Councilors of Chandigarh Municipal Corporation will canvass for Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) candidates in the September 6 Panjab University election in their own areas, starting Monday. The aim of the off-campus canvassing is to target local students who have been on holiday since Saturday.
The long weekend owing to Janmashtami has failed to dampen the spirit of the student organisations on the campus, who are mostly targeting hostellers still on the campus by late-night campaigning and group discussions.
With the Panjab University Campus Student Council (PUCSC) election scheduled to be held on Thursday, candidates will get only one full day to campaign when the university reopens on Tuesday.
The BJP councillors will speak to PU students in their sectors and ask them to vote for the ABVP. They have also decided to gather their own supporters for door-to-door campaigning. Sources said Mayor Davesh Moudgil, councillors Arun Sood, Ravikant Sharma, Kanwar Rana,
Maheshinder Singh Sidhu, Asha Jaswal, Bharat Kumar, and former councillor Saurabh Joshi will be helping the ABVP reach out to locals.
Councillor Arun Sood said, “I’ve been an ABVP activist during my student days and I am helping the student body by reaching out to local PU students in my area who support the ABVP and the BJP. It’s not exactly door-to-door campaigning as such.”
Sood added that the BJP did not interfere or directly support ABVP activists, but only helped when it needed “encouragement”.
“Unlike the NSUI that is directly funded by the Congress, we have a lesser role to play in the ABVP even though a majority of our senior leaders have previously served as ABVP activists during their student days. Ideologically, however, I feel that the ABVP has a good chance in the student elections this year, so we’re doing this in the interest of the students,” Sood said.
This is the first time that leaders of a political party will engage in off-campus campaigning for a student election.
In previous years, political leaders have visited the PU campus as a mark of “showing strength” for their student wings. Last year,
Gidderbaha MLA Amrinder Singh Raja Warring had reportedly visited the PU campus a day before the election.
Under the clause of “dissociation of student elections and student representation from political parties” in the Lyngdoh guidelines, during the period of the elections ‘no person, who is not a student on the rolls of the college/university, shall be permitted to take part in the election process in any capacity’. Any person, candidate, or member of the student organisation, violating this rule shall be subject to disciplinary proceedings, in addition to the candidature, as the case may be, being revoked.
“We have asked politicians to stay away from the campus in the days leading up to the election, but we have no control over what they do outside the campus. We’re only responsible for the campus and if we get information then we tell them not to enter the campus,” said Emanual Nahar, Dean of Student Welfare (Men).
He added that sometimes politicians become involved directly or indirectly. But the election committee had no bearing on what happened outside the campus and it could not be termed a violation of the Lyngdoh guidelines.
“However, if politicians are reaching out to university students outside the campus, then we can always convey the message that the elections are purely for the students and they should not interfere in students’ affairs,” he said.
In these elections, the ABVP has joined hands with the newly formed Students’ Federation of Panjab University (SFPU). All four candidates for the office-bearer posts are from major departments with a large share in votes.
Harmanjot Singh Gill, central working committee member of the ABVP, said the ABVP had strictly been told that senior leaders of the BJP will not become “faces for student elections” on the campus.
On Saturday, sources said former MP Pawan Bansal also held a meeting with the NSUI team to discuss “poll strategy”. However, senior NSUI leader Manoj Lubana said, “I am a local and I keep going to Bansal ji’s house for meetings and discussions due to the upcoming panchayat polls.”