Quite the most remarkable feature of the elections in Presidency University is the victory of the Students Federation of India after as long as nine years. Considering that the hallowed campus was once the bastion of the Left, followed by the radicals within the Left, the SFI had been on a rough patch for the past several years. Its triumph in 2019 has been decisive, having captured all the five primary posts of the students’ union ~ president, vice-president, general secretary, assistant general secretary and also, of course, the post of secretary, girls’ common room.
This is said to be the first time that the girls’ common room will be under the SFI’s belt. The other critical facet must be that Presidency is the first of the institutions to have held elections after the process, suspended in West Bengal for as long as it was, was set in motion by the state government. Another must be the peaceful conduct of the elections in an institution that had in the past been roiled by the restiveness of students, even violence in the 1970s.
A striking feature of the polls was that the competitive use of strong-arm tactics was abjured by the SFI, the Trinamul Chhatra Parishad and the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad and for that matter the Independents’ Consolidation. While the student wings of both Trinamul and the BJP have been trounced, it would be pertinent to recall that the ABVP can be mortal in its praxis on election day, as witnessed in Ujjain some years ago. Yet another factor must be the debacle suffered by the hitherto dominant Independents’ Consolidation.
It is entirely possible that the prolonged agitation by IC over the renovation of Eden Hindu Hostel and the resultant disruption of the academic schedule was resented by the students generally. Arguably, the resentment has had its echo in the outcome. Despite the agitation, the authorities cannot be unaware that only two of the five wards are now functioning. And reopening of all the wards is one of the primary demands of the SFI, one that has been articulated in the aftermath of its victory.
The hostel has historicaly been integral to the college and now the university. While the introduction of M. Phil and Ph D programmes in all disciplines is a perfectly valid demand, a “gender neutral common room” is at best a frill that the university could choose to keep in abeyance. In the context of the endemic violence in West Bengal on students’ union election day, of considerable significance has been the conduct of the polls.
Even the authorities have testified that polling was held in a “very democratic manner”. Which is the critical reason why no reservations have been expressed over the SFI’s thumping victory, the parable being that an honestly conducted election is agreeable across party lines.