By Bhanvi Satija:
Promises, Ideas, Opinions, Affiliations, Manifestos, Issues, Politics and Votes – these words have been flashing around ever since the 2015 DUSU and JNU elections were announced. With parties and candidates at the peak of their campaigns this week, CYSS President Anupam Kumar recently said to the Indian Express, “Usually 40 per cent of students vote in the elections. Our target is the remaining 60 per cent students who don’t turn up.” This brings us to an issue of extreme significance – why don’t students vote? What effect does this have on the nature of student politics?
Who Votes, Who Doesn’t, And Why
DUSU and the process of elections has been in place for 61 years now. Over these years, the highest voter turnout till date was recorded only in the year 2006, with 55% of the student community turning up to vote. This increase, has also been attributed to the introduction of EVMs (Electronic Voting Machines) in that year. The average voter turnout otherwise, has been somewhere around 40% to 50% approximately. This clearly shows that only half of the student community turns out to vote during elections, while if one was to go around asking people about their problems with the system, everyone will have their unique set.
So, why is it that despite having and knowing the problems, the student community fails to exercise their right to vote? One reason at the outset, is that they like to enjoy the free holiday they get while half of their peers go to vote. The other major reason for not voting remains the lack of trust in the process of elections. Over the years, student elections, much like any other elections in the country have become more about political parties than about the issues faced by the people/students. The election time in the universities are much chaotic and there is very less that students who vote or want to, actually understand. “It’s like a big circus. I have met so many people today that it is difficult to even remember names. Everyone is in such a hurry to ask for votes that they forget to tell why I should be voting for them in the first place,” says Rahul, a student at Campus Law Centre to the Indian Express. In the past, there has also been an increased intervention by the police in order to keep the surroundings peaceful and make sure that the elections get conducted without any disruptions. Moreover, most student parties are also affiliated with national or state level political parties making the elections a bigger fight for power.
How Does This Affect The Nature Of Student Politics?
Due to this lack of trust on the democratic process of elections, we are missing out on an entire 50% of the student community as per past records. Even if we consider, that some part of this community doesn’t vote out of sheer laziness, there is still a huge chunk of students which the various parties have failed to appeal to. This is highly problematic for the overall nature of student politics in the country.
People who do not vote, thinking that it won’t make a difference are often the ones who want to make a difference. Many of them even take to various other methods of bringing about a change – like through street plays, or other performing societies which work for larger issues through the art arena. However, will a change ever be possible, if we were to sit and complain and not even exercise the only power we have in our hands? Such a disdain for student unions and the election process affects the nature of student politics negatively. This lack of trust, even though originated by the attitude of the political parties involved, traps the students’ political arena in a vicious trap – worsening every year. As is evident from the recent statement made by Sunny Kumar from AISA, “Forget issues and agendas. This election has become all about visibility, about making a statement. In order to win, what matters most is visibility. Jo dikhta hai wo bikta hai (What is visible, sells).” This is also partially the reason why there has been an increase in demand for the NOTA option this year in the elections.
Bottom line being, every vote counts – and it looks like the student community has forgotten the power that they have with their right to vote. I urge the entire student community at DU and JNU to exercise their right to vote this upcoming elections. Remember, if each one of us were to come together and vote: the candidates and parties will have no option but to give in to the demands of the student community.
This is a part of YKA’s focused coverage of the 2015 student union elections in Delhi University and Jawaharlal Nehru University. To know more about it, click here.
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