Millennium Post

JNU remains a Red Citadel

JNU remains a   Red Citadel

If the results of the student body election at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) are any indication, the United Left Panel had swept all the four central panel seats of the President, Vice President, General Secretary and Joint Secretary and most of the councillor seats. Keeping the entire campus on tenterhooks during the counting process that lasted for more than 24 hours, on the wee hours of Sunday – JNUSU finally scripted its central message: The 'Stand with JNU' agenda has decisively defeated the 'Shut down JNU' one. The results turned into another occasion of celebration for the alliance of All India Students' Association (AISA), Students' Federation of India (SFI) and Democratic Students' Federation (DSF), when its candidate Geeta Kumari was elected President of the JNU Students' Union 2017-18 beating Nidhi Tripathi of Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) with a margin of 463 votes.

For the other central panel posts, the United Left Panel candidates won comfortably with huge margins. But this triumphalism only masks the deeper trends in JNU campus politics. However, it was the rise of alternative voices like that of the ABVP and Birsa Ambedkar-Phule Students' Association (BAPSA) in JNU, which forced the two dominant arch rivals – AISA and SFI – to forge an electoral alliance, with outside support, and the outside support of the AISF and ultra-left groups – to ensure their citadel intact. But, this 'marriage of convenience' is aimed to check the growth of two emerging forces in JNU, i.e. right-wing ABVP and BAPSA. Interestingly, The BAPSA made its electoral debut at JNU in 2015 and since then this Ambedkarite group had made inroads by securing a sizeable number of votes in every post. It indicates that their 'unity of the oppressed' slogan has created a significant space in the much-hyped Left vs Right bi-poles of JNUSU politics.

Right from its inception, BAPSA has decomposed the Left by using the same weapons which Left always used against its opponents. Unable to answer BAPSA's question on representation of oppressed communities like Dalits and tribals, the Left has now concentrated on its 'JNU under attack' agenda, to unify the students. The BAPSA has also confronted the Left's 'savarnvad' (upper casteism), subsequently creating dismay in the Left camp. If the ABVP played up the identity politics of Hindutva, BAPSA tried to articulate its Dalit identity, asserting that only Dalits could understand their own problems and get them resolved. Convinced that it was going to win the elections, the two-year-old organisation went to the extent of equating red with saffron and bracketing the Left organisations with ABVP for representing people from the upper castes.

The JNUSU election results also indicate that the ABVP candidates for the office bearers' posts have polled around 30 per cent of the total votes franchised and had AISA and SFI not come together, ABVP could have easily won the elections. In what comes as another issue to ponder about is that a good chunk of students have exercised their right to not vote for any candidate and tick NOTA on the ballot paper. It denotes that either these students are apolitical or are so disappointed with the existing political formations on campus that they do not wish to choose any of them. And, such indifference is foxing in a campus where the average political cognizance of students is expected to be much higher than other places. The student activists of all political bents must comprehensively analyse its causes and remedies.

Nonetheless, the JNUSU results do not appear giving much fuel to the victorious Left organisations to triumph over their success. Instead, they should take it as a wake-up call to them. The message is very clear to the victors as well as to other organisations like the DSF, BAPSA and SFS (Students for Swaraj). If they continue to fight among themselves and fail to forge the broadest possible group, they will not be able to repeat this feat in the future. The ABVP, too, has a message between the lines: Strongly committed to its ideologies and agendas, they should attack the Left and other political rivals more aggressively, but refrain from attacking the very institution where its members are studying.

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