The Student Organisation of India (SOI), a wing of Punjab's ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), got a shot in the arm on Wednesday as more than a dozen leaders, including the presidents, of the Student Organisation of Panjab University (SOPU) and the Panjab University Student Union (PUSU) joined the SOI in the presence of Youth Akali Dal president and Punjab revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia at a function on PU campus on Wednesday evening.
With SOUP losing its chief Rashpal Hakuwala and PUSU president Yadvinder Dhaliwal also joining the SOI, both homegrown parties of PU face a bleak future, as reported by HT a couple of days ago.
SOPU and PUSU had been ruling the campus politics since the nineties, when elections were started. PUSU, in fact, had been losing steam for at least five years now and was unable to win key posts, though SOPU was putting up a brave face.
However, in 2013, it was after almost a decade that both parties failed to win even a single seat in the PU Campus Student Council.
Student wings of mainstream political parties shared the pie last year: Congress' National Students' Union of India (NSUI) bagged the posts of president and joint secretary, while the post of vice-president went to the Indian National Students' Organisation (INSO), a wing of Haryana-based party Indian National Lok Dal, and the secretary's post went to the SOI.
It was only in recent years that mainstream political parties started focussing on PU. Some prominent faces of SOPU and PUSU had joined the NSUI in the presence of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi in October 2012 when the party was formally re-launched. The SOI and INSO have had a presence but failed to make a big splash so far.
Among those who joined the SOI on Wednesday are PUSU's presidential candidate for the 2013 council elections, Satwant Singh; former PUSU presidents Simran Dhillon, Jajwinder Sidhu, Simranjeet Kang; former SOPU presidents Vicky Middukhera, Robin Brar; and SOPU's campus president Arshnoor Dhillon.
Middukhera said it was important now to join mainstream political parties to fulfil promises made to students: "We see (Punjab deputy chief minister and SAD president) Sukhbir Badal as a role model for the youth."
The programme was part of an anti-drug awareness initiative by the SOI, and saw a performance by renowned folk singer from Pakistan, Arif Lohar.
But the NSUI criticised the function. "If it was a programme about anti-drug awareness, I did not hear even a single word on the subject from those on dais. They just wanted to score political points," said Chandan Rana, NSUI leader and the current president of the campus student council.
No promises for student polls in Punjab
Bikram Singh Majithia, the Youth Akali Dal chief and Punjab minister, was non-committal over re-starting campus polls in the state. These polls had been banned during the militancy period in the late '80s. "We will the chief minister with a demand to start student elections in Punjab," he said, not making any promise. Welcoming PUSU and SOPU leaders to the SOI, Majithia said the role of students in politics was very important: "Students with new ideas can rearrange the political priorities of the country to meet future challenges."