The state government on Monday decided to defer students’ union elections in colleges and universities across Bengal by six months. Education minister Bratya Basu however, has refused to treat the measure as an aftereffect of the Harimohon Ghosh College incident on February 12 that claimed the life of a sub inspector but said that the upcoming board exams was the cause.
“The state government has decided to put on hold college and university union elections for six months due to the subsequent Madrasa, CBSE and ICSE examinations. Even in those institutions where notifications for elections have been published, elections would be put on hold.
I have asked the vice chancellors of respective universities to take specific action in this regard,” education minister Bratya Basu announced at the state secretariat on Monday. “Both students’ union elections and examinations need elaborate security arrangements that the state would not be able to provide if they are held simultaneously,” he added.
Refusing to connect the incident of violence at Harimohan Ghose College with the deferring of the students union elections by six months, Basu said, “Students of the college were not involved in the clash at Garden Reach. Neither were teachers targeted.
I do not see any relation between the clash and students’ elections, especially when filing of nominations for the elections passed off peacefully on Monday.”
On February 12, Garden Reach witnessed massive clashes between groups owing allegiance to Trinamool Congress councilor Mohammad Iqbal and Congress leader Mokhtar over collecting nomination forms for the Harimohan Ghose College students’ union elections.
Special Branch subinspector Tapas Choudhury was fatally shot by one Mohammad Subhan, allegedly a close aide of Iqbal.
With Trinamool Congress Chatra Parishad already winning the students union election in 297 out of 317 colleges in the state and with elections of another 50 institutions pending, many feel that the six month gap would ensure the TMCP gets enough time to cobble up a sizeable vote base to contest elections.
Monday was the last day of submission of nominations for 31 seats in Harimohan Ghose College for the impending February 28 elections. Principal Bijoy Acharya informed that though 153 nominations were collected, only 38 were submitted.
“The Trinamool Chhatra Parishad (TMCP) has already won five seats uncontested,” Acharya said.
But later in the day, with the government order enforcing a blanket ban on students’ elections across the state, not only Harimohan Ghose College, but also elections at the prestigious Presidency University (PU) and Jadavpur University (JU) stand cancelled.
Apprehending trouble, JU authorities were busy ensuring that no clashes broke out during students’ elections that were due on March 14, especially in the backdrop of the Garden Reach violence.
While clashes between various student outfits are not uncommon in PU and JU, authorities felt that with TMCP jumping into the fray and struggling to establish base in both the campuses, violence could have escalated.
PU might have breathed easy in this context as TMCP candidates were not contesting the five top posts of general secretary, assistant general secretary, president, vice president and girls’ common room secretary.
Some of its members were merely contesting a small number of class-representative seats as independents.
However, the education minister’s claims of postponing students’ elections by six months due to the up-coming board examinations have raised eyebrows, “This argument cannot be accepted.
The dates of examinations were declared long back and it is unlikely that the state government would be unaware of the massive police arrangements required to conduct both the examinations and students’ elections,” said Madhuja Sen Roy, state secretary of SFI