Favourite kid, nurturing nest

The Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) may be a problem child on the campus of the University of Hyderabad but it is the favourite progeny of the Sangh.

By Radhika Ramaseshan
  • Published 22.01.16
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Amit Shah

New Delhi, Jan. 21: The Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) may be a problem child on the campus of the University of Hyderabad but it is the favourite progeny of the Sangh.

Unlike the BJP and its labour wing, the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh - which try to assert their autonomy towards now and then - the student outfit is like a teacher's pet, subservient and generally confined to building on its core strengths.

The ABVP, at the centre of a storm after the suicide of Rohith Vemula, claims to draw its second highest membership on Telangana's campuses. Out of the present count of 31 lakh members, 5.83 lakh are from Karnataka, followed by 4.4 lakh in Telangana, the capital of which is Hyderabad.

The ABVP is the RSS's oldest child, founded in 1949 by a Mumbai academic, Yashwantrao Kelkar, two years before the political wing, Bharatiya Jana Sangh, came into being.

The ABVP's charter of aims and purposes says students' power should be treated as "nation's power and not as a nuisance". Students were, therefore, expected to play a "leading role in public education, public service... while confronting corruption and anti-national attributes with fervent pride...."

When BJP spokesperson Shrikant Sharma, minted in politics from the ABVP, pronounced on Tuesday that student politics of the "subversive" kind practised by the Ambedkar Students Union, with which Vemula was associated, ought not to be encouraged, he was echoing his mentor's beliefs.

The ABVP professes to be "above partisan politics" and insists it should not be aligned to any political party. ABVP leaders are usually miffed when the BJP jumps to appropriate credit whenever the student union wins a prestigious campus election.

Arun Jaitley

However, the fact remains that over the years, the ABVP has nurtured and contributed most of the BJP's current crop of successful leaders, including Arun Jaitley, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, M. Venkaiah Naidu, Amit Shah, Sushil Modi, Vijay Goel and Mahesh Sharma.

Asked if the outfit was a nurturing nest for the BJP's prospective front-rankers, Sunil Ambekar, the ABVP organising secretary, protested and said: "We contribute leaders in all walks of life. How many people know that Milind Kamble, the founder chairman of the Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, was an ABVP office-bearer?"

Vinay Bidre, the ABVP's general secretary, also denied that his organisation was a finishing school for BJP aspirants. "The Janata Dal (Secular) working president, P.G.R. Sindhia, is from the ABVP. So we don't just produce leaders for the BJP," he stressed.

But Bidre acknowledged the ABVP's "ideological affinity" was closer to the BJP than the other parties. Its stated agenda since inception enshrined several pet issues of the BJP, from demands to change India's name to Bharat and adopt the Vande Mataram as the national anthem and scrapping Article 370 that grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir.

Unsurprisingly, human resource development minister Smriti Irani, who regularly interacted with ABVP teams, is a favourite. "She has done good work and is unfairly blamed for controversies with which she has nothing to do," Bidre said.