The Rahul Gandhi effect on Panjab U polls? (News Analysis)

By Jaideep Sarin, Chandigarh, Sep 8 : A new era has begun with the National Students Union of India (NSUI) capturing the presidency of the Panjab University Campus Students' Council (PUCSC). It could be termed the Rahul Gandhi effect and comes a little over a year after NSUI parent Congress fared poorly in the Punjab assembly elections.

For the first time, home-grown parties like the Students of Panjab University (SOPU) and the Panjab University Students' Union (PUSU) have failed to get even a single seat of the four up for grabs in the elections earlier this week.

While the NSUI, the student wing of the Congress, bagged two seats through Chandan Rana (president) and Sunny Mehta (joint secretary), the BJP-aligned Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and Indian National Students Organization (INSO), the student wing of the Haryana-based Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), bagged one each.

Considered an underdog in the run-up to Wednesday's election, the NSUI's showing left the SOPU and the PUSU - and even NSUI leaders - surprised. Shocked by the defeat, SOPU and PUSU leaders and their supporters kept protesting on the campus till late Wednesday evening against the results.

What was even more humiliating for the SOPU and PUSU leaderships was that the NSUI's Chandan Rana won by a comfortable margin of 838 votes. This is the first time that NSUI has won the PUCSC president's post in over four decades.

The first signs of the NSUI's emergence on the PU campus came last October when Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi addressed the students. A number of top SOPU leaders defected and joined the NSUI after his visit.

"We worked hard in the past months and built the NSUI from bits and pieces. We laid the foundation for a NSUI victory," arinder Dhillon, a senior NSUI member who played an important role in strengthening the organisation, told IANS.

In the past, the NSUI at best played second fiddle to the SOPU and the PUSU, which dominated the scene. The PUSU has had nine PUCSC presidents in the past and the SOPU six. The two organisations have never been directly linked to any major national or regional political party. Both the groups have in recent years seen violent clashes between their leaders, leading to registration of criminal cases against each other.

Manoj Lubana, the NSUI's Panjab University president, said: "Rahul Gandhi left quite an impression when he visited the campus last year. The NSUI gives us a national platform."

Gandhi's visit had its share of controversy after he remarked that seven out of 10 youths in Punjab were on drugs.

Many leaders from PU's student politics are now legislators, ministers and senior leaders at the centre and in Punjab and Haryana. Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari, former railway minister Pawan Kumar Bansal, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj and BJP MP Rajiv Pratap Rudy, among others, have earlier been student leaders in PU.

With the decimation of the SOPU and the PUSU and with the NSUI, ABVP and INSO getting a foothold in PU, student politics on the campus is likely to change in the future. The interference of national and regional parties, through their respective student wings, will also increase in the coming days.

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at jaideep.s@ians.in)

--IANS (Posted on 08-09-2013)

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