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TMC finds a new college rival
Clash with BJP union

Calcutta, June 11: The ripple effects of the Lok Sabha elections, in which the BJP significantly improved its performance, today spread to an educational institution with the BJP’s student union clashing with the Trinamul Chhatra Parishad.

Supporters of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) fought a pitched battle with TMCP members at a college in South 24-Parganas over the distribution of admission forms, the fight between a heavyweight and a marginal force showing that the BJP was making its presence felt in student politics.

Till recently, the main players in Bengal’s student politics were the TMCP, SFI and the Congress’s Chhatra Parishad.

“I cannot recall an earlier instance of our union leaders clashing with members of the BJP’s student wing. The equations seem to be changing,” a Trinamul leader said.

The ABVP does not control any of the unions in Bengal’s 400-odd colleges.

After the BJP’s good showing in the Lok Sabha elections in which the party bagged 16.8 per cent of the votes polled and won two seats, the party has drawn up a strategy to make its presence felt in college campuses across the state, a plan that also involves interacting with youths through social media sites.

“We have units in 102 colleges in Bengal. We have only 8,500 members. But we have worked out a road map to expand our base in the next six months by enrolling over 50,000 students as members,” said state ABVP general secretary (organisation) Kishore Barman.

Asked if the party planned to resort to campus violence to make its presence felt, he avoided a direct reply and blamed the TMCP for today’s flare-up at Dhrubachand Haldar College for Boys and Girls in Dakshin Barasat, 50km from Calcutta. Students clashed with iron rods, hockey sticks and wickets.

Some academics The Telegraph spoke to blamed the state government’s flip-flop on the online admission system for today’s incident. The government scrapped the centralised online admission system days after launching it but left it to individual colleges to take in students through their own online system.

“The decision to shift to the online system was planned to wipe out the involvement of students unions in the admission process. The government’s failure to implement the system should be blamed for the mess,” said a professor of a Calcutta college.

Most colleges in the city are following the online system but in the districts, many institutions are still falling back on manual distribution and submission of forms. Several clashes have taken place across the state apparently because of unions trying to control the manual process.

In the past few days, union members have fought over admissions to colleges in Malda, Jalpaiguri, Birbhum and North 24-Parganas.

ABVP supporters today accused TMCP members of attacking them at Dhrubachand Haldar College for Boys and Girls, where both manual and online admissions are on.

“TMCP supporters were jumping queue to procure forms for their candidates. When our supporters protested, they attacked us,” said Sachin Mondal, who looks after the ABVP unit in the college, which has over 1,500 students.

According to state ABVP general secretary (organisation) Barman, the BJP was apprehending more attacks on its student union members because the membership drive is slated to begin next month.

TMCP leaders denied the allegation and claimed they were trying to “help” those who had come to collect forms.

“The ABVP attacked us to spread terror. Three of our supporters had to be hospitalised,” said Dinabandhu Mandal, the TMCP general secretary of the South 24-Parganas college.

College principal Satyabarata Sahu termed today’s incident a “minor scuffle”.

A teacher of Dhrubachand Haldar College for Boys and Girls said the clash showed that the “ABVP was emerging as a force to reckon with in the district”.

“Last year, the SFI had set up several helpdesks outside the college during admission. This year, the ABVP seems to have replaced the SFI as the principal Opposition in the college,” he said.

ABVP leaders in Joynagar attributed the union’s growth to the BJP’s increased vote share in the area. In the Joynagar Lok Sabha constituency, the party bagged 1,13,000 votes this year. In the 2009 general election, the BJP had got only 24,000 votes.

Barman said “disgruntled” students from the TMCP and the Chhatra Parishad were sending applications for joining the ABVP. “We are overwhelmed by the enthusiasm among students after the Lok Sabha polls,” he said.

Baiswanar Chatterjee, a former TMCP president who has been promoted as a Trinamul general secretary, alleged that ABVP members “are indulging in violence to make their presence felt”.