Young candidates form the majority in the ongoing state assembly elections, in a new trend in the state’s politics — and political aspirants are keenly watching across the state’s universities. That is because there is a hot new career being pursued on the UP campuses – politics.
Of the 6,000-plus candidates running for office in the country’s biggest assembly elections, more than 3,560 are under 44 years of age, according to Election Commission records.
At the Allahabad University, one of the crucibles of the state’s turbulent student politics, many undergraduates said they had an eye on political careers themselves.
“I’m with Samajwadi Party. Along with studies, I think we need to be associated with a political party. We can have our own identity,” said Syed M Zeeshan, an 18-year-old student.
Candidates in the ongoing elections include 1,313 men and 83 women who are between 25 and 34 years of age. In addition, there are 164 women and 2008 men between the age of 35 and 44.
Some of the state’s top political leaders have been student leaders from the Allahabad University, one of India’s oldest, housed in a colonial-era building with arches and ornate architecture.
But most students here, many from small towns and villages across the region, have little access to the big-ticket dreams their counterparts in other states. “I will do my BSc, then get an MSc degree, and then I will try to become a lecturer. If I have talent, I’m sure I can do it,” said Gaurav Kesarvani.
That seems to have encouraged mainline political parties in their scramble to enter the state’s universities through their student wings in recent years. Thousands of students have been enrolled as members, intended as campaign strategy for assembly and Parliament elections.
“But this is not politics. This is hidden criminality,” Ram Prakash Singh, vice-chancellor of the Lucknow University, told ‘HT’. Singh’s crackdown against criminal students has won him national acclaim. He shut down the university, cleaned up the terror-driven hostels and expelled more than 230 students, most owing their allegiance to the ruling Samajwadi Party. They have all gone to court.
“When the Samajwadi Party was not in power, there were hardly any students allied with it. But when it formed the government, these people joined it because they wanted to take control over the college and get protection from the police,” Singh said.
“I think campuses in the UP have become what the state itself has precipitated into. There is chaos,” said Nishi Pandey, the dean of students’ welfare at the Lucknow University.
(With inputs from Rajeev Mullick)