On Students’ Union Elections in Delhi
ELECTIONS to both Delhi University Students’ Union (DUSU) and Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU) were held on 11th September. Both these elections were being held at time when, after the first 500 days of the Modi regime, all the tall claims of ‘achhe din’ have withered away. The assaults on people’s rights and livelihood continue unabated, with unrelenting price rise and attempts to dilute various labour laws. The RSS has been using the state machinery to interfere in a host of educational and cultural institutions like FTII, NBT, Sahitya Akademi and so on in order to systematically saffronise them. A new set of “reforms” in higher education is seeking to prepare ground for providing “level playing field” to private and foreign educational institutions as per WTO-GATS. Apart from the overall rightward shift in the national politics, both the universities had their own specific political realities in which these elections were held.
SFI,AISF,AIDSO in alliance
ABVP was able to sweep DUSU elections for the third year in a row. This year’s DUSU polls saw Aam Aadmi Party’s student wing CYSS in the fray for the first time. AAP, which continues to give rhetoric of clean and honest politics, intervened in the elections with massive inflow of money and muscle power. Rock concert and freshers’ parties were organised with direct involvement of Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. Hundreds of hoardings were put across the city at paid sites. The entire party machinery was used. Yet, it was unable to make a major impact in the elections. The two prime reasons for it were disconnect between its rhetoric and the actual praxis and that CYSS didn’t have a substantial organisational structure within colleges. Further, it has had no record of interventions on issues affecting the university. If we compare the average votes of various organisations for 2014 and 2015, then it emerges that CYSS was able to make dent into the votes of both ABVP-NSUI, as well as that of AISA (which had become the biggest alternative to NSUI-ABVP over 2012-2014).
SFI had contested these elections in alliance with AIDSO. The votes obtained by the panel are: President: 2,097 (SFI), Vice-President: 1,147 (SFI), Secretary: 1,890 (AIDSO), Joint-Secretary: 2,735 (SFI). The entry of CYSS (aided by AAP machinery) made this a very difficult election. The overall left votes saw a massive dent (total Left votes fell by 21.95 per cent) and in such a scenario, our performance can be called satisfactory. We went into the elections with the understanding that unity between all the Left organisations was urgently required, in a context when three students’ organisations of the bourgeois parties were in fray. Though we failed to materialise this yet again, the election results yet again point towards the urgent need of translating ‘Left Unity’ into a concrete force from a mere slogan. We must be clear that it can be done only through year-long movements and not through electoral alliances that seek to mask vacuousness and opportunism.
SFI filed a writ petition in the Delhi High Court against the open flaunting of the code of conduct by ABVP, NSUI and CYSS, while election campaign was underway. The high court directed Delhi University to initiate strict actions but the end result remained the same with no effective intervention from the administration.
Both ABVP and CYSS went into the elections with open support for the Choice Based Credit System (CBCS). The DU administration and the BJP government might very well equate the electoral victory of ABVP as the mandate in favour of these disastrous reforms. The challenge in front of the Left and democratic forces in DU would be to intensify the movement against the neo-liberal academic reforms and also for the longstanding demands of the students’ community including hostel facilities for all outstation students, implementation of rent control, infrastructural expansion, opening of new colleges, affordable transport facilities, functional and elected anti-sexual harassment committees, etc. This is the only way by which the right wing political praxis involving money-muscle power, name parroting, and caste and region based mobilisations can be challenged.
JNUSU elections review gave a fractured mandate with AISF winning the president’s post, AISA winning posts of vice-president and general secretary, while ABVP winning in the post of joint secretary. In the councillor seats: SFI has won the convenorship in SSS (3 SFI, 2 AISA), while AISA has won the convenorship in SLL&CS (4 AISA, 1 SFS). SIS results have shown remarkable degree of fracture: 1 SFI, 1 AISA, 1 DSF, 1 ABVP and 1 HVS. Overall, AISA has won 9 councillor seats, SFI 5 and DSF 1. Among the declared list of councillor candidates, ABVP has won 2. AISF had fielded candidate only for the presidents’ post (no councillor candidates).
The main features of the JNUSU election results are as follows:
a) The increase in the ABVP’s average vote share is a reflection of the fact that the failures of the AISA-led unions have created the ground for ABVP to portray all Left organisations and the Left politics in one colour. This along with the overall right wing assertion in the national politics has created favourable conditions for the growth of ABVP. ABVP’s growth has also decimated the other right wing organisation i.e. NSUI.
b) Performance of the AISF candidate during the presidential speech and his standing as a senior activist on the campus seems to have propelled him as the most credible Left candidate to defeat AISA.
c) SFI went into these elections with the slogan ‘Revive the fighting legacy of JNU Students’ movement’. Our votes have grown from last year (though our votes on the president’s post have seen a significant drop). SFI won the convenorship of the School of Social Sciences (SSS) after a gap of three-and-a-half years, by winning three out of five councillor posts in the School by comfortable margins. In fact, SFI and ABVP are the only two organisations which have increased their votes.
d) Students have rejected DSF as a political force and its brand of negative politics (Average votes fell by 45.7 per cent). It has been reduced to just one councillor form last year’s four and even the central panel votes have seen a large dip. It needs to be underlined though that there remains a space for the DSF brand of supposedly Left politics that thrives on attacking the organised Left, which requires a constant ideological fight from our side.
e) ABVP’s resurgence in JNU is an objective reality. This situation requires our own organisational expansion to check and counter the RSS’ politics. Further, broadest possible unity needs to be established against the communal politics. Many have raised concerns over ABVP winning a Central Panel seat and the division within the Left votes. The expansion and consolidation of the Left and secular votes has to be ensured through year-long interventions on the concrete issues affecting the students.
f) These elections were held in a backdrop of tremendous discontent and anger today among the students against the previous AISA-led Union which did nothing with regard to the most important students’ demands on hostels and scholarships. The students of JNU have been hit hard by the most severe shortage of hostel rooms that JNU has experienced in the recent decades, and the Unions in the recent years, led by DSF and AISA, have responded with callousness, inaction and false claims. The AISA-led union was also responsible for the murder of campus democracy in the university, with the Union office-bearers from AISA repeatedly violating the JNUSU constitution and stifling democratic debates. The urgent task of the newly elected Union, therefore, would be to revive the legacy of the JNU students’ movement, which has historically been known for its relentless and sincere struggles to concretely advance students’ rights and contribute to the larger struggle for radical social transformation.
The struggles inside both the campuses will have to be intrinsically linked to the larger struggle against the Modi government's agenda of saffronisation, privatisation and commercialisation of education. We must brace ourselves politically & organizationally to face this challenge.