By Krishangi Singh:
Early morning in the D.U. campus, one can see men unloading stacks of pamphlets and posters from their S.U.V.s, which are ready to be splayed in the air and cover every inch of the campus area till ground underneath is invisible.
Delhi University Student Union election campaigns are at its highest momentum as the University students get ready to vote this 12th September for the posts of President, Vice President, Secretary and Joint Secretary of DUSU.
After the release of list of candidates by various parties on 5th September, colleges have been swarmed with party supporters suspending classes to promote their manifestos and candidates with promises of changing the face of Delhi University. The manifestos of the four major parties contesting this union poll, ABVP (Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad), NSUI (National Students Union of India), AISA (All India Students Association) and LSF (Left Students’ Front), are almost similar with issues like increment in number of hostel seats, implementation of rent control regulation act in near-by areas of student accommodation, extensive measures of women’s safety and wider representation of North Eastern students stealing the main focus.
As the battle ensues to gain the maximum support, each party brought to us different interpretation and solutions on prevailing issues.
AISA’s Vice-Presidential candidate, Aman Nawaz, claims that this year’s election has mainly three front-players — AISA, NSUI & ABVP. He provides hard facts as he elaborates upon his party’s achievements. He says, “Our manifesto, which was released on 22nd August, 2014, was the first one to include issues like student passes for Delhi metro and A.C. buses, anti-sexual harassment cell, rent control regulation act etc.. The reason why other parties seem to talk about the same issues as our manifesto addressed is because they copied it from us. We are claiming this on the basis that we held a referendum with 7,600 students who were asked about the issues they wanted the party to undertake.”
Amit Bhardwaj, the social media campaign manager for AISA, adds, “AISA is one party that is actually following the Lyngdoh Committee recommendation on issues like limit on financial investment in campaigning, not drawing funds from national parties and not using ill-means such as bribery to buy votes from students. You can see the campus splayed with pamphlets with variation of candidate names such as ‘AA XYZ’, ‘aaa XYZ’ so that their nomination is not cancelled for exceeding the monetary cap for campaigning as they promote their candidates with investments exceeding crores of rupees. Our party on the other hand has done all its campaigning by doing class to class promotion disregarding such malpractices practice.”
ABVP’s manifesto talks about off-center issues like opening bank accounts for all students and providing hostel facility to all out-station students. When questioned upon the feasibility of opening bank accounts for so many students, here is what Mr.Piyush Nagar (member of ABVP) had to say, “The biggest hurdle for first year students is to deposit fees in this ill-managed system where one has to wait for three to four hours before submission of fees. This can be sorted out by opening bank accounts for all students and increasing the banking staff in each college, which will ensure faster transactions. We delivered on our promise to roll-back FYUP program and we will deliver on this promise too.” He also claimed that the available vacant area in university campus could definitely accommodate the out-station students if hostels are constructed upon it.
If ABVP is able to deliver on it’s promise, then it will significantly cut down the living cost of students who now pay around and above 10,000 rupees for a less than decent accommodation in private hostels and apartments.
NSUI members show displeasure as they see ABVP claiming all the success for rolling back FYUP for itself. Mr. Pawan Shikara, an eminent member of the party, explains, “I would like to point out that since June, NSUI has been protesting constantly to get FYUP rolled back. ABVP cannot claim the credit for this success simply by calling the press on the last day and making a show out of putting gulal on each other’s faces. Apart from this, ABVP did not do any favor to the student community by rolling back FYUP since this was their job while holding the DUSU cabinet for the year 2013-14. Our party has assured the availability of a sports complex to all students, and better infrastructure. Along with this, University buses will be re-introduced, which was nearly done away with when ABVP came to the cabinet. The actions promised in our manifesto will certainly become a reality if NSUI comes to power and we are sure that the student community will support us.”
LSF party members remained unavailable for comment on their manifesto but their recent visit to various colleges has surely generated a substantial support for them. The party promises to bring out provision to ensure cheaper accommodation for all out-station students through rent regulation, which they claim to have ensured in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. They also argue that they are not generating support by chanting ballot numbers but simply by asking students to support the deserving candidate.
The student community has been bombarded with talks, promises, rallies and statistics, and amongst this cut-throat promotion, they are viewing these elections with different prisms of thoughts. While some are awaiting the elections for the sake of the holidays it entails, others are focusing on the realistic side of it.
On the issue of representation of the North East Indian community, which is subjected toÂ racial attacks, has now become a major political agenda for all parties to focus on this election. Mr. Boris Kalita, a second year student who hails from Guwahati, explains, “I am not supporting any particular party as such but quite a few friends of mine are supporting LSF as it has joined hands with Arunachal Students Front. They feel that LSF will provide the community an integral and stronger representation, which many major parties claim but limit the northeastern community’s representation to an event or two.”
Shubhankar Gupta, a first year student, claims that he feels uncomfortable and frightened amongst all this hyper activity. He says “This aggressive campaigning has put me off and against the DUSU elections. Sometimes group of ten people or more gang up around us and force the pamphlets and cards in our hands. All this over-abuse of power and authority has not only frightened the student community but also made them question the entire idea of student elections.”
ThisÂ is the time for the student parties to promote their plans for the next year, rather than ensuing in a row over who gets the credit for the last year’s achievement. There is a fine line between promotion and enforcement of thought, which has certainly been crossed in this election. The over-abuse of money, power and political-reach has lowered the DUSU elections on the pedestal of democracy. While campaigning is an essential part of each election, no party should be allowed to make the campaign larger than its ideology, as when we do that, the essence of democracy is lost.