DUSU presidents fight it out

Over the last few days, I have been closely watching developments related to some of the former presidents of the Delhi University Students Union (DUSU). For instance the Arun Jaitley versus Sudhanshu Mittal tiff within the BJP and now the inevitable contest between Ajay Maken and Vijay Goel from the New Delhi constituency.

There was a time when a very few former presidents of Delhi University made it big in national politics unlike the presidents of other universities such as AMU, BHU, Allahabad and Lucknow. But times have changed and many top politicians from Delhi have their roots in the DUSU politics.

Arun Jaitley decidedly is the most well known of the former DUSU chiefs and this is also because he occupies an important position in the BJP and has been a Cabinet minister in the Vajpayee government. I have known Arun for very long and he was my senior in the University. He was elected the DUSU president on August 12, 1974; the same day I was elected the president of my college students union. At that time, he was the ABVP candidate and I had no political affiliation and had defeated an ABVP candidate to become the college president. Arun always had great potential and he has shown enough evidence of that over the years.

But the supreme irony is that he was in the loop when Sudhanshu Mittal was selected by the ABVP in the early eighties to be presidential candidate. The two were close friends subsequently too and both were very close to late Dr AS Kukla, then the staff adviser to DUSU and Dean, Students Welfare. But differences do develop and now the two perhaps cannot see eye to eye.

Vijay Goel was my contemporary in the university and was elected DUSU president in 1977 on the ABVP ticket with Rajat Sharma as his secretary. Vijay comes from a political family and has had an association with the RSS. During emergency, he had courted arrest in a dramatic manner by climbing the asbestos roof of the Law Faculty Café and shouting slogans and distributing pamphlets. It was a foregone conclusion that he would one day be in national politics and made his debut in Parliament in 1996 by defeating Jagdish Tytler from Delhi Sadar by a very narrow margin. He subsequently also won twice from Chandni Chowk getting the better of JP Aggarwal in 1998 and 1999.

This time though, he has a tough fight on his hand as Ajay Maken, the DUSU president in 1985 is not an easy opponent to beat. In fact, the New Delhi fight promises to be an interesting one, as both the contestants will use every method to win. Maken has been a relentless campaigner for the Congress in Delhi and unlike many of other young leaders in the party has worked his way up. He was three times a member of the Delhi Assembly and has served as both a minister and Speaker. He is currently a Union Minister. He has been active in students, youth and trade union politics and is a very formidable candidate, hard by any standards to beat. People had expected Arun Jaitley to contest from here but instead Goel has landed as his opponent.

There have been other DUSU presidents who have done remarkably well in politics. Subhash Chopra, former DPCC president and now a Kalkaji MLA is a very well known face from Delhi. He has also been the president of the National Sports Club and been on both the Football and Cricket bodies. He was elected to DUSU in 1970.

Alok Kumar, the first man to be elected as DUSU president in a direct election in 1973 lost the Assembly elections in December from North East Delhi. Jaitley was the vice president in his team.

Harcharan Singh Josh, DUSU president in 1967 is trying for the West Delhi seat. He has been with the Congress party for many years and ran the Indian Council of World Affairs for more than a decade. He also had won in the DUSU polls by just one vote piping HariPrakash and Raj Kumar Jain in the closest election till date.

Ajit Singh Chadha, the DUSU president in 1969 was a contender for the West Delhi seat but was expelled from the Congress when he chose to try his luck from the Tilak Nagar seat in the Delhi assembly in December. Chadha was one of the closest buddies of Sanjay Gandhi and had joined the party on an invitation from Indira Gandhi in the early seventies. He was the DUSU president when the Congress split took place in 1969 and had invited Indira Gandhi to inaugurate his union.

The first woman to contest the DUSU polls was Madhu Keshwar who fought on the SFI ticket against Shriram Khanna of the ABVP and Deepak Malhotra of the NSUI. However, the first woman to be elected as the DUSU president was the dynamic Anju Sachdeva who contesting as an independent in 1989 trounced the ABVP, which had refused to give her the ticket. She was genuinely popular but has chosen to keep away from politics for the time being. Many other women presidents later followed such as Monika Kakkar, Shalu Malik, Alka Lamba, Ragini Chopra etc. All are active in their respective parties.

Coming back to Shriram Khanna, the DUSU president of 1972 and Deepak Malhotra, his main opponent, one has to admit that they mauy not have made it big in politics but are doing very well in the DU. Khanna was the face of the ABVP on the campus and is regarded by many as Arun Jaitley’s original mentor. The two do not see eye to eye anymore. Khanna is currently a senior Professor in the Department of Commerce and has been also the Dean of the same Faculty. He is also a well-known consumer activist.

An interesting aspect is that Khanna and Malhotra were both expelled from the Delhi University in 1972 by the then Vice Chancellor Sarup Singh for leading the only mass students agitation in the DU. Irony is that both teach in the same university. Deepak is the principal of the Dyal Singh College and was both the general secretary of the NSUI and students incharge of the Youth Congress at one time.  He continues to support the Congress.

Then there is Subhash Goel who was the youngest DUSU president when he was elected to the position while he was just eighteen years old in 1966. He successfully runs the STIC travels and is the most well known name amongst tour operators and travel agents. Similarly, Surinder Seth, his senior by one year, the DUSU president in 1965 is amongst the top realtors of the city.

While talking about DUSU presidents, how can one leave out Hari Shankar Gupta (1978) who is currently MLA from Ashok Vihar. Hari has the distinction of breaking the Saffron monopoly over DUSU when he got the better of Surinder Pushkarna. He can be a future MP from the city.

Similarly, Viresh Pratap Chaudhury was one of the most powerful DUSU presidents of early sixties and later served as a member of the Delhi Metropolitan council. He runs several orphanages in the city and belongs to a traditional Delhi family which ha been in public life for nearly a 100 years. Vijay Jolly, the BJP candidate against Sheila Dikshit this time was also the DUSU president in 1980 and may resurface again to contest from Delhi.

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