The season of gymkhana election is on its way. We are witnessing different colours of the election right now in the campus. And that makes us wonder, was the gymkhana election always like this? What were the procedures and strategies of campaigns in the seventies or say eighties?
We tried to find out what actually has changed in the election procedure in these evolving years of IIT Kharagpur.
For this, we had a talk with Commander V.K Jaitly, the Vice President of Gymkhana way back in 1982. He is the founder of C_Cube Consultants and the author of highly motivational book "We Can!! We Can!!". Here is a glimpse of our talk with him -
Were the election candidates require to give the Statement of Purpose (SOP) for gymkhana election?
Yeah, at our time also every candidate had to go through Soap Box. The only difference was that we used to give more than once. Soap Box was arranged in every hall and once in front of foreign students, which were 70-80 in number at our time. And main SOP was held on shanti-sthal, which used to be prominent canteen area for the students at our time. Now, it is the parking area of the central library. This last SOP used to decide the shape of VP's candidate at our time.
Was there any concept of Shadows at that time?
What is a shadow? I have no idea about this, So probably it was not there. But there used to be a campaign manager for every Gsec and VP candidates.
What were the campaign strategies? Were hall days as effective in terms of election as they are now?
At that time there were no social media through we can post #____ for _____
which nowadays you guys do a lot. We mostly do our campaign through posters and Soap Box. Candidates used to do room to room campaign in all the halls.
As there was no photoshop or software like this, So basically we had to make posters by hand and pamphlets were duplicated by Cyclostyled Duplicating Process. At that time, Hall Days and politics were way apart. Hall days were only seen as an event of joy where friends gather together to have loads of fun. In hall days eating and merry making were the main motives.
Did the pact between the Halls make any Impact on the voter’s mind?
The concept of pact between the halls was not so pronounced and effective as they are now. They had very little impact and students mostly cast votes by watching the profile and talent of the candidates and not because of what their hall said. Based on locality, sometimes PAN loop got together and sometimes RK and RP had some sort of understanding among them.
Was there any independent media body that covered the elections and brought up the problems of the student community?
There was a media body named Alankar but they came under gymkhana. They didn’t cover the whole election process but they published the magazine which came in monthly intervals and contained all issues of campus and student community. During my final year, an independent media body named Blue Litmus just came up. There is an interesting story related to Blue Litmus. It was printed by ghost editors. When Blue Litmus published their first magazine, it was on the lips of every student as it contained a lot of sarcasm on administration and student issues. But it came to an end after its fourth issue because of some rivalry between two groups of student, one group tried to frame another one. Disciplinary action was taken on the students who were behind that.
Do you want to share any special memory?
During my VP tenure, there was an incident about which even now I feel proud when I remember that. A massive flood had struck Midnapore district. IIT Kgp was not effected at all but the outside locality was. The students of IIT Kgp were the first who reached there for help and rescued hundreds of people who were stranded on the branches of the tree using the boat from OENA department.
What were the biggest issues or theme of proposals that the candidates incorporated at that time?
I think most of the issues of that time were different from the today’s issues of the student community. Basic facilities like bathroom cleanliness, mess food, seepage of halls and strike by the labour union and mess workers were the primary issues of that time. You will be shocked to know that during the strikes students went to their home as the mess was closed and administration was not in a position to provide food to the 2600 students at that time.
What message do you want to give to the students of IIT Kharagpur? Does this POR of Gymkhana help students in their future endeavours?
Student leaders have the unique opportunity to learn and lead during their college years - an experience not easily replicated after graduation. You will gain confidence in your leadership skills by starting a club on-campus, writing for college newspapers, organizing sports and cultural events. You can develop communication, negotiation and management skills. In a leadership role, one can become familiar with school administrators, leaders from other campus groups, managers in off-campus partner organizations and other high-profile figures. Building relationships with these people can yield valuable personal and professional contacts. I was Gsec Soc-Cult as well as VP of gymkhana and I think these position of responsibilities had taught me much more than anything in my kgp life.
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