New Delhi: Over a year after she was attacked on campus, Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union (JNUSU) president Aishe Ghosh is back in the news again. This time for far better reasons.
Ghosh provided arguably the defining image of the violence allegedly carried out by ABVP activists at JNU in December 2019 — visuals showed blood streaming down her face as she was being rushed to hospital before she defiantly turned up with a bandaged head later.
On Thursday, the 26-year-old announced that she was contesting the upcoming West Bengal assembly elections as a CPI(M) candidate from the Jamuria seat.
Ghosh, who is a member of the Left-affiliated Students Federation of India (SFI), has now become one of the few sitting JNUSU presidents to contest an election, Lok Sabha or assembly, while still being a student of the university.
JNU registrar Pramod Kumar told ThePrint that she is allowed to do so, provided she informs the university and takes appropriate leave.
“Any student or faculty can contest elections if they want; they just need to inform the university administration,” Kumar said. “Many faculty members in the past have also contested elections.”
The last JNUSU president to contest an election was Kanhaiya Kumar, who was a candidate at Begusarai in Bihar during the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, but by then, he had already graduated from the university and completed his term as a JNUSU president.
An active student leader
From protesting against a fee hike at the university, to agitating against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), Ghosh has been an active student leader.
After completing her school education from Durgapur in West Bengal, she joined the Daulat Ram College (DRC) in New Delhi from where she graduated in political science. It was during her days at DRC that she was initiated into student politics and the SFI.
Thereafter, she enrolled at JNU for a Masters degree and continued her journey with the SFI. After completing her masters, she enrolled for an MPhil at the School of International Relations in JNU. She is now a PhD student.
Her rise as a student leader in the last two years had come as a surprise even for her family.
Her mother Sarmishtha Ghosh had told The Indian Express that she was taken aback by the way her daughter had presented herself after the attack, as “she was a shy girl while growing up”.
ThePrint reached Ghosh for a comment through text messages and calls but there was no response till the time of publishing this report.
Outspoken in college
According to her friends at JNU, however, she was outspoken and very popular among students.
One of her closest friends at JNU, Kriti Roy, told ThePrint that Ghosh was very popular because she would take up their issues with the administration even before she was elected JNUSU president.
According to her friends, she was inspired by her father, Debasish Ghosh, an employee of Damodar Valley Corporations who has been associated with the Centre for Indian Trade Unions (CITU), the labour wing of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).
“She belongs to a Left-leaning family and had been inspired by her father,” said Amal Pullarkkat, a member of SFI at JNU and one of Aishe’s friends. “We made her contest in the JNUSU elections as a counsellor in her first day at JNU. We realised that she would be a good candidate to fight the presidential elections.”
Before being selected as JNUSU president, Ghosh had already won two other elections in JNU as a counsellor. She has also backed the farmers’ protest that is on at Delhi’s borders.
Opponents welcome Ghosh but not sure of her local knowledge
Opponents welcomed Ghosh joining the poll fray but questioned her understanding of Bengal politics.
“I appreciate the CPM’s decision of bringing youth leaders into politics. The party now looks like a party of ancient people. Aishe is a young leader, but her political grooming took place in a different region altogether,” said Sankudeb Ponda, the BJP’s Yuva Morcha vice-president.
“The brand of politics she did in JNU and the politics in Bengal are distinctly different,” Ponda added. “Jamuaria is a coal belt constituency that has a tribal population. She might need more time to understand the region.”
Trinamool youth leader Tamoghna Ghosh echoed Ponda’s views. “We want youth leaders to join politics and become candidates. This boosts the youth-centric politics and it is good for the state and the country,” Tamoghna said.
“But it would have been better if the CPM chose a local youth leader, instead of getting someone from Delhi. I am not sure how much knowledge she has about Jamuria and how much understanding she has about the requirements of the locals.”
(With inputs from Madhuparna Das)
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)