Leading Kolkata colleges battle it out at the Jefferson Debates
Moderated by Deputy Public Affairs Officer of the U.S Consulate Kolkata, Greg Pardo, arguments both for and against the topic saw participants speaking on diverse issues like rising terrorism, inequality, poverty to the role played by the media in relation to the political institutions to drive home their point.
The participating colleges included Jadavpur University, RCC Institute of Information Technology, iLEAD, St. Joseph's College, Netaji Subhash Engineering College, Army Institute Of Management, Meghnad Saha Institute of Technology, United Business School, Calcutta University (Department of Law), Bhawanipur Education Society College and Loreto College.
Aishwarya from RCC IIT Kolkata stated “personalities are in fact the centre of focus during a campaign," supporting her claim by quoting the Republican candidate Donald Trump’s extreme views on Muslims and Mexicans, which were a sharp contrast to his party and nation’s beliefs.
Srijita from Jadavpur University said, “Politics has always been issue based and not personality based." adding that Trump’s views were not simply racist or bigoted but in fact aligned with that of his party’s because they wanted to focus more on Americans and less on immigrants.
Tarunima from Loreto College began her speech by describing the concept of a political system, saying that it does not exist in a vacuum, and emanates from society itself, while a political platform essentially implies a document that is the party’s ideology.
“In the current U.S elections, when you see Donald Trump’s own party members refusing to vote for him, it is a clear violation of the political platform and it puts the political platform in the backseat and the politician in front," she said.
She added,"Even with Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, who had almost similar opinions because of their political platform, there was a keen contest because of their personal interpretation of this issue."
Opposing her was Anisha from iLead who said, “The presidential system cannot survive without a set of mottos, agenda, motives etc, and these are the things followed by a party since time immemorial. Presidents come and go, but these policies stay." According to her it is the party which matters and not the candidate. “However, there must be perfect synchronisation between the two for the progress of a country”, said Anisha.
Nitika, the second speaker from Loreto College, adopted a rather tongue-in-cheek attitude. She said that there is an increasing trend of memes and trolls and cartoons based on the politicians --even greater focus on their private lives than focus on the party's stand -- is blurring the lines between celebrities and politicians.
While a representative from Meghnad Saha Institute of Technology said that both personality and the political platform were equally important, his opponent from United World School of Business argued that it was essentially the personality who mattered the most.
Another candidate from iLEAD speaking for the motion put forward a crucial question, “What is the difference between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz and Donald Trump?”
“If they were from the same party and yet people were choosing between them, then it meant that they were choosing personalities than just the political party”, he said, while his fellow teammate put forth the point that if you had a leader who you could relate to, you would actually be voting for his policies and motives.
Even though every participant presented well crafted arguments, three teams were finally chosen as the winners by the panel of judges consisting of Pradeep Gooptu, Secretary, Bengal Initiative, Sabir Siddhartha Ghaffar, President, Youth Initiative India and Tinku Roy, Political Affairs Specialist, U.S. Consulate Kolkata.
The winning team was Loreto College represented by Nitika Nayar, Tarunima Panwar, Pravleen Kaur Chaudhury while the 1st runner up was Calcutta University (Dept of Law) led by Adwitia Maity, Anindita Bhattacharjee, Suryasikha Ray and the 2nd runner up was team iLead represented by Anisha Das, Tridha Ghosal and Aman Rahim.
Commenting on the debate, Greg Pardo said that in reality, it was essentially a mix of both the personality and the political platform and if in some cases people were voting for a leader based on his/her personality and his/her personal views, others were breaking away from tradition and choosing to go with the party’s policies.
"I am happy we partnered with iLead to host the Jefferson Debate. I'm even more honoured to moderate the debate between these young brilliant minds. The U.S. Presidential elections do serve as an example for the world and it's great that these young students are following them so keenly," said Pardo.
(Reporting by Tanushree Sen, IBNS)