If the old guard won’t give way, then it is naturally going to take time to enter the national stage, said most former university presidents. They also blame the Lyngdoh Committee recommendations for the declining number of university-level student activists who permanently stick with their organisation and eventually make some sort of a political career for themselves.
“In the days before Lyngdoh, they would make those in undergraduate colleges contest for the role of secretary or joint secretary. Only when a certain amount of work was put in would the person be allowed to contest for the president’s or vice-president’s post. After that, you would work for the party for sometime before they gave you additional responsibilities,” said Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad’s Vikas Dahiya, who was Delhi University Students’ Union vice-president back in 2006-2007.
Mr. Dahiya claimed he was the “first to feel the whip of Lyngdoh” when his candidature to contest for the post of president the following year was struck down because of a clause in the Lyngdoh recommendations stated that a student who has once contested for elections cannot contest again. Mr. Dahiya is now the vice-president of the BJP’s youth wing and is hoping to contest from the Timarpur Assembly segment in the upcoming elections.
National Students’ Union of India president Rohit Choudary, who was DUSU president in 2003-04, said Lyngdoh Committee recommendations resulted in a lower number of students eventually sticking with the party and, therefore, it has become more difficult to create good leaders.
“We usually choose students based on factors like his or her manner of speaking, academic and attendance record and overall personality, whether they are likeable or not. Lyngdoh has restrictions on age and several other factors based on which we cannot go in for a more mature candidate. And this is where we are at a disadvantage. The students become powerful too early without going through the grind of political work and usually want instant political success after they graduate. When that does not happen, they usually lose heart and search for a different career path. It is not like they do not have any political ambition, they just do not have the maturity.”
Current ABVP State secretary Rohit Chahal’s DUSU ambitions were nipped in the bud when he was contesting for president in 2009. “My nomination got cancelled because of the Lyngdoh restrictions. I could never contest again. But not being the DUSU president did not stop me from working for the party,” he said, adding that he was responsible for ensuring ABVP’s success in DU.
Some former university leaders affiliated to national political parties blamed the old guard; they said those in higher positions were scared of the power that the youth have and usually do not make way for the young.
Former DUSU president Ragini Nayak, however, felt that the young gave up too easily.
“[Congress leader] Ajay Maken took around eight years to get a ticket. These things take time because the competition is so tough. However, talented young people should try their hand at politics; it is not an impossible career. National politics is not just about people with the right connections. The youth should try and change the things they complain about,” she said.
There were also those who said the responsibility of failure or success, even in politics, depended on the individual.
“The youth wing of the Congress has been a real blessing. We do not have the old guard holding onto positions. The young now have better chances they did around 10 years ago. Many in the past may have given up after spending years working fruitlessly, but now it is very different.” said Amrita Dhawan, DUSU president in 2006-2007.
Work and talent equal career progression, she said, stressing the party will only support you for sometime. In the end it is up to the individual to chart his or her own political career.
“People usually think that once you are DUSU president, the rest will follow naturally. But it is not so. Getting to be the DUSU president is not a natural stepping stone to national politics. The person needs to have that ‘X’ factor, put in a lot of work for the party and participate whole-heartedly in all the activities,” she added.
Ms. Dhawan, who won a councillor seat in the last Corporation elections, is looking forward to contesting the Assembly elections now. She is also shouldering the additional responsibility of being the Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee spokesperson.
“It has not been easy. Nobody gave me these things in a platter; I have had to prove myself after leaving DUSU.”