Electing students' union
The students' union elections of Delhi University (DU) and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) have thrown up diametrically opposite results, with the RSS-affiliated Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) winning three out of four posts of the Delhi University Students' Union (DUSU) and the United Left retaining all the four posts in JNU. The students' union elections in DU and JNU are widely believed as an indicator of the popular mood and the victory of ABVP in DU and United Left in JNU indicate that there is no definite trend in the country that can help predict the outcome of 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Both these universities have students from all over India and their voting pattern reflects the political undercurrents in the country. However, there was a sense of predictability as far as the results of the students' union elections of the two premier universities in the national capital are concerned. While ABVP was expected to win a majority of the posts at DUSU, the entry of Aam Aadami Party's (AAP) students wing in the election in alliance with All India Students Association (AISA) had intensified the competition. At JNU, the United Left trounced ABVP candidates with big margins. N Sai Balaji of the United Left defeated his ABVP rival Lalit Pandey by 1179 votes to win the president's post. Balaji secured 2,161 votes against Pandey's 982 out of 5185 votes. Sarika Chaudhary of Democratic Students Federation (DSF) polled 2,692 votes and defeated ABVP's Geetasri Boruah by 1680 votes to become vice president. Aejaz Ahmad Rather of Students' Federation of India (SFI) and Amutha Jayadeep of ASIF defeated their ABVP rivals to win general secretary and joint secretary's posts respectively. However, ABVP has won the posts president, vice president and joint secretary at DUSU elections whereas the Congress's students' wing National Students' Union of India (NSUI) bagged the secretary's post.
While JNU has been considered a stronghold of left-affiliated students unions, DU has traditionally witnessed a rivalry between ABVP and NSUI. And, the DUSU election results have often been linked to Lok Sabha elections as the party which won the students elections in DU went on to win the next Lok Sabha election. This has happened after the DUSU elections in 1997, 1998, 2003, 2008 and 2013. In 2008, ABVP won the presidential post but lost all other three top slots to NSUI. In the 2009 Lok Sabha election, Manmohan Singh-led UPA government returned to power for a second consecutive term. In 2003, NSUI had won all the four posts and in the 2004 Lok Sabha election, BJP lost to the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA). On all other occasions since 1997, when ABVP won the DUSU elections, BJP too won the Lok Sabha elections. This year's DUSU results indicate that the saffron party may have an edge in the Lok Sabha elections next year.
Apart from providing a political trend, the student union elections in DU and JNU are also known for the ideological war between various student outfits. While DU mostly witnesses close contests between ABVP and NSUI, JNU has all sorts of left-affiliated students wings that fight among themselves and keep key union posts with one or the other left parties. For a long time, ABVP and NSUI are trying to expand their base in JNU and win some union posts but they have not been able to dislodge left parties from the students' union of the varsity. The student union elections in these two universities are important also because they offer the student leaders a chance to try their hands in mainstream politics. Many of the student leaders who won these elections in the past have made a successful career in politics.
But the question that to what extent these elections and the elected leaders influence the working of the university in favour of the students remains unanswered. This time, AAP's students' wing Chhatra Yuva Sangharsh Samiti (CYSS) contested the DUSU election in association with AISA and promised that it will try and bring in positive politics in the university. There are a number of issues involving students that need to be addressed urgently but the influence of the students union with the university administration is so limited that they often fail to raise the issues in front of the authorities. The partisan nature of student unions makes it difficult for them to consult each other and put up a united front before the university administration. DU and JNU are one of the best universities in the country and student elections are held regularly in these two universities. But similar elections are not conducted regularly in other universities where the academic environment is utterly pitiable. The student leaders who win DU and JNU elections should make a common cause with students across the country and raise these issues for an early solution.