AHMEDABAD: In the midst of the election din in Gujarat a small but very significant election remained out of the news. The students of Gujarat Central University were campaigning to defeat the powerful Akhil Bharatiya Vidhyarthi Parishad, backed by the might of the ruling dispensation. It was a quiet mobilisation, made quieter by the preoccupation of the media with the Assembly elections but it was so effective that the ABVP was completely routed.

The Gujarat Central University does not have a Union as per the Lyngdoh recommendations, but has a Students Council. Each school in the university sends one nominated and one elected representative to the Students Council. Dalit and Left student organisations--BAPSA,LDSF---joined by NSUI and United OBC Forum in the campus boycotted the elections, but campaigned hard against the ABVP and the support it was receiving from the ruling BJP in the state. The organisations held a two day dharna against the ABVP.

The ABVP was opposed by Independent candidates, supported by many of the other organisations, in the Schools. The Independents won, with the ABVP students losing by big margins in prestigious School of Social Sciences, International Studies etc. As a faculty member told The Citizen, “this is a resounding defeat, and the ABVP has been shown its place.”

The popularity of the RSS youth wing has been hit across campuses. It has lost a steady stream of elections in central universities, the one before Gujarat also hitting the BJP directly. Again in news that did not make expected headlines the ABVP was routed in the students union polls in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s second home turf after Gujarat, Varanasi. ABVP lost the president's post at Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapeeth in Varanasi to Independent Rahul Dubey. In keeping with usual practice, ABVP students attacked Dubey a day after the elections.

ABVP that is following a doctrine of violence, attacking dissent and debate in the Universities is clearly not winning the support of the student community at large. Its behaviour gets the headlines, its defeat is virtually blacked out by the corporate media but in the universities it is steadily losing support. More so in the Universities where it has been particularly active, with the list including Jawaharlal Nehru University where an united Left has consolidated its position; Delhi University where the Congress students wing NSUI has captured the students union; in Hyderabad Central University where a united conglomerate of students bodies rendered ABVP a crushing defeat.; in Allahabad University where the Samajwadi Chhatra Sabha crushed the ABVP in a resounding victory.

The students seem to be decisively rejecting the ABVP brand of politics that relies on muscle and money power, using the instrument of the state where the BJP in power, to crack down on dissent and debate. Freedoms are being curtailed as a result, with dissenting students being attacked and beaten in any number of recorded incidents inside the campuses. However, as Gujarat Central University polls to the Students Council now prove, students are marching to their own tune and this does not necessarily endorse the ABVP brand of politics even in states where the BJP rules.