Non-campus issues take centre stage in DUSU polls
The Delhi University Students’ Union (DUSU) election, which hitherto was known to engage voters on campus-centric issues such as hostels and bus passes, could see a change in the discourse. Students and student groups are trying to woo voters on issues that go beyond campus such as nationalism, free speech and debate and intolerance.
President Pranab Mukherjee’s assertion at the first convocation of the Nalanda University in Bihar that universities and institutions of higher learning must be bastions of free speech and expression and debates should be encouraged, has also found echo among students on the hoary campus.
For instance, the issue was the highlight at the mock Parliament held last week as the part of the 13thNational Youth Parliament organised at the Maharaja Agrasen College.
In the simulated Parliament, the opposition took the treasury bench to task about the Rohith Vemula suicide case and booking JNU students on sedition charges. The treasury bench did its best to fend off opposition attacks, like the government did in real parliament. Students of the Maharaja Agrasen College will vote for the first time in the DUSU elections, scheduled for September 9.
The right-wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) calims that they too want to deliberate on these issues, which in their perception, “runs counter to the idea of nationalism.”
“The major theme taken up by the ABVP for this year’s election is nationalism and exposing those indulging in anti-national activities on campuses in the name of campus autonomy and free speech. In fact, the ABVP has emerged as the only patriotic and nationalistic students’ organisation in the whole country. We will fight the election on this theme, unlike others who play vote-bank politics and mislead students. We all know that anti-national activities, supported mainly by Left-leaning groups, go on in Hyderabad University and JNU,” said Saket Bahuguna, national media convenor of ABVP.
The other major contestants like the Congress-affiliated National Students’ Union of India (NSUI) and the ultra-left All-India Students’ Association (AISA) are going to make a major plank on the autonomy issue. “The NSUI has always fought for the liberal space on campuses. The biggest challenge today is encroachment on the autonomy of campuses,” said Nigam Bhandari, general secretary Delhi unit of NSUI.
Last year’s major player AAP-backed Chhatra Yuva Sangharsh Samiti is not contesting this year.