Gujarat Assembly Elections 2022 has seen a number of candidates who began their political journey around college and university elections.
Student politics has been known to throw up leaders around the world. The youth, full of energy and drive, and open to exploring options simply on basis of their own ideology, align themselves with political parties of similar thinking. Closer home in Gujarat, Chotte Sarkar or Chimanbhai Patel, shot into spotlight when, at age 21, he was elected the first student union president at MS University, Vadodara.
He went on to become deputy chief minister (CM) of Gujarat and then served as Gujarat CM twice.
Himanshu Patel, the Congress candidate from Gandhinagar South, started his political career as a member of the National Students Union of India (NSUI), the students’ wing of the Congress. He contested the GU syndicate and senate elections.
Similarly, Congress candidate Kirit Patel, who is contesting the Patan constituency, was a student leader in North Gujarat University.
Amit Thaker, who is the BJP’s candidate from the Vejalpur constituency in Ahmedabad, was a senate member of Gujarat University and contested the senate elections against Kalpesh Patel in the 1990s.
Patel then defeated Thaker, a candidate of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Thaker and Patel again face each other with the latter contesting as the AAP candidate from Vejalpur.
In Vadodara, Shailesh Mehta alias Sotta, who is contesting a second term as Dabhoi MLA on a BJP ticket, started his political journey as a student leader in MSU’s Polytechnic College, where he had contested and won as faculty representative (FR).
Keyur Rokadia, who holds a Master’s degree in civil engineering, had also contested faculty-level elections during his time as a student at MSU’s Faculty of Technology and Engineering, where he. Currently, the mayor of Vadodara Municipal Corporation, Rokadia is contesting on a BJP ticket from the Sayajigunj assembly seat.
Vadodara Congress president Rutvij Joshi, who has been fielded on the Akota assembly seat, had contested and won both top posts of the MSU Students Union (MSUSU), general secretary (GS) and vice-president (VP).
In 1992-93, college elections were discontinued and were replaced by a selection process.
“The student election process that began in 1965 in the state, was stopped in 1992-93, after episodes of violence between student leaders. Student union leaders from LD Arts, GLS and Nav Gujarat College even attacked college teachers and principals. A murder was also committed,” recalled BJP leader Narhari Amin, who was also a student leader in the 1970s and was the general secretary of Nav Gujarat College in 1972-73. Amin said after these incidents of violence, the Teachers’ Association decided to discontinue student elections in colleges. The state government agreed with the decision.
However, political experts opine that the end of college elections also sealed the avenue for fresh blood coming to the fore. “In ways, the game for front-runners from an educated background was sealed and a large number of leaders, not necessarily lettered, assumed the mantle. The entire culture changed thereafter,” shared an Ahmedabad-based political analyst who did not wish to be named.