DUSU election 2018: Students confident of free and fair polls as voting ends peacefully amid tight security

Voting for the Delhi University Student Union (DUSU) election concluded on a peaceful note Wednesday with 44.46 percent turnout being recorded until 7.30 pm. Counting will begin on 13 September at 8.30 am at the Community Hall in Delhi's Kingsway Camp. “To me, it looks like a split verdict”, said Abdullah Abdul Hameed, head of department, English, Zakir Husain College.

If that prediction holds true, it means that this time, students voted for candidates who could create a rapport with students through interaction rather than based on just their affiliation. Usually, students who want to contest usually begin their preparations during admission season: July.

It's fairly common to see students with ID cards around their necks—irrespective of their affiliations—walking around campuses and helping out freshmen. Often, help desks are set up. For candidates, repeatedly meeting voters—in the mornings and evenings—to make an impression is the name of the game. "It's the season for hand sanitizers," quipped one student.

Law students on Delhi University campus. Image courtesy: Harsh Verma

Law students on Delhi University campus. Image courtesy: Harsh Verma

The issues this year? The same as last year. More hostels. Law and order on campus. Entry to different colleges. Metro and DTC passes. Libraries that are open around the clock and subsidised food. The National Students' Union of India (NSUI), which promised to take care of all these issues in 2017's manifesto, was unable to achieve any of these. However, they did manage to make sure some colleges have Internal Complaint Committees.

But several key issues such as the non-representation of research scholars in the polling process, women’s representation in the student body, funding and autonomy of the university, weren't even brought up by candidates. The All India Students Union (AISA) mentioned in their manifestos that if elected, they would fight privatisation and commercialisation of Delhi University, continue the movement for the rights of SC/ST/OBC students and work for the implementation of rent control act for private accommodation.

The NSUI has promised the “Institute of Eminence” tag for Delhi University and thaalis for Rs 10, while the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) has promised to spend 50 percent of the union’s budget on activities related to women and social justice, along with a special attention to promoting sport and installing sanitary pad vending machines on campuses. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)-led student wing, the Chhatra Yuva Sangharshi Samiti (CYSS) tied up with the AISA, a left-wing outfit, to contest the polls.

And for the first time, the Lok Janshakti Party's student wing, the Chhatra Lok Janshakti (CLJ), contested in nine seats of four Delhi University. The student wing of the Lok Janshakti Party (headed by Ram Vilas Paswan, an eight time Lok Sabha member and Union minister) reportedly won five seats. With the advent of new parties, students are seeing alternatives to the more established outfits, which haven't been able to live up to their expectations.

The DUSU is also being seen as something of a prelude to next year's Lok Sabha election. With as many as 1.35 lakh students casting their votes, and Delhi being the political capital of the country, the university reflects what young people want. An ABVP member said the election results will also help the general public and the media draw their own conclusions about the mood of the voters and an idea of the trend in national politics. Last year's turnout at DUSU was 43 percent.

This year's election also saw some major flare-ups on campus leading to injuries and public property being defaced, which led Delhi High Court Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice VK Rao to direct the Delhi Police, Delhi University and the municipal bodies to file reports indicating the extent of defacement, the steps taken to prevent it and action taken against candidates who violated the anti-defacement norms, reported PTI.

Such nuisances, along with the frivolous issues often brought up by candidates, keep those interested in voting away from the polls, students say. Candidates openly flouting Election Commission norms is another reason for a lack of interest in polls, students add. The most frequent complaint? Professors injecting their political views in their lectures, even when it has nothing to do with the subject.

An incident that took place on Monday evening—the last day of campaigning—in Zakir Husain College horrified students. Shakti Singh, a candidate for DUSU vice-president, along with some outsiders, was denied entry to campus by staff. Singh's supporters—who were wielding sticks—retaliated by breaking down the gate, rushing in, destroying college property and intimidating students, according to videos shot at the scene.

Some of Singh's supporters shouted 'Bharat Mata ki Jai' and 'Jai Shri Ram'. This incident ended only when a senior police officer intervened. The students of the college received a great fright. This led to security being tightened at the polls on Tuesday and barricades being installed at the entrance to the college. Over 100 police personnel, men and women, were deployed to maintain law and order.

However, despite these arrangements, folks from outside the university turned up near the campus—in SUVs with Haryana and Uttar Pradesh number plates— and distributed pamphlets and attempted to influence students who came to cast their votes. Delhi University students said freshmen loved the experience of casting their first vote and felt confident that voting was free and fair.

Abhijeet Singh, a student of Motilal Nehru College, was the last student to cast his vote during the day polling. He was made to sign an affidavit in which he wrote down the total number of voters that he saw on the EVM machine while casting his votes. Similarly, the first two students who came to vote were made to sign an affidavit stating that the EVMs recorded zero votes before the polling officially opened. According to PTI, around 700 electronic voting machines (EVMs) were installed at 52 centres.

However, there were allegations of supporters of leading parties employing children from nearby hutments to attempt to influence voters and distribute pamphlets. These children, who were found distributing NSUI pamphlets, refused to allow their picture to be taken or demanded money for the same. In fact, one child distributing NSUI pamphlets was wearing an ABVP candidate's T-shirt.

The author is a student of Zakir Husain Delhi College, Delhi University in the Political Science department


Updated Date: Sep 13, 2018 07:52 AM

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