Radical turn in JNUSU
The All India Students Association (AISA) won all four central panel seats in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) students union elections again this year. Besides a slight aberration last year, when the JNUSU president's post when to the Democratic Student's Forum (DSF), a breakaway group of the CPI(M)-affiliated Students’ Federation of India (SFI) formed that year itself, this is pretty much the sum total of all election results since 2010.
Very similar, apart from the fact that the SFI has been completely wiped out on the campus that used to be its stronghold not long ago. The organisation could not win a single seat in the elections this year. Apart from the fact that the presidential candidate from Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of the BJP, managed to gather enough votes to be third in the presidential vote rally.
And apart from the fact that the Congress-affiliated National Student's Union of India (NSUI) left behind DSF to come second in votes polled for the general secretary post.
The inroads made by the rightwing and centrist organisations in JNUSu elections are not exactly new, though – every year, the science schools deliver the maximum votes for ABVP. Even as far back as 1974-75 'Free Thinkers' produced the first ever non-Left president of JNU when Anand Kumar (now faculty member in JNU) defeated SFI’s Prakash Karat (now the CPI-M general secretary) arguing to free campus politics from the politburo's interventions. That year, Anand Kumar got overwhelming support of all anti-Left students on the campus, who wanted a paradigm shift of politics in JNU.
In 1996, three of the four central panel seats went to the ABVP and in 2000 ABVP's Sandeep Mahapatra became JNUSU's first ever rightwing president. Thus, as unusual as it might sound, this isn’t the first time non-Left organisations have raised their heads in JNU, but the gradual disappearance of the SFI, coupled with the rise in identity politics on the campus, sure is looking to change the predictable picture of the campus. What happens in the larger political world outside usually has a significant impact on JNUSU elections. The decline of SFI can be traced to the decline of the CPI(M) as a whole.
Similarly, corruption and lack of governance in the UPA, seen with Narendra Modi’s biting criticism of the Manmohan government’s policies while riding on his development paradigm, seems to have helped the ABVP. The reinvention of the right forces, who are looking at development issues in sync with the current times, shows their effect on election results. The NSUI's provision of buses and Wi-Fi in academic block seems to be finally showing results.
Also, the organisation’s decision to field a Manipuri candidate (and subsequent increase in the number of votes) has woken JNU to identity politics, a bad word for the elite Left. Either this way or that, JNU has again proved that the Left has to justify being the soul of politics on the campus – else there are alternatives.
On arrangement with Goverance Now