By Shamaila Fatima:
Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) is probably one of the most politically charged universities in India. The University has its own constitution. Polling for the 2016 Aligarh Muslim University Students Union (AMUSU) elections is due on October 8. AMU is gripped by the election fever. Here’s how elections at AMU are different from the ones in Delhi University (DU) and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).
Since 2008, the AMUSU elections have only been held every alternate year. The AMU Students Union gets suspended after the first year and there’s no union in the second year. Future candidates, who aspire to contest in the next elections, use this period to prove their worth to the voters by participating in various social activities and trying to meet the student community’s demands. They lead the institute and work for the welfare of the students.
In DU, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad is the dominant political party. The leftist student parties have always been more popular in JNU. But in AMU, there is no involvement of any political party or ideology. Candidates in AMUSU compete for every post individually, without any backing from a political party. However, regional lobbies are quite influential and often put their weight behind one candidate. In most cases, every person votes for the candidate belonging to his/her region only.
Women students have a separate college called Women’s College for a few undergrad courses. As the college isn’t a part of the main campus, it has a separate student union called Women’s College Students’ Union. Women enrolled in these courses can only vote and compete for WCSU and not AMUSU.
Candidates compete for 11 posts in AMUSU and WCSU-president, vice-president, honorary secretary and 10 cabinet members. The people elected to the three major posts are said to be the decision makers. The cabinet members are considered the students’ representatives and are involved in important discussions. Cabinet members contest individually as well.
After the nomination ends, AMU has a ritual called ‘Rasm-e-Sherwani Poshi’ for male candidates. The seniors make candidates wear a sherwani in public. Sherwani is considered to be the traditional attire of the AMU Students Union. The ritual is supposed to signify that the candidates are capable of taking up the responsibility of AMU. If the candidate wins the post he is contesting for, he has to wear a sherwani throughout his tenure.
There is no equivalent ritual for female candidates. But this year, a vice presidential candidate for AMUSU did conduct a Rasm-e-Burqa Poshi. The sherwani was replaced by the Burqa in this case.
Door-to-door, personal campaigning and bike rallies are considered the most effective. Candidates mostly ask for votes, support and ‘dua‘ (blessings). At most universities, there is a final debate before the elections, but at AMU there is a ‘final day speech’ after which no campaigning takes place.
Some people may think that not having political parties in elections is a disadvantage as the candidate isn’t answerable to a party. AMU has produced a large number of political leaders, including the incumbent Vice President, Mohammad Hamid Ansari and our country’s third President, Zakir Hussain. Hopefully, the tradition of producing great leaders will continue this year as well.