Alliance politics trickles down to student wingsThe groups have adopted the well-known tendencies of their mother parties such as factionalism and eagerness for opportunistic alliances.
Representatives from student unions registered their candidacies for various posts including office bearers and members of the Free Student Union in hundreds of colleges under the Tribhuvan University across the country on Saturday.
The university is holding student union elections for 62 constituent and 523 community colleges under it on March 19.
Aspirants registered their candidacies in 50 of the 62 constituent campuses on Saturday as scheduled by the election committee of the university, said Pashupati Adhikari, member secretary of central monitoring committee of the FSU elections.
Students were in the process of registering their candidacies until late evening on the day in seven other constituent campuses while the process couldn’t move ahead in three campuses—Prithvi Narayan Campus in Pokhara, Trichandra Campus in Kathmandu and Ayurvedic Campus Kirtipur—due to dispute over the voters’ authenticity.
According to Adhikari, the committees were formed unanimously in various community colleges as well in several districts including Dolpa, Dhading, Rukum, Gorkha, Sindhupalchok and Panchthar.
As the unions compete to lead the college chapters, student leaders have resorted to every possible means to win the elections. Their activities in recent weeks have reminded the manoeuvring of the leaders of their mother parties to attain power.
Nepal’s political leaders are notorious for making and breaking alliances. That phenomenon appears to have now trickled down to the student wings as well. As the polls are just around the corner, student organisations have been forging or mulling electoral alliances.
The Nepal Student Union of Nepali Congress, All Nepal National Free Students Union of the CPN (Unified Socialist), and All Nepal National Independent Students Union (Revolutionary) of CPN (Maoist Centre) have already formed a joint task force to work out electoral alliances. The panel has Dinesh Kumar Shahi from Nepal Student Union, Kshitiz Sapkota from ANNISU (Revolutionary) and Hirendra Shahi from the ANNFSU of the Unified Socialist as members.
Multiple student leaders the Post talked to confirmed that the student organisations have been working formally and informally to form alliances based on ground reality and benefits.
And, in some campuses, the student organisations having bitter relations due to the rivalry among their mother parties have come together to contest the elections.
In Gulmi, the student organisations of CPN-UML, Maoist Centre and the Nepal Communist Party led by Netra Bikram Chand are forging an alliance to contest the long-awaited polls. In the election to be held in 10 of the 11 campuses in Gulmi, the student organisations have agreed to contest the polls under alliances in nine campuses.
Samik Badal, ANNFSU’s newly elected chair, said it is natural for the student organisations in colleges at the local level to form alliances. “But our party has not given any direction or made any decision to do so,” he said.
At a time when their focus is on electoral alliances, student organisations have been mired in internal feuds and factionalism.
The tension in the Nepal Student Union, for instance, has reached its peak. It all began when chair Dujang Sherpa unilaterally nominated district chairs in 36 districts, instead of electing them through conventions. Student leaders belonging to the Shekhar Koirala faction have blamed that Sherpa, close to the Sher Bahadur Deuba-led faction, nominated leaders near and dear to him.
On Friday, student leaders close to Krishna Prasad Sitaula faction of Nepali Congress warned that they will rebel if eligible leaders are not fielded in the elections. Awarding electoral tickets only to the confidants of certain leaders will set off a rebellion, they said.
Similarly, the ANNFSU (Revolutionary), close to the Maoist Centre, is also mired in internal feuds. A rivalry between the groups led by chair Pancha Singh and secretary Pawan Karki has been impacting electioneering so much so that the mother party had to intervene into their affairs. The Maoist Centre, a week ago, sent a letter to the Tribhuvan University claiming that the organisation led by chair Pancha Singh was the authentic one.
The upcoming elections, which will elect representatives for the next two years, are considered significant because the biennial elections held periodically until 2009 have been irregular—the last time the polls took place was in 2017 and that too partially.
Candidates for direct and proportional elections were nominated on Saturday. The final list of candidates will be published on Sunday.
The TU has 62 constituent and 1,040 affiliated campuses. It has set an age limit of 28 years to take part in elections and implemented a mixed electoral system.
Observers criticise student organisations’ unhealthy competitions for electoral alliances.
Pitambar Bhandari, a political analyst and an assistant professor, said the organisations’ propensity for unnatural alliances reflects how things have changed over time. While student politics would shape national politics in the past, today’s student unions appear to have emulated the worst of national politics, he said. “The student organisations in the TU campuses have turned into political units,” Bhandari said. “When they are focused on alliances, student organisations appear less prepared for the elections this time as sports, cultural and creative events are almost extinct.”
Rajendra Maharjan, a political commentator, argues along similar lines. “They are opportunistic and unrelenting in their lust for power,” he said. “Their sole motive for alliances is to grab power. They don’t care about political issues of the day or ideologies.”
Student leaders themselves criticise the organisations’ tendency to forge ‘unnatural’ alliances.
Ganesh Bhandari, acting president of Nepal Student Union, Tribhuvan University Central Campus, his organisation’s leaders at the central campus of the Tribhuvan University are opposing the concept of alliances. “Though there have been talks of contesting the election based on alliances at the centre, we believe the election of the student organisations should be free from unnatural alliances,” he said. “It is not right to form alliances—that too with groups having differing ideological backgrounds.”