The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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On campus, the Milieu matters most
- Presidency SFI lines up pre-poll annual fest with items reflecting ‘decadent’ West

If you can’t beat them, join them. The Students’ Federation of India (SFI) seems to have abandoned any plans of changing the 186-year-old Presidency College, where it formed the union for the first time last year. Instead, the students’ wing of the state’s ruling party is now joining the Presidency bandwagon by planning a binge — costing lakhs and involving what it has termed “decadent” culture all these years — for the college’s annual fest. Presidency College SFI leaders told Metro on Wednesday that they had the leadership’s go-ahead on their ‘party’ plans. “We have been told that our Presidency strategy will be followed in other elite colleges, too,” said SFI Presidency unit secretary Jad Mahmud.

The “strategy”, according to SFI activists, will focus on making Milieu — the annual college festival preceding this year’s college elections by three weeks — a success “in every respect”. Milieu, which till last year was under the control of the anti-SFI students’ conglomeration (Independents’ Consolidation), has a reputation of “playing to the field” and SFI leaders say they will keep it that way.

“We have plans to spend several lakhs this year,” asserted college general secretary Sujoy Ray. The sponsors include the “same range” which have always come flocking to the College Street institution — soft-drink giants and multinational corps selling mobile phones and other gizmos.

The programme, too, will feature the “usual stuff”, activists disclosed. Though, like every year, folk music and Eastern classical music will make up a part, all eyes will “definitely” be on the Western and Bangla rock bands, they added. “This cluster of programmes, featuring rock of various varieties, has always drawn the biggest crowds,” said an SFI leader. “We can’t go against popular sentiment,” he added, justifying the fact that the programmes would “cater to every taste”.

On condition of anonymity, a section of SFI cadre admitted it was “not feeling very comfortable” swimming with the “Presi tide”, especially as the unit had, till the year before, decried the “easy invasion of Western culture and blood-sucking MNCs” via Milieu.

But, with college union polls round the corner, the party was left with no option, they said, even as the SFI continues to campaign on other campuses against the “mindless aping of the decadent” West. “We have no conflict here with other SFI units,” Ray insisted. “Rather, we have got the go-ahead to tailor the Milieu menu the Presidency way and told that our union would follow this model elsewhere (like Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University).”

Political opponents in the college, however, have found in this a handy poll tool. The SFI strategy (of saying something when in the Opposition and doing exactly the opposite when in power) only exposed the union’s “doublespeak”, an Independents’ Consolidation leader said.

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