“Raja”, “Prince”, “Tinny”, “Tony”, “Manshu”, “Vishu” and “Monu” may sound like run-of-the-mill nicknames that are found in every other middle-class household in Uttar Pradesh.

But names like these are suddenly becoming more important than the first names and surnames in the state universities and colleges in Uttar Pradesh where elections to students’ unions are being held over the next few weeks.

A new fad has developed in which aspiring student leaders are adding their pet names to their full names to enhance their “star status”.

There is Vivek Singh “Raja”, Vivek Singh “Monu”, Vivek Singh “Baba”, Neerav Pratap Singh “Prince”, Ashish Singh “Ashu”, Shiv Kumar “Shivay”, Shakti Singh “Virat’’ and many more that have had their pet names tagged on.

Vivek Singh “Raja” explains, “There are three Vivek Singhs in the fray in Lucknow University and two of them in affiliated colleges. We have to add our pet names so that the students can differentiate between us”. Over time, these wannabe student leaders become more popular with their pet names, so Santosh Yadav Sunny in Samajwadi Party is now better known as Sunny Yadav than as Santosh Yadav.

While most of them add their pet names, some prefer rather weird sounding names as their nom de plume. There is Vidyant Varma “Deputy”, Ashish Misra “Boxer”, Prithvi Singh “Daroga” and Ram Singh “Advocate”, who has nothing to do with law.

Even before the elections have been announced, Deputy Bhai, Advocate Bhaiyya, and Boxer Bhai have become  popular leaders on the campus, mainly because of their names.  “Boxer Bhai” says that he added “Boxer” to his name because it gives him a “certain amount of weight”.

 “Would you be talking to me if I was simply Ashish Mishra? It is Boxer that has attracted your attention,” he says rather candidly.

The trend of tagging pet names is not exactly new, but it is this year that this has caught on in a big way.

A senior faculty member in Lucknow University says that one of the first student leaders who tagged on his pet name was Arvind Singh “Gope”. He is now a Cabinet minister in the Akhilesh government and is known better as Gope than as Arvind Singh. Some of the sitting MLAs with pet name tags are Ajay Mishra “Taini” (BJP), Ajay Kumar “Lallu” (Congress)  and Shailendra Yadav “Lalai” (Samajwadi Party) and all of them are better known as their tag names. Ajay Kumar “Lallu” recalls that his friend called him by his pet name Lallu which then became a part of the full name. “In my constituency, everyone calls me Lallu Bhaiyya and very few address me by my official name,” he said.

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