Bengaluru college students asked to attend Tejasvi Surya’s rally ‘compulsorily’

Students of a city college asked their college mates to attend Tejasvi Surya’s rally and assured them of attendance. College authorities have denied any involvement and say they will investigate the matter.
Tejasvi Surya
Tejasvi Surya
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A controversy has broken out over messages to students in at least two Bengaluru colleges asking them to “compulsorily” attend Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Bangalore South candidate Tejasvi Surya’s rally on Thursday, April 4 before he files his nomination papers.

One message circulating on student WhatsApp groups of Jain College in VV Puram, Basavanagudi even assures attendance for the students. “Tomorrow, all the members of the student council have to assemble near maiyas hotel Jaynagar at 9.0 AM for Tejaswi Surya rally. You’ll be getting T-shirt so don’t be late. Everyone has to be there at the reporting time and no excuses will be entertained. You will be getting attendance for this. Thank You! (sic)”

The mention of attendance has caused confusion among the students because they have received no such instructions from the college. However, Jain College principal Naveen Kumar CM told The News Minute that the college had not asked students to participate in Tejasvi’s rally. “We are investigating (the attendance claims) and will take strict action against whoever initiated this,” he said.

Students of Jain College that TNM spoke to said that they had once invited the Bangalore South incumbent MP for an event and some students felt that now it was “their turn to show their support”.

Meanwhile, Tejasvi’s opponent for the Bangalore South seat, former MLA Sowmya Reddy of the Congress, has demanded that the Election Commission of India take action on the issue.

A student of BMS College told TNM that there are student WhatsApp groups seeking support for Tejsavi and urging people to attend his rally, but it is voluntary. Similar groups exist even for Sowmya Reddy, the student said.

Tara Krishnaswamy, political consultant and co-founder of Political Shakti, says that students are well within their rights to voluntarily and freely participate in political activities. However, she drew a distinction between such voluntary participation and the involvement of an educational institution.

“If colleges encourage students to participate in politics of their choice, that is still within the rights that the Constitution guarantees. But if students are being forced or encouraged to attend a particular political rally, then it becomes an abuse of power because the college management holds power over the students in terms of marks and attendance or failing a course. It is no different from any other kind of abusive power, where if you’re asked to do something it becomes much more difficult to turn it down,” Tara said.

She also said that the Election Commission of India is “very strict” about political campaigning near temples and educational institutions.

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