The Students’ Federation of India (SFI) retained control over the Presidency College union, sparing the CPM’s student wing the blushes at a time when the winds of change are blowing in Bengal.
The SFI’s hegemony on college campuses has come under strain resulting in one shock loss (at Srish Chandra College) and a significant dip in victory margins in recent months.
But it was smooth sailing at Presidency College on Friday as the SFI bagged 39 out of 71 seats while the main opposition — the Independents’ Consolidation (IC)-DSO alliance — managed 29 seats.
The Trinamul Chhatra Parishad (TCP), which made its poll debut on the 193-year-old campus, opened its account with three seats.
“We have faced a tough fight in several colleges this year and lost some. But Presidency was easier and despite tough opposition, we have performed better than last year,” said Dhrubajyoti Chakraborty, the secretary of the SFI’s Calcutta district committee.
Last year, out of the 72 seats, the SFI had won 38 while the IC and DSO had bagged 34.
“A divided opposition made things easy for us,” admitted Sushanta Ghosh, the SFI unit committee president in Presidency College.
According to some IC members — the main anti-SFI force on campus — the TCP cut into their core support base in the 14 seats it had put up its candidates.
Sources told Metro that the TCP was keen on an alliance with the IC, which turned it down to maintain a distance from Mamata Banerjee’s politics.
“An IC-TCP alliance could have made the contest tougher for the SFI,” said a TCP leader, who won by a thin margin.
IC leaders dodged questions on the probable poll arithmetic had there been an opposition alliance. They instead accused the SFI of foul play — from threatening voters to bringing in outsiders — to win the election. With heavy police deployment, poll day passed off peacefully.
“Retaining control over the union at Presidency College is good as it will lift the morale of our comrades, but we can’t say whether this signifies a reversal of a statewide trend,” said an SFI leader.
Riding the CPM’s organisational strength, the SFI would win uncontested in most city colleges till two years ago. But the party’s debacle in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls and the subsequent rout in 10 Assembly by-elections last year put the SFI in a spot.
The TCP has made significant inroads into SFI bastions on campus ever since it opened its units in the run-up to poll season. “The SFI will lose ground and vote share on several campuses this year,” claimed a TCP leader.
No wonder the Presidency win sparked spirited SFI celebrations. “Our victory was certain as we kept our promises. We mobilised support for the college’s autonomy and got the authorities to agree to a review at the postgraduate level,” said Stotro Chakraborty, the SFI’s unit secretary at Presidency.
The panel elections for general secretary, assistant general secretary and other office bearers of the union will be held on Saturday from noon.
The SFI on Friday also retained control over the Scottish Church College union by winning 34 out of 37 seats.