Education minister Bratya Basu said on Thursday he was “hopeful” that the student union elections would be held in colleges and universities after the panchayat polls.
The rural polls are expected to be held in May.
Basu made the statement on a day students of Jadavpur University and Presidency University organised marches demanding union elections. The students’ union polls were last held at Presidency University in late 2019 and at Jadavpur University in early 2020.
“We will hold the students’ union elections. Panchayat elections will be held soon. We have to give priority to the panchayat elections. I am hopeful that we can hold students’ union elections after the panchayat elections are over,” Basu told reporters in response to a question.
The minister said the union elections across campuses would be held on separate days.
“Elections in colleges and universities in north Bengal, south Bengal and other belts will be held on different days. I have not yet spoken to chief minister Mamata Banerjee about this,” said Basu.
The education minister had in July last year said the state government was keen on conducting elections for students’ unions in colleges and universities in a “free and fair” manner and wanted the students’ outfits of the opposition parties to take part in them.
But there has hardly been any progress since.
Campus polls in West Bengal have not been held since the outbreak of Covid-19 in India in early 2020.
The pause on elections has triggered discontent among students who are alleging that the government wants to curb their democratic rights and are not keen on conducting the polls.
At the Calcutta Medical College and Hospital, several hundred students held an “indefinite fast” in early December last year demanding campus elections.
A section of students at Jadavpur University squatted in front of the car of vice-chancellor Suranjan Das on December 23 demanding that the union elections be held immediately.
The JU executive council, the highest decision-making body of the university, had on December 28 adopted a resolution saying the education department had not responded to the university’s communication that the students’ union elections be held immediately and that “this is hampering the democratic rights and practices of the students, leading to discontent in the university”.
Asked about the protest by the JU and Presidency students, Basu said: “Anyone can protest. But we cannot hold elections for individual campuses. We have to hold this collectively.”