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DUSU Polls After 3 Years: Equations and Issues as Campaign Ends; Voting on Friday

Mukund Jha |
Are Delhi University Students Union Elections being fought on old lines this time, too? Newsclick takes a look at the issues and equations.
DUSU Polls After 3 Years: Equations and Issues as Campaign Ends; Voting on Friday

Voting for the Delhi University Students' Union (DUSU) elections will be held on Friday, September 22. Counting of votes elections will be done on September 23.

This time round, the annually-held DUSU election is different from other years because it is being held after three years.  

In the initial phase of DUSU election campaign, it seemed that this election was different from the previous ones in many ways. But as the campaign entered its last leg, the scenario looked like the earlier years – with money and muscle power being flexed once again.

What are the important issues this year in DUSU elections, what is the political situation in the spread-out colleges of Delhi University colleges? Also, there are signs of DUSU elections becoming increasingly violent.

Several student organisations are in the fray. What are the issues they are raising? Let’s take a look.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-affiliated ABVP (Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad) ABVP, is once again seeking votes in the name of nationalism. Apart from this, there are many other issues that have remained constant in thier manifesto, like cheap passes in Delhi metro, hostels for all etc.

The Congress-backed NSUI (National Students Union of India) has sought votes on the issue of providing equal opportunities to all in the university.  It has highlighted issues ranging from ABVP's alleged 'hooligan politics' to their non-presentation of the DUSU budget and campus corruption. NSUI has promised to provide equal opportunities to students from different parts of the country and caste groups.

Along with this, NSUI also raised questions on 14% GST charged in hostels and concern over 'decreasing democratic space' on the campus. "The council has ended campus democracy, the number of police that have come into the campus in the past few years is unprecedented,” some NSUI leaders told NewsClick.

Left student organisations, such as All India Students Association (AISA) and Students’ Federation of India (SFI) have put up their panel of candidates.  AISA and SFAI are seeking votes on vital issues, such as more hostel seats, Metro passes at concessional rates, reducing canteen food prices among others. These organisations are giving priority to issues like four-year undergraduate courses and women's safety. The Left student organisations have also accused ABVP of violence and use of money power.

DUSU Elections: The Political Situation

A total of 24 candidates are in the fray for the posts of president, vice-president, general secretary and joint secretary in Friday’s DUSU elections. Mainly four panels are in the fray.

The NSUI panel: Hitesh Gulia is contesting for the post of president. He has a B.Com degree from Shaheed Bhagat Singh College and is in the final year of LLB at Law Centre-1. He played an active role in the year-long farmers' movement against the controversial three farm laws on the borders of Delhi. Gulia belongs to a farmer family.

Abhi Dahiya is NSUI’s candidate for VP. He is a first year MA student at the Centre for Buddhist Studies in the Faculty of Arts, while Yakshna Sharma, the candidate for the post of secretary, has graduated from Hindu College and is currently pursuing final year of LLB at Campus Law Centre. Shubham Kumar Chaudhary, in the fray for the post of joint secretary, graduated from College of Vocational Studies. He is a first year MA student at the Department of Buddhist Studies.

 The ABVP panel: Tushar Dedha, the candidate for the post of president, holds a bachelor's degree in Economics and Political Science from Delhi University. Currently, he is pursuing MA in the Department of Buddhist Studies.

Sushant Dhankar, the candidate for VP, belongs to Jhajjar, Haryana. He completed his bachelor's in English (Hons) from Satyavati College (Evening), and is currently an MA student in the Department of Buddhist Studies. Aparajita is a candidate for the post of secretary. Originally from Jaunpur, Uttar Pradesh, she holds a bachelor's degree in History from Delhi University, and is currently pursuing MA in the Department of Buddhist Studies. Sachin Baisla, for the post of joint secretary, hails from Baghpat, UP. He completed his graduation from Ramjas College, Delhi University and LLB from Faculty of Law. In 2016, he was elected as central councilor of Ramjas College Students' Union. Currently, he is a student of MA in Buddhist Studies.

The SFI Panel: SFI's presidential candidate Arif Siddiqui hails from Kannauj, UP.  He completed his graduation from Zakir Hussain Collegeand is, DU, and is currently an MA student in the Department of Buddhist Studies. In Zakir Hussain College, he led the students' struggles on many issues ranging from non-functional water coolers to opening of closed grounds. He also played a key role in the movement against FYUP and to open the campus after Covid.

Ankit, the SFI’s VP candidate, is a first year LLB student of Campus Law Centre. He has done BA from Hindu College. After the Covid pandemic, when everything had opened but educational institutions were closed, he was among those who led the movement to open Delhi University.

Aditi Tyagi, who is in the fray for the secretary’s post, is pursuing MA Philosophy. She did her graduation from Hindu College. She travels daily for one and a half hours from Ghaziabad, and was among the leaders of the movement for cheap Metro passes for students. She also led the movement against eve-teasing and indecency during festivals in women's colleges.

The joint secretary candidate Nishtha Singh is from Bihar, and has been raising the issue of students coming from outside. She has promised to raise the demand for two hostels in every college.

