Students at Lucknow’s Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University (BBAU) are mustering all the support they can for Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party’s Thakur candidate from the Sarojini Nagar constituency in the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections.
Ajay Kumar, a Dalit research scholar at BBAU, says Shivshanker Singh aka Shankari Singh’s caste is “immaterial”.
“He is adhering to Babasaheb’s philosophy, which is the key for me. Also, BSP chief Mayawati handpicked him from Sarojini Nagar constituency,” the 28-year-old said.
Kumar was referring to social reformer and Dalit icon Bhimrao Ambedkar and BBAU, which has 50% seats reserved for scheduled caste and scheduled tribe students, is named after him.
The central university hogged headlines in January last year after a few Dalit students shouted slogans against Prime Minister Narendra Modi during its convocation ceremony. Modi also spoke about Hyderabad University student Rohith Vemula’s death for the first time during his speech.
“Now, the onus is on us (Dalits) to ensure his victory and the defeat of the BJP’s candidate. The saffron party has always promoted communalism and hatred in society,” Kumar added.
Voting will take place in Sarojini Nagar, which is an open constituency, in the third phase of polling on February 19.
In the 2012 assembly elections, Samajwadi Party’s Sharda Pratap Shukla defeated Singh by 8,365 votes. Shukla got 67,601 votes and Singh 59,236 votes.
Kumar is not the only student from the university to come out in Singh’s support. Many present and former students are not only supporting Singh but they are also campaigning for him on social media as well as through door-to-door interaction with voters.
Shreyat Boudh, another student, says he is campaigning for Singh as well as all the other BSP candidates in the district. “I have attended their public meetings and am drumming up support for them in whatever way I can,” the 23-year-old said. Students are also inspiring women to contribute to Singh’s campaign.
“We have formed a body called ‘Bahujan Samajik Mahila Sangathan’ and are mobilising the women of Sarojini Nagar to step out and vote for the BSP candidate,” Bela Turkey, a student, says.
The varsity’s teachers are also not far behind. BB Malik, a teacher at the sociology department, says, “In a democracy, every individual has a right to their opinion. The BSP rule will bring peace, law and order in the state.”
Singh is happy with the overwhelming support from the Dalit students of the university.
“It is always good for a candidate if he has the support of the youth. I am heavily banking on youth power. They are working tirelessly for my election campaign,” he says.
The Bharatiya Janata Party has fielded the state unit’s women wing chief, Swati Singh, from Sarojini Nagar. Swati is the wife of former BJP state vice-president, Dayashankar Singh, who had made derogatory remarks against BSP supremo Mayawati.
The saffron party has never won the Sarojini Nagar seat, which has been held by SP and BSP candidates during the past decades.
The ruling Samajwadi Party has given the ticket to chief minister Akhilesh Yadav’s cousin, Anurag Yadav. Shukla, who is sitting MLA from the seat, was denied ticket by the SP, following which he filed his nomination on a Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) ticket.
The BJP rebel Rudra Daman Singh alias Babloo is also in the fray. After being denied ticket, he is contesting as Shiv Sena candidate.
Students of other varsities are also busy campaigning for candidates.
Monu, an Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad student leader at Lucknow University, is campaigning for BJP’s Lucknow North candidate, Dr Neeraj Nora, who lost the last assembly election.
Similarly, members of Samajwadi Chhatra Sabha are campaigning for ruling Samajwadi Party candidates in the district.