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PU polls 2016: In male-dominated student politics, girls fast making inroads

Tanbir Dhaliwal,Chandigarh: They were always there working for their parties, but it is only in the last two years that main parties have started

recognising the woman quotient in student politics of Panjab University where they comprise close to 70%.
Two years ago, Students For Society (SFS) had fielded a girl, Amandeep Kaur, for president’s post. This year, National Students Union of India (NSUI) has become the first main party to declare a woman, Siya Minocha, as its presidential candidate for the Panjab University Campus Student Council elections.Many other women candidates are also contesting, seeking to break stereotypes. They are realising that they cannot be just voters all the time.
Siya has finished her 5-year-law course and is now enrolled in LLM first year with the University Institute of Legal Studies (UILS). She has been actively associated with the student politics since 2011.
When asked if the role of women in PU elections has changed, she said, “It has definitely changed. Earlier everybody used to take us as voters and not as leaders who could get votes for the party. I think this attitude has changed and we (NSUI) are the leaders in changing this perception.”
“Somewhere, male ego has to be suppressed. I am not trying to be feminist but it is important when we see the whole scenario.”
But she is also facing a tough time. “Rumours are being spread; people are saying things about my character, they are bad mouthing me, and unfortunately, all this is being done by girls.”
“It is a risk that I am taking,” she said. “I believe girls will see their representative in me to raise their issues. We will grow together,” says Siya.
Jyoti Ahlawat, who is contesting for the post of general secretary from NSUI alliance, said earlier girls were only used as posers in the elections and were never given important roles in elections. “I wanted to change this perception, hence entered the politics,” said Jyoti, a gold medallist in graduation.
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“I had noticed that girls are only used in elections. ‘Ladki shorts pehan kar chalegi toh votes aise hi mil jaenge’ was the perception. And the political parties never thought that girls should be given important positions,” she said.
Sabhyaa Jaswal, who is fighting for the post of vice-president from SOI alliance, said, “Being a woman, my priority will be to highlight the issues of girl students on the campus. Nearly 70% of students in PU are women, but there is hardly any representation. Hostels, sanitation and hygiene will be the top priority.”
Manvi Gandhi, contesting for joint secretary’s post from Students Organisation of India (SOI) alliance, says, “More and more women are entering into politics and they should get into the council to improve the facilities for themselves.”
However, Avneet Kaur of NSUI Students Front, who is contesting for the post of vice-president, has a different take. She believes that the presidential post of the party is a very crucial post and women “might not be able to do justice to it.”
“In our party, women and men are always given equal chances,” she says. When asked, why there was no woman presidential candidate, she says, “Though men and women are equal, but the women cannot handle the responsibility of the president’s post, they have other daily chores to do. May be, we never came across a woman, who can beat a male presidential candidate.”