Exclusive: Interview With DUSU President On NOTA, Caste And Rahul Gandhi

Q: Arun Jaitley, Vijay Goel, Ajay Maken, Rajiv Goswami (during the time of the Mandal Commission report) have all served as DUSU Presidents at important points in our country’s history. Be it around the time of the emergency, after Indira Gandhi’s death or during the Mandal Commission. DUSU has been used as a stepping stone not only for making an entry into Indian politics but to advocate for major causes in India’s history. As DUSU President, what do you feel the role of the Student Union is and should be and do you believe that the Union should be taking a stand on major national issues? And by this, I mean in a constructive manner, not like we saw last year at Ramjas.

Rocky Tusheer: Students from each state in the country are currently studying at Delhi University. And while the mundane issues of student life will continue to dominate student politics, it is important for us to be talking about national issues as well – because the leaders of tomorrow are certainly going to be coming from this lot here. Therefore, I think it’s very important, in a non-partisan way, to take national matters in front of the students and to have them debate upon the matter in a constructive manner.

We are presently raising the issue of how important it is to maintain the institutions that uphold India’s democracy. For example, at present, there is a lot of discussion about the tampering of EVMs (Electronic Voting Machines), about a singular ideology being pasted on the people and students.

For the past four years, such was the case in Delhi University, where there was real stagnation in people exercising political choice. Therefore, we started a campaign called meri marzi (my right, my choice), in which we encouraged people to understand their rights and their choices. Under this campaign, we called students, both girls and boys to address certain issues on gender inequality such as hostel timings as well as a number of other issues where people could talk about their grievances freely.

Q: In DUSU elections the saying is famous, “kabhi gujjar kabhi jaat”, can you help us understand how and why the DUSU election has become so caste dominant? Does one necessarily have to be a member of either caste to get support?

RT: There is no confinement in terms of which communities’ candidate stand for elections. I am a Jat and belong to the community, but if you see the other elected officials on the panel, they don’t just belong to a single community. In the Delhi University Student Union election, leadership is the paramount parameter.

When it comes to community consolidation in the DUSU election, there is a factor of some colleges having a larger concentration of a particular community – but I still believe this is not a major factor. At most, there is a minuscule difference that this makes. It’s natural at the end of the day, that the students who are politically active, and those who raise their voice on issues on behalf of other students – will continue to hold these positions and attract attention from political parties.

Q: NOTA Factor is a big issue in Delhi University, with less than 50% of the students voting during the elections. Do you think that most students of Delhi University do not connect with student politics? Why is there such less turnout?

RT: There are almost four lakh students in Delhi University, we get 5 days to do our canvassing. It’s possible that because of this short time period we aren’t able to reach all the students. Last year, the vote percentage was 35.3%, this year it has still increased to 42.9%.

One of the other reasons that possibly leads to less turnout in elections is the negativity created about being politically active by teachers. Especially the college principals, I have felt this myself – when I was active in college politics in my undergraduate years, the principal lodged two FIRs against me for no good reason. Other people were fighting, but because I was visible and politically active – the FIR was lodged against me. Therefore, such negative perceptions towards students being politically are causing this attitude.

I believe that the Lyngdoh Commission’s recommendations also systematically have a role to play in the fall in student activism. Making 75% attendance compulsory to fulfil the passing criterion. If one has to attend all these classes to fulfill the Lyngdoh requirements, then how can a student make time to be politically active and raise issues on behalf of other students?

Q: Since you are from NSUI, which is the Congress’s student wing, it’s appropriate to ask as to what you think of the party today. Three and a half years after the Modi Tsunami in 2014, do you believe there is a desire for the Congress to return under the leadership of Mr Rahul Gandhi, given that the party is at a major turning point, with the Congress’s younger generation taking more and more responsibility?

RT: This change in the political atmosphere I believe is coming largely from students who have been fooled by this government’s numerous promises of jobs and a bright economic future. The 18-25 year old demographic was a major votary for the BJP in 2014. As for the generational shift that is taking place in politics today, I think this is very important – and my personal belief is that people should retire from politics once they attain an age where the younger generation can more successfully carry out those important duties of national service. They should continue doing socially useful work, but should continue to give young people the chance to step up, take responsibility and make a difference, whichever party they may be in.

As Rahul Gandhi rises to the post of President, the Congress party will certainly be endowed with a new vigour. Congress is a party which has internal democracy, be it the NSUI or Youth Congress, there are elections for posts within these organizations. As Mr Gandhi assumes this leadership position as a result of these democratic procedures I honestly believe, as I’ve said before, that the young cadre of the party will feel a tremendous tailwind.

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Featured image source: Jitesh Sharma/Facebook