Commenting on the Delhi University polls, the Supreme Court stated on Friday that the country needed good students and not leaders engaged in goondagiri and dadagiri in colleges and universities. As if taking a cue from this observation, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati announced a ban on students’ elections in the state. Elections were due to be held in October-November in Lucknow University (LU) and other varsities in the state. The ban, says the CM, will improve law and order on campuses and regularise academic sessions. Since Independence, this is the fourth time that such curbs have been imposed in UP. During her last tenure, Mayawati had fixed the age limit for candidates contesting the elections. Consequently, LU polls were not held as all the candidates had crossed the age limit. When Mulayam Singh became the CM, he removed the age limit and LU elections were held in 2003. In December 2006, LU saw unrest over the implementation of the Supreme Court-mandated Lyngdoh Committee’s stringent recommendations on student polls. The elections were not held in the last academic session, as most contestants were expelled or suspended.
There is no doubt that campus elections have become a playfield for small-time netas who masquerade as students. Muscle and money power have eclipsed genuine students’ politics and the poll process. However, a ban is unjustified. The decision seems to be motivated more by politics than by any evangelical desire. Keeping law and order and implementing the Lyngdoh guidelines is the duty of the state, and using its lax implementation as an excuse to ban a democratic process is unacceptable. In fact, cleaning up politics at the campus-level will only mean that we will, hopefully, get better leaders at the national level.
Instead of such a blanket ban, state governments should make sure that they implement the Lyngdoh Committee recommendations that, among other things, put a cap on expenditure and age of candidates. The recently concluded DU elections also failed to implement the Lyngdoh Committee recommendations in letter and spirit. It was only after the Delhi High Court intervened that scrutiny of candidates was made stringent. This kind of lackadaisical approach on the part of national parties and poll authorities will only delay the turnaround process and undermine the spirit of healthy competition among many who may become India’s future leaders.