LUCKNOW: Having their roots in Lucknow University, several former student leaders have made their way into the mainstream politics and are in fray in the ongoing Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh.
One such prominent former student leader is Uttar Pradesh Law Minister Brajesh Pathak, who had been the president of the Lucknow University Students Union (LUSU).
Now a BJP leader, Pathak is waiting for the poll result in the Lucknow Cantonment Assembly constituency.
Pathak won the previous election from Lucknow Central.
Another alumnus of the university Manoj Tiwari was in fray from the Lucknow East seat on a Congress ticket while the Samajwadi Party had fielded Ravidas Malhotra from Lucknow Central seat and Pooja Shukla from Lucknow North.
Pooja Shukla rose to limelight after she was arrested for waiving black flag at Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in 2017.
In Ayodhya, the SP has fielded Tej Narayan Pandey aka Pawan Pandey, another former Lucknow University student leader.
Pawan, a former minister, is considered close to SP chief Akhilesh Yadav.
Brajesh Pathak, who held the post of the LUSU president in the early nineties, told PTI that he was introduced to the nuances of politics during his college days.
"I learned the basics of politics during my days at Lucknow University. The lessons I learned in student politics continue to help and guide me till this day. The experience as a student leader has shaped my political career and will continue to do so."
Pathak first won a parliamentary seat in 2004 on a BSP ticket.
Manoj Tiwari, who is making his political debut in the elections said, "The days of student politics taught me to take along people of different views. This is what is most needed in today's politics."
Former student union leaders of LUSU say that student union elections used to be one of the most important aspects of the academic calendar that involved almost everyone in the university.
Manjul Upadhyay, who had once been active in student politics at Lucknow University, said, "Student union elections were undoubtedly the first step towards entering mainstream politics but that was not the aim of those students contesting the elections."
"Almost all the students contesting the elections genuinely wanted to bring some positive changes in the campus. Safeguarding the rights of the students and becoming their voice was another important aspect. The student leaders learned the art of public speaking, organising manpower and building contacts during the student union elections," he said.
Upadhyay said the politicians who have a background in student politics understand the ground realities of the society better compared to those who have managed to get a political position because of their association with a political family or leader.
The student union elections have not taken place in Lucknow University for more than a decade because of a long pending court case.
The last LUSU elections were held in 2006.
Former LUSU president and member of Communist Party of India Atul Kumar Anjan said the absence of LUSU elections has resulted in a shortage of bright and quality politicians in Lucknow and nearby districts.
"The student union elections are nurseries of politics. The student unions have given leaders for our freedom struggle and they in turn gave a new vision to our freedom movement. The LUSU polls used to groom students into bright and responsible politicians. This has taken a beating stopped in the absence of student polls."
"I believe that no political party wants to reinstate the LUSU polls and by doing so, they are hampering the process of social and political understanding for students. Thus, affecting the vibrant democratic process in the state," he said.
Outside the capital Lucknow, SP leader Arvind Singh Gope, who was the LUSU president, is in the fray from Barabanki's Dariyabad seat.
BJP's sitting MLA from Gainsari seat of Balrampur Shailesh Singh Shailu, who was the General Secretary of LUSU, is contesting again from the same seat.
Dayashankar Singh, another alumnus of Lucknow University, is contesting from Ballia Sadar seat as a BJP candidate.
Dhirendra Bahadur Singh is contesting as a BJP candidate from the Congress stronghold seat of Sareni in Rae Bareli.
Pawan Pandey, who is in fray from Ayodhya, told PTI that he has benefitted in his political career with his experience in student politics.
"I realised the true power of vote and virtues of democracy during my days in student politics. I also realised that everyone, no matter from which class, caste or community he belongs, has an equal possibility of becoming a leader in a democratic setup."
Chief Minister of Uttarakhand Pushkar Singh Dhami and former chief minister Rawat, were both active in student politics during their days at Lucknow University.
Uttarakhand was carved out of Uttar Pradesh as a separate state in 2000.