Coming close to the Punjab elections slated early next year, Wednesday’s Panjab University campus poll results were a blow to the prestige of the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and an embarrassment to the Congress.
While the SAD student wing was deposed, finding the winning alliance’s support later in the day will be some consolation to state Congress president Captain Amarinder Singh. Victory belongs to the Panjab University Students Union (PUSU) and the Student Front of NSUI, a breakaway faction of Congress student wing National Student Union of India (NSUI). Akali wing Student Organisation of India (SOI) headed the last Panjab University Campus Student Council (PUCSC).
The NSUI-SF’s announcing support for Amarinder after the victory should not be surprising, as suspended Youth Congress leader and Captain’s confidant Brinder Dhillon had propped up this alliance and he runs the party’s Jago Punjab campaign from Amarinder’s Sector-10 base in Chandigarh.
Dhillon said Amarinder had asked him to bury differences with the NSUI but he could not ally with a team that the SOI had “bribed to lose” the 2015 PU polls. “The NSUI was earlier defunct in Panjab University. We broke its jinx of successive defeats by merging SOPU and PUSU into it and won two consecutive polls in 2013 and 2014. The presidents were chosen from the two groups by rotation. But in 2015, the alliance crumbled and facilitated the victory of the SOI. There was no way we could have supported it,” Dhillon, former SOPU president, said.
The propaganda against the SOI, of luring voters with “drugs and money”, dented its prospects, while the rebel factor sank the NSUI — an embarrassment for the top leaders of both the SAD and the Congress. The SAD had pumped in crores of rupees to install solar-water-heating systems and refurbish the girls’ gym, bankrolled by Youth Akali Dal leader Parambans Singh Bunty Romana, who has the Punjab franchisee of liquor brand Kingfisher. Romana is also a confidant of SAD president and Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal.
It is a loss of face equally for the young brigade of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, led by All-India Youth Congress president Amrinder Singh Raja Warring, its strategy maker. Warring had suspended Dhillon as Youth Congress president of Anandpur Sahib Lok Sabha consituency on Monday but Dhillon had the support of Punjab Youth Congress chief Amarpreet Lally.
The victory exposes factionalism within the Youth Congress but the support to Amarinder is a shot in the arm for the state Congress president trying to woo the youth ahead of the Punjab assembly polls by reaching out to them in colleges and universities.
Congress line-up fails, so does SAD’s ‘one-man’ army
Other than All-India Youth Congress president Amrinder Singh Raja Warring, former Congress MP Vijay Inder Singla also camping in Chandigarh with Delhi NSUI president Amrita Dhawan. For the first time, a former chief minister, Bhupinder Singh Hooda of Haryana, announced the NSUI’s alliance with the Himachal Students’ Union (HIMSU) for the September 1 elections. Himachal CM Virbhadra Singh’s son, Vikramaditya, campaigned from the hill state. SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal relied on his “one-man army”, Parambans Singh Bunty Romana but even the largesse to student hostels couldn’t help it win a second consecutive term.
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