They successfully dabbled in university and college politics and proved their mettle as student leaders. They think they are ready for a bigger role now.
A number of youth leaders from both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who successfully contested Delhi University Students’ Union (DUSU) elections in the past, are lobbying for ticket to contest Delhi assembly elections this year.
Several of them are pinning their hopes on the young and first-time voters, the number of whom has quadrupled in the past one year.
The number of first-time voters (18-19 years) in Delhi has risen to approximately 3.5 lakh from the 98,000 that voted in the 2012 municipal corporation polls and, therefore, their choice in the upcoming assembly polls may prove to be the game changer
Amit Malik (DUSU president, 2000) and president of the Youth Congress is hoping to get ticket from Kirari, Rohit Chaudhary (DUSU president, 2003) is trying to get Congress ticket from Nangloi.
Amrita Dhawan (DUSU president, 2006) — who held three different positions in Delhi University Students’ Union — is expected to be nominated as party candidate from Tilak Nagar while Harsh Chaudhary (Joint secretary, 2000) wants to contest from Tughlaqabad.
From the BJP, Nakul Bhardwaj (DUSU president, 2002), who had contested 2008 assembly election from Patparganj against another student leader Anil Chaudhary but lost by a small margin of 600-odd votes, is trying again for ticket from the same constituency.
Gaurav Khari (Joint secretary, 2004) and Vikas Dahiya (vice-president, 2006) have also been trying to get ticket from Burari and Timarpur, respectively.
Contesting and winning university election may prove a step in the right direction but student leaders said it definitely is not a short-cut to mainstream politics.
“It gives you the much-desired exposure and recognition in the political circles but the journey to the mainstream electoral politics is strenuous and long. I went through the same grind which any other party worker would go through to rise through the ranks,” said Amit Malik, who contested his first election in 2007 for the municipal corporation of Delhi.
BJP Yuva Morcha president Gaurav Khari said student leaders do get the advantage of starting out early but they take almost as many years to be counted as a serious contender for the assembly election ticket just like any other party worker.
“While other students enjoy college life and party, we get involved in social and welfare activities. It takes at least 10-12 years for a student leader to be counted as a serious politician,” Khari said.
Agrees Congress’ Hari Shankar Gupta (56), who was elected DUSU president in 1978 and contested his first assembly election in 1993 but became an MLA only in 2008.
“It took me 35 years to reach where I am now. I held several positions in the youth wing of the party as well as in the Pradesh Congress Committee. When you contest university election and get elected, politics becomes your destiny and you get the little push you need. But one has to work really hard to become a successful leader,” said Gupta.
A number of leaders who started their political career on the campus have gone on to hold important political positions at both state and national level.
Arun Jaitley, Ajay Maken, Vijay Goel, Subhash Chopra, Arti Mehra, and Vijender Gupta are among few of those leaders.
“To reach a stage where you are recognised as a good leader and the party considers you for ticket, you need to think beyond the university and the students’ life. There are several names who were promising when they started out but lost in the short-lived glamour of the university politics,” said Arvinder Singh, urban development minister in Delhi government, who was President of SGTB Khalsa College Students’ Union in 1986-87.