The presidential debate for the Patna University Students’ Union election took the battle for campus to a new height by giving the electorate a perspective to choose a leader on December 11.
Though the university’s showpiece debate was not free from hiccups, the 15 contenders for the coveted post tried the verbal route to convince the electorate that each one of them was the best when it came to students’ welfare.
The debate, supposed to start at 11am, began half-an-hour behind schedule, as some of the candidates reached the venue late. By the time the debate started, there was a modest gathering at Patna Science College, where the verbal duel was organised.
Right at the onset, provocative statements from the candidates’ supporters interrupted the debate. “After all it was the biggest battle for democracy the varsity has seen in the past 28 years,” said a PU student in the crowd.
There was a sharp rise and fall in decibel every time a candidate went up to speak. The enthusiasm was so overwhelming that it seemed the entire university was longing to witness such a contest for years.
Opening the debate, PU vice-chancellor Shambhu Nath Singh said: “It is a great moment for Patna University students because the election is being held after 28 years. The election will usher democracy to the varsity. It is for the students, by the students and of the students.”
The debate was the last test for the candidates because with it, the campaigning, too, came to an end. The debate is likely to tilt a voter’s support towards a particular candidate.
The debate was categorised in three sections. First, the candidate had to speak on what he/she would do for the students. Second, what the candidate would do for the university and finally, how would the country and the state benefit with the policies of the candidate after he/she is elected the president of the students’ union.
A lottery, conducted by the university, decided who would speak first. RJD students’ wing-backed presidential candidate Vidhyanand Vidhaata was the first to speak.
| Students cheer for one of the presidential candidates at Patna Science College on Monday. Picture by Ranjeet Kumar Dey |
A postgraduate history student, Vidhaata, tried to highlight the contribution of Patna University students to the country in the Independence Movement. He also spoke at length on Jaiprakash Narayan’s “total revolution” call. When Mahesh Kumar, backed by the AISF, started his speech, party supporters raised slogans in his favour to give him the zeal to take on his challengers.
With revolutionary statements, Mahesh listed the contributions of the AISF in carrying out a series of agitations in favour of the students. As soon as he mentioned the name of the party that is backing him, supporters of other parties showed discontent through sloganeering and asked Mahesh to abstain from naming the party.
Interrupting Mahesh’s speech, university officials, too, asked him not to take the name of the organisation he belonged to. Things turned even worse when ABVP-backed candidate Ashish Sinha took to the stage.
A section of the students started shouting against Sinha, whose party is opposing setting up of Aligarh Muslim University campus in Bihar. The protesters claimed that the ABVP was trying to divide students on the basis of religion. However, Sinha was undeterred by the protest and continued with his speech.
If the candidates were shouting their lungs out to convince who was a better leader, the students witnessing the verbal combat were cheering for their favourite candidate with full-blown zeal.
Nidhi Sharma, a student of Patna Women’s College, said: “The debate gave us a clear indication about the candidates’ strength and weakness. However, what amused me the most was out of the 15 presidential candidates, eight are girls.”