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Bengal students’ union elections to keep political parties at bay

Opposition leaders think no reforms will be of any help unless students can hold elections freely.

kolkata Updated: Jun 07, 2017 15:07 IST
Sumanta Ray Chaudhuri
Sumanta Ray Chaudhuri
Hindustan Times
Student Elections,Colleges,University
File picture of posters on a college wall before student council elections. Scenes like this won’t be visible in Bengal from this year. (HT Photo)

From this year Bengal, a land of violent student politics, will hold students’ council elections without any political flavour. The chief minister has approved a blueprint for student election reforms designed to make the campuses free from violence by introducing a model where contestants cannot display any flags, or festoon of any political party, or its affiliate.

The chief features of the plan consists of appointing a teacher of the college as a president to oversee the general secretary of the student council, and placing the funds of the student body under the custodianship of another teacher who will be the treasurer.

Read: The vote is back: Will student elections draw Mumbai youth into politics?

Each class can elect a single representative, instead of the current practice of having a couple. Usually they belong to rival camps, and clashes frequently erupt between them.

Several prominent politicians of Bengal such as former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee have come up from the ranks of student leaders. (HT Photo)

The move follows widespread violence in Bengal campuses over the past few years. Bombs rain freely and clashes frequently erupt in colleges across the state with the ruling party student unit being in the dock in most instances.

State education minister and Trinamool Congress secretary general, Partha Chatterjee, said that though temporarily the election of class representatives will continue, in the near future the government will do away with this practice. A system where students directly elect the office bearers of the council as in Jadavpur University (JU) of Kolkata and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU of Delhi, will be introduced.

“We have decided to limit the number of elected class representative to one per class or per department. This will eliminate interference of political parties in students’ election,” Chatterjee said.

Read: Poll vault: student union elections are all about promises and bonding

“The post of treasurer would also be mandatorily go to a teacher. Students won’t handle funds that often triggers clashes between students,” the education minister added.

The violence in Bengal campuses over the past few years embarrassed chief minister Mamata Banerjee. (HT Photo)

Incidentally, a number of prominent politicians of Bengal such as Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee (former chief minister), Md Salim, (CPI-M politburo member and Lok Sabha MP), Biman Bose (CPI-M politburo member and Left Front chairman) Subrata Mukherjee (senior most minister in Mamata Banerjee’s cabinet) and Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi (former union minister) rose from the arena of student politics.

In the current system in most colleges and universities throughout the country, students elect the class representatives (CR), who, in turn, select office bearers such as president, vice-president, general secretary, assistant general secretary, assistant secretary and treasurer, from the elected CRs.

Read: Now, code of conduct for students’ election

In order to be eligible to contest, a student has to be present in a minimum of 60% of the classes. If anyone is convicted, or charged with criminal offence he, or she, cannot contest the polls.

No student can become general secretary for more than once.

Opposition parties described the move as a farce and alleged that such reforms will be fruitless unless students are able to contest without threats from ruling Trinamool Congress.

“Since 2011, there had not been elections in most colleges and universities in West Bengal. Students who are not trusted by Trinamool leaders are threatened if they file nominations. Unless the unions are democratically and freely elected, all reforms will be farce,” said the Bengal unit president of Student Federation of India, Madhuja Sen Roy.

First Published: Jun 07, 2017 15:07 IST