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A puja must-have

Shreya Paul of Jadavpur University, who won the best speaker trophy

As the battle for the White House between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney gets hotter by the day, the American Center in Calcutta held a rather topical debate along with the Institute of Leadership Entrepreneurship and Development (iLead) on the institute’s Topsia campus on Friday afternoon. This was the second edition of the Jefferson Debates and the motion this year was: National elections do not have an international impact.

There were 10 teams in the fray, three from Jadavpur University, two from St. Xavier’s College and one each from NSHM, Bhavan’s Institute of Management Science (BIMS), Shri Shikshayatan, Calcutta University and iLead.

“I was a super-debater in high school. I loved to argue, probably because my soul is part Bengali,” quipped Jeffrey K. Reneau, the director of American Center and moderator for the day.

The format of the debate was quite interesting. Instead of the usual two, each team consisted of three members — two speakers and a “researcher”.

“Teams will be judged on the basis of style and strategy,” said judge Rachel Sunden, the deputy director of the American Center. She was joined on the judges’ panel by Sucheta Ghosh, a professor of international relations at JU, and Dipali Singhi, the principal of JD Birla College.

Soon it was over to the debaters, who unleashed a war of words on national and world politics. While Team BIMS made an attempt at a semantic battle and tried to define the term “elections”, Team iLead’s Priyanka Talukdar’s comment “morning shows the day” while explaining how small matters of local importance often add up to issues of global significance, not only earned her a round of applause but also the runners-up prize for best speaker.

The girls from Shri Shikshayatan quoted world leaders like Joseph Stalin and argued against the motion by pointing out that the word “national” was actually a part of the word “international” and therefore, national elections did, in fact, have an international impact.

While some students put forward simple and hard-to-refute arguments, some like Nirjhar Mukherjee of JU Team 1 were inclined towards grand statements, making the debate lively and engaging. “Within the next four minutes, I will take you all on a world tour,” he opened and proceeded to state historical events of various countries to support his thoughts against the motion.

The top honours went to JU Team 3, which spoke for the motion. “For the 2012 US elections, my dad is more interested in his dinner-time biryani than Barack Obama,” started Shreya Paul of JU Team 3, and went on to win the best speaker award. JU Team 2 was declared the runner-up.