Congress-backed National Students Union of India (NSUI) has bagged the top two posts of President and Vice President in Delhi University Students Union elections today, while RSS-backed Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) has had to contend with the Secretary and Joint Secretary’s posts.
While it may look like a case of sharing spoils, it is a major setback for ABVP, which had emerged victorious on at least three of the four posts for the past five years.
This follows a sweeping victory for the United Left Front in Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union (JNUSU). All India Students’ Association (AISA), Students’ Federation of India (SFI) and Democratic Students Federation (DSF) joined hands against a common nemesis to emerge victorious on all four seats.
With these two defeats for ABVP within the space of a week, the writing in Delhi’s university spaces seems to be on the wall. The message, loud and clear from Delhi’s university students, seems to be – anyone but ABVP.
Riding on a right-wing wave across the country, ABVP had been ruling the roost in DUSU for quite a while now. However, of late it seems like their agenda of Hindutva and ultra-nationalism has only backfired.
Following what happened at Ramjas College in February this year, Delhi’s top universities have set a precedent. That these are progressive spaces with no place for fascist forces, irrespective of the political environment across the country.
Students were beaten, stones were thrown at peaceful conferences while faculty members and journalists were publically threatened. The highly notorious Satender Awana of ABVP, former DUSU President, had led a charge against the “anti-national and communist” forces in what was supposed to be a peaceful event, irking an entire fraternity of students and teachers alike.
Similarly, following their surprising victory for the post of Joint Secretary in JNU in 2015, ABVP tried to bite more than it can chew by trying to divide the campus by trying to create a ruckus in February 2016. The incident involving the arrests of student leaders Kanhaiya Kumar and Umar Khaled helped in consolidating an even stronger position for the Left Unity, with them winning all the four seats for the past two consecutive years.
The ABVP may like to believe that it has made significant inroads in a traditionally left-dominated bastion like JNU by finishing second on all the four seats this year. However, the DUSU defeat shows that students have chosen the strongest possible alternative to the one party they did not want to win – ABVP.
If one takes a close look at the numbers, it can be seen that the ABVP has finished second best in both the elections. However, both JNU and DU have chosen parties which have a traditional foothold in their respective spaces, not taking a risk with a new entrant. This is evident with AISA’s and NSUI’s dismal results, in DU and JNUSU respectively.
Campus politics in Delhi University is often replete with divisions along region, language and caste lines, among others. To win an election, parties would need to get these many different groups on their sides. Under the Hindutva umbrella, ABVP had been able to surpass these many divides and create a binary. And they reaped the benefits of this binary while smaller groups were busy fighting each other.
Similarly, in JNU, while various factions of the Left were busy disagreeing and debating with each other, ABVP represented itself as the only voice of the right. That is how it was able to tap the void in the campus.
However, learning from their mistakes and fed up of their acts of depredation, all factions combined to oppose a common enemy on both the campuses. All the other issues were kept aside and it all boiled down to an ideological battle.
The examples of these two universities show that by keeping differences aside, a strong opposition against the Sangh Parivar and its offshoots can be mustered. If this can be replicated at a national level, things may not be as easy for Narendra Modi and Bharatiya Janta Party as well, come the 2019 elections.