Student leaders in Odisha are demanding the announcement of dates for college and university student union elections. They have issued warnings of potential protests if these elections do not take place this year. The academic calendar for 2023-2024, provided by the state Higher Education department, does not include a schedule for student union elections, prompting student leaders to call for action from the government. The National Students’ Union of India (NSUI), affiliated with the Congress party, has already protested by burning a letter from the Higher Education department, and they have threatened to stage protests in all colleges if the elections are canceled.
In a statement, Yashir Nawaz, the state president of NSUI, accused the government of undemocratically halting union polls since 2018, suggesting that the Naveen Patnaik government is avoiding these elections out of fear of defeat. Arijit Patnaik, state secretary of ABVP, alleged that the government is suppressing student leadership and expressed concern that the government fears the youth vote on college campuses, which could go against it.
The All India Students’ Federation (AISF) and the Biju Chhatra Janata Dal, the student wing of the ruling BJD, also weighed in on the issue. AISF’s state president, Sanghamitra Jena, accused the government of attempting to cancel student union polls to prevent the emergence of new leaders, claiming that the ruling BJD has transformed into a party of bureaucrats. Meanwhile, Devi Ranjan Tripathy, the president of Biju Chhatra Janata Dal, argued that students are violating Lyngdoh Commission norms, which is why college polls are suspended. Tripathy suggested that if student union elections are not held, students can raise their concerns and issues at the administrative level.
The state government has not conducted college elections since 2018 due to various factors, including campus violence and the COVID-19 pandemic.