Perform or Perish: On JNUSU Elections 2016


30 August 2016| JNU students will begin casting ballots to elect their new set of Students’ Union representatives on 9 September 2016 at 9:30 am. A total of four Central Panel members: President, Vice President, Secretary and Joint Secretary as well as 29 councilors for the different schools will be elected from among the nominees. For the first time ever, GSCASH elections will be held along with JNUSU elections, and again for the first time, the number of seats in the GSCASH has been increased from two to four in response to the burgeoning needs and concerns felt acutely in the campus.

The course of student activism has never run straight and it will be difficult to predict its future orientation. Student movements like #OccupyUGC and #StandWithJNU have underscored the significance of college campuses as emerging public spheres for critique of majoritarian trends as well as for launching new forms of civic engagement. Anjali, a BA student at CRS feels that it is inevitable to escape politics if one is at JNU: “Our professors and students are constantly hearing about the news, we are up to date with everything that goes outside and inside JNU. People with interest in politics come to JNU to be among it all. And even if you are not interested initially, you will eventually be a part of it.”

To say that JNUSU 2015-16 has had a turbulent year would be an understatement; when even the so considered disengaged and uninterested pledged their participation in the students and teachers-led demonstration. There is this general understanding in the campus that JNUSU Elections 2016 will be unlike the elections happening every other year. The events leading to and post the 9 February incident will cast their shadow on the results of the 9 September elections. The campus has witnessed a media melee, angry mobs, human chains, open house proceeding, defiant protests, hunger strike and much more in the short span of seven months. The theatrics of the recently held UGBMs and SGBMs make this election even more interesting.

The “progressive” political parties stood together during the “fascist assault” on the university, and the time has come when their ability to successfully negotiate and coordinate a Left alliance will be tested. The Right-wing group – ABVP too, aware of the Left-unity stands tall, ready for the clarion call. AISA and SFI understand very well that it may not be easy to defeat the Right unless a unity is forged. AISF rose to prominence last year through Kanhaiya’s win will be hoping to rummage a similar victory for the Left-alliance of which it is a part.

DSF will hope to vent out its sound and fury on the Right as well as the Left-alliance as it marches alone. It is true that after a devastating failure in the last elections, DSF contesting alone will find it difficult to traverse the messy pathways to the schools in JNU. The independent student party will have to prove its mettle this year to improve its outreach in the near future.

It is important to note that the seat sharing is not just at the level of the Central Panel but also at the level of the councilors in the schools. Much more is at stake than petty party differences; failure to convert the opportunity into a big-number win will raise questions on the legitimacy of the alliance as well as on the stronghold of the Left in the campus.

In a Left campus like JNU, it is a major victory for the ABVP to force the Left to go for an alliance. ABVP was successful the previous year with a Central Panel seat and few councilor seats. The coming up of a Left-alliance has cemented ABVP’s position in the political arena as a major rival force in the campus. However, with the resignations handed out by the leading party figures, things have not been looking rosy for the ABVP camp either.

BAPSA, fighting for the idea of the “unity of the oppressed” reportedly has the support of YFDA and SIO. After the Rohith Vemula incident, identity politics has taken a new turn.  The nature of estranged relations with the dominant Left parties became even more prominent in the last few months. The gulf between the Left and the marginal/minority community led parties appear to have widened during the elections.

NSUI, last heard was ready to back the Left-alliance if elections were to be contested in accordance with the Lyngdoh commission suggestions; has much to introspect upon. To be or not to be [with the Left] is the question. 

Another year goes by while the Lyngdoh commission reigns. Delhi University goes to poll on the same day: 9 September 2016. The correspondences between the two end there.   

Kumar Prashant and Iqbal Vavad are students at JNU and work for The Informer. Views expressed are personal.