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Student elections: the origins of corrupt politics

It is an open secret that student elections throughout India have become training grounds for future goonda-cum-politicians. In Uttarakhand and in particular Dehradun, the situation has only worsened over the years with several colleges playing host to shocking and uproarious scenes of hooliganism every election. Police and administrators are powerless when even teachers and principals are intimidated and manhandled without punishment by so-called students who are sponsored by the political parties.

The fact that minimum learning and maximum politics takes place in the frayed and dilapidated walls of Uttarakhand’s educational institutions demands a massive overhaul and reform of student politics. The Lyngdoh Committee attempted to address the issues of campaign funding, criteria for candidates, and academic standards without depoliticizing campuses, but so far, the recommendations have not slowed down the wholesale criminalization of the electoral process that eventually finds its way into politics as a whole. As noted in the Tribune’s coverage of student elections across Dehradun’s bigger colleges, Lyngdoh recommendations have been openly flouted with bribes in the form of cash and gifts flowing freely, administrators being abused, and with life in the city severely disturbed by the graffiti, noise, and congestion.

While some of these antics my be excused due to supposed high political principles, the sheer money and muscle power involved says otherwise. In fact, student elections have degenerated into a race to capture executive positions for money, prestige, power, and sometimes the ideological bully pulpit. This speaks volumes about politics as a whole, as it is the youth wings of the big parties that participate in these elections and corrupt them fundamentally. Indeed, the vicious cycle of politicians protecting their younger charges from all legal norms has largely led to the lawless present.

The greatest tragedy is that student politics in the past has been the wellspring of activism and radical thinking that has led to many revolutionary changes. Now, it seems that they have become the bulwark of corruption, gangsterism, lumpenization, and politics as usual.