debate being banned in 2010, student parties are left with no choice but to lure voters in their classes. To get a first-hand account of how affective these ‘welcome speeches’ are, this HT City correspondent turns student for a day to give party leaders a hearing.
(The speaker of one of the parties addresses students in a classroom. Gurpreet Singh/HT)
On entering the BDS building, Dr Harvansh Singh Judge Institute of Dental Sciences & Hospital, in the south campus of Panjab University, you don’t have to search for the room where the action is — it’s the room with students spilling out of it. On the day of our visit, it was NSUI (National Students’ Union of India) addressing first-year BDS students.
A confident female voice interrupts our thoughts of finding comfortable seating — dressed in kurta-salwar, she reminds you of Sonam Kapoor’s character from Raanjhanaa. Only, Sonam’s character has a long way to go to match up to hers. This third-year student of law is not one you can ignore; her skillful usage of the English language echoes her party’s thoughts — students’ issues, centralisation of the university and its funds, hostel issues and her party’s USP. The ‘politically correct’ aura is then broken by, well, politics; highlighting rival parties’ drawbacks seemed inevitable. It makes you wonder though, if this ‘party bashing’ contributes negatively to this party’s credibility.
She then takes a back seat, inviting one of the party’s former presidents to weave magic with his ‘affective speaker’ skills. “Hello friends, I’m Dalvir Singh Khangura, also known as Goldy…,” he introduces himself and follows it up with his party’s achievements in the past. “Jad vi Bhagat Singh warge lok revolution leke aaye ne, lok ohna nu pehla hamesha pagal kehnde ne, jive sannu sab pagal kehnde honge,” says he, looking to impress students with the mention of ‘Bhagat Singh’ and ‘revolution’. Counter questions are entertained too, not many from freshers though.
Being at the receiving end of every party’s welcome speech, you realise their common strategies, ideas and implications. Their USPs and tactics, however, differ — the PUSU guy gets a round of applause for his shers, the SOI speaker gets smiles for his wittiness, SOPU raises eyebrows for its achievements and small parties get appreciation for their dedication.
Certain things, however, never change over the years — campaigners come armed with answers to all queries put forth by students, pull out jokes out of nowhere to lighten the mood, and most importantly, get good looking leaders to impress the girls.