WITH THE Senate election of the University of Mumbai around a month away, student wings of political parties have begun pre-campaigning activities on and off college campuses. Last month, the university kickstarted the process for appointing governing bodies by opening the online voter registration process on June 1. Senate election is likely to be held in August. Apart from administrators, teachers and principals, 10 registered university graduates will also be elected as student representatives by an electoral college.
It is for these spots that the student bodies are contesting. With only a week left for registering voters, major student bodies are busy with door-to-door and community campaigns — any graduate of the university who has been awarded a degree will be eligible to vote. Volunteers of the Maharashtra Navnirman Vidyarthi Sena (MNVS) are going door to door distributing registration forms.
“We are currently concentrating on getting as many voters registered as possible. All our volunteers have been asked to focus on spreading awareness and getting more voters on board,” said Santosh Gangurde, vice president, MNVS. The MNVS, the youth wing of the MNS, is looking beyond college campuses to bolster its electoral base, by holding community awareness programmes for alumni. The National Students Union of India (NSUI) has set up kiosks on campuses to help newcomers register.
The helpdesks guide new joinees with the admission process and also inform them about the election process.“Outside college campuses, we reach out to eminent alumni to register for voting,” said Nikhil Kamble, NSUI member. The actual number of registrations will be known on June 30. “Not everyone is aware of the online process. So we bring the hard copies of registration forms to people,” said Gangurde.
Sanjay Nirupam, President of the Mumbai Regional Congress Committee, who is actively helping the NSUI with its preparations, said, “The voter registration bears importance as the electoral base will help decide strategies.” Although representatives will be contesting for only 10 graduate representative seats in the Senate, the student bodies have not compromised on preparations, as the Senate Election will provide a platform to the Student Body Elections expected to make a comeback in the next academic year.
The University administration’s decision of onscreen assessment of final year papers and the subsequent delay in evaluation has emerged as the most important issue ahead of the election. Early last week, the Yuva Sena served a notice to Vice-Chancellor Sanjay Deshmukh to declare results by July 10, failing which the party will begin an agitation. “We are preparing for a massive agitation if the university fails to meet our demand,” said Suraj Chavan, a Yuva Sena member.
He said that since the delay in results is the most pressing issue, the youth wing of the Shiv Sena has decided to stand in unity with the students. “Given the gravity of the problem, it helps reach out to more number of students and graduates,” said Chavan. Meanwhile, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidhyarthi Parishad’s (ABVP) agenda remains simple: beating the Yuva Sena. “The Yuva Sena has been representing students in the senate for a long period and this has led to inactive student culture and politics. Students’ issues are not addressed. We intend to change that,” said Rohit Chandode, Mumbai secretary of the ABVP.
On the other hand, the Students’ Federation of India (SFI) is working towards stopping the growth of the ABVP in the city. On Friday, the SFI held a two-day study camp at Belapur to discuss the “current status of education under the BJP regime”, among other topics. “The camp held in the run-up to the Senate election was aimed at leadership development and spreading awareness about the rising ‘brahminism’ in education. We are preparing to fight against the ABVP,” said Rameshwar Shere, Mumbai secretary of SFI. One of the strategies to achieve this target, Shere said, is by bringing all Leftist organisations to contest the election together.