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STUDENTS’ UNIONS in the University of Mumbai might have to wait yet another year for on-campus elections, as the state government is likely to take longer to release statutes for the same. Sources said the process could be delayed after the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena’s (MNS’s) student wing and its former senate member met state Education Minister Vinod Tawde on Saturday and demanded a postponement of senate elections.
Unless all statutory bodies of the university are formed, statutes for student elections will not be ready, added sources. Education minister will take a final call in the matter following a meeting with student leaders and university officials by May 30.
MNS members met Tawde to discuss a postponement in the dates of senate election.
Voter registration for the election is scheduled be held between June 1 and 30, following which elections would be conducted in the first week of August. However, anticipating a low voter turnout due to rains, MNS student leaders are demanding a postponement. “Having senate election in August is a bad idea, it will affect the voter turnout. We are strongly against the idea and have demanded that the election be deferred till September or October,” said former senate member from MNS Sudhakar Tamboli.
“Our next meeting with the minister is scheduled on May 30. We are expecting a positive response,” he added.
A senior official from the higher education department said, “Statutes, with respect to student elections, would come only after the more urgent ones — on appointments and eligibility criteria for teachers and non-teaching staff — are released. Elections of all the statutory bodies, who are decision-makers, have to be completed first.”
The term of the last batch of Mumbai University (MU) senate, Academic Council and Management Council ended August 31.
The MU administration has been functioning without its decision-making bodies for around two years. Though the Maharashtra Public University Act came into effect on March 1, 2017, statutes for forming such bodies are still delayed.
A representative of Students Federation of India (SFI), Mumbai, said, “The government had hastily announced its decision of bringing back elections. Now, they cannot delay or backtrack, or they will have to face the wrath of students’ unions.”
Elections to student councils were banned in the state in 1992, after the brutal murder of NSUI activist Owen D’Souza during college elections.
However, almost all political parties in the state are backing the revival of polls, but with adequate safeguards to prevent on- campus violence. The idea to revive student elections was first raised by Tawde.
“Both MNS and Yuva Sena student leaders have lost face in Mumbai, Pune and even Konkan region, while ABVP has come ahead. Now, MNS representatives are afraid of losing both senate and students elections. So, they want to defer the elections. Authorities too are at fault, as even after the Act is in place, we have not been informed about the elections. If the government postpones them further, we would protest,” said Rohit Chandode, ABVP Mumbai secretary.
MU officials, meanwhile, said they are prepared to conduct the polls. “As of now, we have no instructions about the delay. We are, in fact, working on conducting the election as per schedule and form these bodies at the earliest. If by September 1, all the decision-making bodies are in place, we are sure of conducting students council election by the end of this year,” said M A Khan, MU registrar.
Meanwhile, Chandode and team has threatened to start a campaign from June 1 to pressurise the state government, to come up with election statutes at the earliest.