Importance of Allahabad University Students Union in context of Lok Sabha elections

"Student leaders used to be a force in Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha candidates, they had a major influence on the society. All that has collapsed now," says a former student
Allahabad University Students Union gave the nation many leaders
The students' union had such an influence(Pic: EdexLive Desk + Allahabad University)

Student politics, which once formed a key element of any election in and around Prayagraj, is no longer an attraction.

The reason many feel is the Allahabad University discontinuing its Students Union in 2018, citing a slew of violent events ahead of the varsity polls even though the demand for its revival comes across groups, stated a report by PTI.

The Allahabad University Students Union (AUSU) was established in 1923 and it was actively involved in the Quit India Movement (1942) against the British rule so much so that the Empire even had the AUSU dissolved but it was revived again in 1945-46, Shyam Krishna Pandey noted in his book Youth's Initiative: Struggle and India's Freedom.

Allahabad High Court lawyer KK Roy speaks

Social activist and Allahabad High Court lawyer KK Roy, who led the Allahabad University Students' Union as the president from 1988 to 1991, said the AUSU worked like a primary school for future parliamentarians and to establish a permanent voice assessing the government of the day.

"Several youth organisations not only here but in other parts of North India established a culture of progressive youth politics. Student politics is like primary school of democracy which produced politicians, thinkers, civil servants, journalists and luminaries in many other walks of life," Roy told PTI.

"But ever since 2014, all such institutions which voiced any opposition and criticism, were ended in the country like trade unions and four significant changes were brought in the labour laws also. The existence of students' union in Uttar Pradesh has been eliminated," the former student leader alleged.

Roy recalled that students during that era felt familial relations with former prime ministers, particularly VP Singh and Chandra Shekhar, who even visited the varsity to meet them.

"The brunt of not having the students union is being bore by the youth. Today, unemployment is a major issue. Had the students union been there, then from 2017 to 2023, there would not have been paper leaks. The boys would have knocked on the doors of Lucknow's Vidhan Sabha and Delhi's Parliament," he added.

What does Congress leader Abhay 'Baba' Awasthi have to say?

Veteran Congress leader Abhay 'Baba' Awasthi, who was the union's vice-president from 1988-91, said inflation, unemployment and corruption are today issues of discussion and not issues of voting, adding that these issues do not have any reflection on election and that is because of lack of any student politics.

"It was a whole workshop on developing a thought, mobilising people and organising agitation on issues. When that idea was validated, it attracted youth for people's movements. Today when you see laws like Right to Information, Right to Education, these all are result of people's movements," Awasthi said.

The students' union had such an influence that Chandra Shekhar visited the university when he was the PM soon after his government was formed and assured the students of central support, he told PTI at the Indian Coffee House in Prayagraj.

Student shares thoughts

Abhinav Mishra, a fourth-year BA LLB student at the university and associated with the RSS' student young Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), said the student union is like a nursery not only for politics but also for comprehensive development of the students.

"Student union provides the students with a platform through which they put forth their thoughts on any issue. Today, like we are here at the Allahabad University in Prayagraj, we can see there are several issues concerning the students that do not reach the management and it gets buried," Mishra said.

"Administrative arbitrariness peaks in places that do not have students' union and a live example of it can be seen here," he added.

Mishra said the student unions are very important as they help not only the students but the entire country because when educated people go to politics and have some experience, it will help them work better.

"The students' union here has been closed since 2018 and there is a state of no dialogue between the students and the university administration. Small issues like library should be opened 24 hours. A notification was issued that it will stay open till 9 pm, but right now the students are turned away at 6 pm only," Mishra said.

"Students grievances are not being heard and that is because they do not have any platform like the students' union which could take up such cause," he added.

A problem across the country

Sunil Mourya, a former university student and now associated with Revolutionary Youth Association, the youth wing of CPI (Marxist-Leninist), said student politics was earlier known for producing leaders not only in Allahabad but across the country.

"There are no student union elections largely in UP's universities, and its not only student groups, students but entire society has to bear its consequences because student unions had a role in expressing issues and leading movements. All this has stopped now since the students' union no longer exists," he said.

Mourya said Prayagraj hosts a large number of youth and students who come here for education and unions have always taken up their cause to the extent that some student leaders even faced police cases and spent time behind bars.

"Had there been a student union, the administration would have to face its pressure over issues like unemployment and perhaps some students who died by suicide might not have taken the extreme step," he told PTI.

On impact of student politics in electoral politics, Mourya said that earlier the parties kept an eye on youth leaders who could help them.

"Student leaders used to be a force in Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha candidates, they had a major influence on the society. All that has collapsed now," he added.

Prayagraj, which is spread across two parliamentary constituencies of Allahabad and Phulpur, goes to Lok Sabha polls on May 25.

Both seats were won by the BJP in 2014 and 2019. The election results are due on June 4.

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