The AISA panel: Ayesha Ahmed Khan is the presidential candidate. A resident of Patna and a student of Miranda House, she part of the first batch of FYUP and according to her, has borne the brunt of the four- year-course. She was an active part for the anti-FYUP movement. She also led an agitation against hooliganism and harassment of women students in IP College and Miranda House. Ahmed has been a voice for gender justice in the campus area and is a member of the Gender Sensitisation Committee.

Anushka Chaudhary, AISA candidate for the post of VP, belongs to a farming family from Bulandshahr, UP. She is a student at Law Faculty, and was very active during the farmers' movement on the Ghazipur border. She did her graduation from ARSD College, and during those years played an active role in mobilising students, especially those affected by high transportation costs. She was an integral part of the 77-day indefinite strike that led to the reopening of DU.

Aditya Pratap Singh, for the post of secretary, comes from a humble family in UP, in which his mother is the sole breadwinner. In DU, he has led movements for increasing the number of hostels for students and rent control in campus spaces. In 2022, when DU failed to ensure proper implementation of OBC reservation, Singh was among those who led a huge struggle and ensured proper execution of reservation for OBC students. He also played a key role in the agitation for reopening of DU and ensuring social justice during CUET admissions.

AISA’s Anjali Kumari is fighting for the joint secretary’s post. She is a firs-year student from Gaya, Bihar, and belongs to a Dalit family. Having been associated with the anti-FYUP campaign since her first day in the university, she played a key role in uniting first year students against FYUP.

Interestingly, CYSS, the student wing of the ruling Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi, has decided not to contest any post in DUSU this year, too.

Caste and regional composition

In DUSU elections, candidates from Jat and Gurjar castes have been given special preference by mainstream student organisations, instead of Rajputs, Brahmins, Yadavs, Kayasthas and Bhumihar castes. The main reason for this is that in the past 10 years, only candidates from the Jat and Gurjar community have been winning the post of president. Therefore, the main rivals, ABVP and NSUI, have once again given preference to candidates from these two communities. ABVP’s Dedha is from the Gurjar community, whereas Dhankar (VP candidate) belongs to the Jat community while Baisla, for the post of joint secretary, is also from Gurjar community.

On the other side, out of its four candidates, NSUI has fielded two candidates from the Jat community and one candidate from Gurjar community. Gulia and Dahiya are from the Jat community, while Chaudhary is a Gurjar.

However, both the Left organisations – SFI an AISA -- have tried to make their panel inclusive. Both have fielded Muslim candidates for the post of president.

At present there is a lot of discussion in the country on the Women's Reservation Bill and their strong representation in the political field. In such a situation, the Left student organisations have paid special attention to representation of women in the student union elections. AISA has fielded three women candidates while SFI has fielded two.

DUSU & Buddhist Studies Department

Once again, students from the Buddhist Studies Department and Law Faculty are dominating the DUSU elections. The entire ABVP panel is from the Buddhist Studies Department while SFI and NSUI also have two candidates from the same department. After this, the most number of candidates are from the Law Faculty.

To fight DUSU elections, one has to enrol in the university. But, getting admission is not so easy in the Central university which attracts students from across the country. Getting admission in the Department of Buddhist Studies is said to be easier, hence most student leaders make a beeline to become eligible to fight elections. There are cases of many student leaders not even completing the course once elections are done and dusted.

Allegations of violence against ABVP

Like previous years, there were reports of violence in this election also. AISA alleged that their members were attacked while filing nominations. This is not happening for the first time, and in fact, has been going on in the past few elections.

NSUI has also accused ABVP of “deadly attack” on its candidates, including its president nominee. It released several videos alleging that its workers were attacked, vehicles smashed, and many of their workers suffered serious injuries.

NSUI national secretary and Delhi in-charge Nitish Gaur said, “ABVP is nervous. They know students are against them this year, so out of frustration they are attacking our people." He also made serious allegations against the police administration and said that "in their presence, ABVP was indulging in hooliganism in the campus,”

"Thousands of students are going to vote against this hooliganism of ABVP in this DUSU election. The best students from all over the country come to DU, who are sensitive and have seen how the commotion is created by forcibly entering women's colleges. They have created an atmosphere of fear in the entire campus," he said.

However, ABVP has also released a video, accusing NSUI of “assaulting” its workers.

In the past few years, violence during DUSU has risen. During the 2019 elections, ABVP was accused of “attacking” SFI and AISF (who were jointly contesting as Left Unity) candidates during the filing of nominations. Except the candidate for the post of VP, no other Left Unity candidate could file nomination as their papers were torn by ABVP workers.

In the same year, during the election campaign, AISA vice president candidate Aftab was stopped from campaigning in Deshbandhu College, followed by a scuffle in which ABVP was accused of terming him a “traitor.”

In 2018, some people attacked Ankit Bharti, the NSUI vice president candidate. He had accused ABVP of assault and violence.

In the same year, ABVP was also accused of kidnapping an independent candidate, Raja Choudhary. A year before that, too, CYSS and ABVP were accused of attacking the NSUI presidential candidate during a campaign in PGDAV College.

 (Translated from Hindi)

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