IN THE run-up to the student council elections, leaders jumping from one party to the other is a common practice. This year has already witnessed the formation of two new student organisations, Students Federation of Panjab University (SFPU) and Law Students’ Union (LSU), and these parties have so far been successful in welcoming leaders from parties with political affiliations.
In the latest development, Adhiraj Pathania, former vice-president, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), PU, has joined SFPU. Sources said this could dent the party’s image as the ABVP was increasing its recruitment on campus and was likely to contest all the four posts this year. Last year, the ABVP only contested the presidential post.
“We welcome Adhiraj Pathania, who is an able and mature leader of Panjab University. We look forward to a fruitful collaboration so that we can take down the monopoly of political bosses and outsiders,” said Ishaan Sharma, a senior leader of SFPU.
The SFPU, formed in April, was a result of some members breaking away from the homegrown Panjab University Students’ Union (PUSU). It is a front that claims that it has no affiliation to any political party or ideology. “I am thankful to ABVP for grooming me, but I want to lay more stress on social activism rather than student politics. My role in SFPU will be disclosed at a later stage. As of now, I can only say I will be an office-bearer of the party,” said Pathania.
A senior ABVP leader, Harmanjot Singh Gill, said Pathania was the Chandigarh city secretary of the ABVP. “The ABVP is a big family; you have to do some compromises in the interest of family. We don’t have a space for opportunistic people,” he added.
However, Karanbir Singh Randhawa, former joint secretary, Panjab University Campus Students’ Council (PUCSC), said it was wrong to say student bodies did not have political affiliation. “During elections, every party claims to work for student issues. But there comes a time when alliances have to be formed. So, to form strong alliances, you have to sometimes partner with parties that have a political affiliation,” he added.
Randhawa, who was the campus president of SOI, broke away in July 2017 to form the Independent Students’ Association (ISA). He contested the 2017 poll and won the post of joint secretary as a candidate of the ISA.
Asked why student leaders were dropping out of parties with political affiliations, Randhawa said, “Ideas cannot be implemented properly and you always have to take permission from the higher-ups. This way, I can work with more freedom and get more exposure. It helps parties get closer to student issues.”
On August 1, third-year and fifth-year students of University Institute of Legal Studies (UILS) got together and formed LSU. A majority of them are from various student parties such as National Students’ Union of India (NSUI), Students’ Organisation of India (SOI), ABVP and PUSU. The UILS and the Department of Laws is also a large vote bank with a combined strength of over 2,500 votes.
In 2010, the Students for Society (SFS) came up on the campus and has been a major competitor during the PUCSC elections in the last three years. The SFS has played a major role in the fee hike issue in April 2017, but lost support after the violence on the campus between students and police.
Pathania was unavailable for comment.
Besides, the SFPU has also managed to rope in Vipul Atre, Amit Bohara and Ashish from the NSUI. The student body has claimed that these three leaders mobilised “huge groups” in University Institute of Engineering and Technology (UIET) that has one of the largest vote banks in the university with at least 2,500 votes.