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Raje’s desperate gambit: Imposing a dress code in college

Prescribing uniforms for university students is an attempt to win back the sympathies of Rajasthan’s conservative voters.

editorials Updated: Mar 09, 2018 14:11 IST
Hindustan Times
A file picture of Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje. (Himanshu Vyas/Hindustan Times)

If the Vasundhara Raje government has its way, students in Rajasthan’s State-run colleges will follow a strict dress code prescribed by the Commissionerate of College Education. In the next academic session, boys will have to stick to a shirt, pant, jersey (in winters), shoes, socks and belt. Girl students will be barred from wearing shirts and trousers and can only wear the government-mandated salwar-suit, chunni, sweater or cardigan, saree, shoes/sandals and socks to college.

Apart from the criticism the order has invited for its attempt to throttle the freedom of expression as enshrined in Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution, which includes freedom of clothing, the directive’s timing makes it all the more peculiar. The diktat could be designed to deflect attention from a series of setbacks that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has recently suffered in the state. The defeat in by-elections for local bodies, for which results came in on Wednesday, is not the first. The opposition Congress, in contrast, has been regaining lost ground. The Congress won four of the six zila parishad seats, 12 of the 20 panchayat samiti seats and four of the six municipal seats for which polls were held on Tuesday. This came soon after the BJP’s embarrassing losses in the Alwar and Ajmer Lok Sabha constituencies for which by-elections were held on January 29. The defeats for a party in power both in the state and at the Centre could send alarm bells ringing for the BJP close to the assembly elections this year and in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections in 2019. The party won 25 out of 25 seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

Cornered politically, incumbent governments have been known to resort to frantic measures. Higher education minister Kiran Maheshwari says the uniform will help the government identify outsiders on campus. But prescribing uniforms for university students on a day Rajasthan Women’s Commission chairperson Suman Sharma lamented the lack of broad-chested men who could protect their sisters is a desperate attempt to win back the sympathies of Rajasthan’s conservative voters. Still, as chief minister Vasundhara Raje realised after a U-turn on a Bill gagging the media from reporting on public servants, mind control and regulation might not always help you bounce back from people’s anger over governance issues.

First Published: Mar 09, 2018 14:11 IST