When you talk about Delhi University, it is impossible to not talk about the flourishing political culture that exists in the institution.
DU elections are nothing short of spectacles and festivals of ego satisfaction for filthy rich political candidates fashioned as the convenient voice of the students. The DU election fever begins somewhere around August- just a month or two after the commencement of admissions. If you find certain students over eager to help you during the admission process, understand that you have been identified as a potential vote bank. Your number is noted and soon you become part of social media groups coaxing you to vote for a certain candidate.
As soon as the election campaigns start, one of the most vibrant phases of the DU calendar begins. Campaigning takes place in the most usual of places like societies and student canteens to the most unusual of places like snooker dens and even your room! You are promised a ton of things and most of these promises relate nothing to the college infrastructure or education. It is usually petty bribes trying to satisfy the fantasies of students.
Hence, hundreds of bottles of alcohol along with food items and movie tickets are distributed to students with a sticker showcasing the ballot number of the candidate on the back of your beer bottle or Domino’s pizza box. Reports have even stated that 2.5 lakh rupees worth of Dairy Milk Silk chocolates have been distributed during DU student elections.
Unfortunately, that is not even the tip of the iceberg. Student elections in Delhi University often see crores of rupees spent in campaigning and bribing the students. A bigger disappointment is the fact that the most prolific students in the country fall for these tricks and often the richest political parties are the most successful, when it comes to DU elections.
However, just being rich doesn’t equal political success in the university. There’s an uglier side to the story. DU elections have long had a culture of violence and brutality with even murders being reported as a result of intense political rivalries. Violent clashes are often reported during the election season which leads to the suspension of classes and halt of general university business. The violence that ensued in Ramjas College in 2016 is still fresh in the minds of DU students as an example of the brutality that comes along with student politics. Even professors are not immune to this violence and have often found themselves caught in the crossfire whenever they have presented themselves in an opposing position to a particular political candidate.
The question then arises- How do these candidates amass such huge wealth to squander in the elections? Answers are multiple. These student parties are not isolated bodies but affiliated to major national political parties. For example, ABVP is affiliated to the BJP while NSUI is affiliated to the Indian National Congress. They receive funding from their cash rich national counterparts who are more than willing to spend money in order to maintain a grip over university campuses which act as a major reservoir of human resource during national elections. The criteria that determine the validity of a candidate are extremely exclusionary in nature. A candidate should be willing to spend a healthy amount of money. In addition, the caste of the candidate matters a great deal as certain communities are more politically active in the university and tend to offer their support to a person belonging to their ranks. This is an extremely unfortunate situation for a country that wishes to wipe out sectarianism in politics as it is failing to do the same in its student elections.
The irony of the situation is that a candidate is only allowed to spend an amount upto INR 5000 in the elections. It’s an open secret that this rule is made a mockery of in the DU political battleground.
The contents of this article make it crystal clear that the student elections of Delhi University are not really a Launchpad to political success for a common student. You need to have a host of existing privileges to make a name for yourself in this circle. At a time when student politics can be used to propel able leaders on to the national platform to fill the void that is created by the absence of young, dynamic leaders, the Delhi University elections end up creating student leaders with no other attributes than a deep pocket and a ‘Kabir Singh’ like violent streak. It is common for ex-DU Presidents to become big names in the national political scene. It should not be difficult for you to understand why our country’s politics is in such an abysmal state. The very introduction of youngsters to politics is through the corrupt, violent mess of student politics.
Student politics is a very essential part of the college education system. College students are at the forefront of democracy as they are pursuing their education while at the same time they are also new voters, with most of the college students in the age group of 18-21. The politics of the country currently requires young faces as there is a lack of truly young leaders with a national appeal. In the history of international politics, student leaders have played a great role in bringing down oppressive regimes and pushing reforms. However, when the students are appropriated by the toxic political culture that is in vogue in the rest of the country, it creates a vicious cycle that is impossible to escape. The student political scene is worsened by the country’s wider politics, while at the same time, the student politics plays its role in maintaining the status quo at the national level.
So, what could be the plausible solutions? At the moment, they are pretty complicated and require strong initiative by the government. First and foremost, Lyngdoh committee guidelines on election expenditure need to be strictly implemented with it being ascertained that any party convicted of over expenditure faces strong actions. Secondly, the authorities have to stop being moot spectators during election violence. Strict consequences should await those who are accused of undertaking violent means during elections. In addition, the university needs to run awareness campaigns for new students during elections, educating them about the importance of making a fair choice. They should not choose someone just because they were good to them during admissions. They should read their manifesto and implore their electoral promises and the resultant impact on the university ecosystem. When all these measures are strictly implemented, DU elections may begin gaining a shred of their legitimacy back.
Until then, if you are someone who is willing to bring about a change and look at DU elections as your platform, then you are in for a brutal shock. It is more advisable to exercise your good will elsewhere. This space is not for activism.
Disclaimer: The facts & opinions of this post are written by the author in his personal capacity. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of Edukeeda and Edukeeda does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.