Spend, splurge, woo for Panjab University polls

By Alkesh Sharma,IANS,

Chandigarh : Poll fervour is gripping the Panjab University (PU) campus, as student elections draw near. Political parties are throwing the rule book out of the window as they splurge to woo young voters.

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The elections to the Panjab University Students’ Council will be held Sep 4. To get maximum support, especially from freshers, student outfits are arranging frequent trips to the hills, movie shows, expensive hotel meals and more.

Although varsity officials maintain that Supreme Court guidelines and the J.M. Lyngdoh Committee’s recommendations – like putting a budgetary limit of Rs.5,000 per candidate per party – will be strictly followed, it’s not quite happening.

“If we look in practical terms, then no party can manage its campaigning in Rs.5,000. There is expenditure on countless things like fuel, banners, posters, tents and food, which easily ranges between Rs.100,000 and Rs.200,000,” Harmanjit Singh Deol, a research scholar and former student leader of PU, told IANS.

“Moreover, there is no strict vigil on the expenditure incurred by political parties. Every year, despite spending huge sums, parties managed to submit their financial statements that are always well under the set limit of Rs.5,000.”

This year four main student organisations, supported by national and regional political parties, are in the fray.

“We have been enjoying sumptuous treats in leading restaurants of the city for the last two days and this will continue till elections are over. They are even offering free liquor and tickets to latest movies in multiplexes,” Hemant Benipal, who stays in the PU hostel, told IANS.

Established at Lahore in Pakistan in 1882, Panjab University is one of the oldest universities in India. In the PU campus, 70 percent of nearly 10,000 students are girls.

“It is impossible to contain our budget at Rs.5,000. We have been contesting elections for the last many years, and every time it has crossed Rs.150,000. Moreover, the Lyngdoh committee’s guidelines are toothless, and one can easily fool the authorities by producing fake bills,” said a senior leader of the Panjab University Students’ Union (PUSU), requesting not to be named.

Some parties claim they do try to stick to the rule book.

“We always try to limit our campaign cost to Rs.5,000. That is why this time we are relying on hand-made posters and focusing more on one-to-one contact in place of mass rallies,” Mani Atwal, law student and a representative of the Students’ Organisation of Panjab University (SOPU), told IANS.

“We have realised the fact that at the end of the day, only the work done by the party for the welfare of students counts. Students studying here are very intelligent; so you cannot buy their votes through any other means,” Atwal said.

The PU campus is spread over 550 acres. It has 60 teaching and research departments and over 170 colleges affiliated to it.

Besides SOPU and PUSU, NSUI and ABVP are also in the fray for the posts of president, vice president, joint secretary and general secretary.