DUSU polls: Lyngdoh panel recommendations go for a toss as unions splurge
If you thought the elections to a students’ body would be all about ideology and youthful exuberance, it’s time you visited Delhi University campuses for a reality check. While the exuberance is unmissable, it is also difficult to miss how vices normally associated with bigger elections have crept into the prestigeous educational institution.
New Delhi: If you thought the elections to a students’ body would be all about ideology and youthful exuberance, it’s time you visited Delhi University campuses for a reality check. While the exuberance is unmissable, it is also difficult to miss how vices normally associated with bigger elections have crept into the prestigeous educational institution. There’s effort to bribe voters. On offer, students say, are electronic gadgets such as mobile phone handsets, i-pads and tablets and KFC buckets. They talk in whispers about money changing hands too. The elections are due on 11 September.
With an aim to keep money and muscle power away from campus elections, a committee headed by former Chief Election Commissioner JM Lyngdoh had in 2005 recommended a cap of Rs 5,000 on election expenses per candidate. In addition, the panel had formulated other rules and regulations for cleaning up campus politics. As per the guidelines, no printed pamphlets are allowed and parties are supposed to use only handmade posters for campaigning. Candidates are barred from utilising funds from any source other than voluntary contributions from students. The use of loudspeakers, vehicles and animals for the purpose of canvassing is also prohibited.
However, there are clear indications that committee’s recommendations are being flouted with impunity. In last year’s elections, a few candidates are believed to have spent anywhere between Rs 1 crore and Rs 1.5 crore. A stroll across North and South campuses gives one a clearer picture on the lavish spending. There are billboards, hoardings and posters everywhere. The roads adjacent to any college of DU are flooded with pamphlets and posters of various political parties. While the Lyngdoh committee suggested that campaign be limited to 10 days, it has gone on for more than 30 days this time.
A student at Delhi School of Social Work (DSSW) told Firstpost on condition of anonymity, “Voters are being enticed with lavish parties. Yes, electronic gadgets and KFC buckets are offerd. All unions affiliated to political parties have been indulging in this for years and this time it’s not different. However, it does not necessarily mean students get swayed by these consideration.”
There seems to be a consensus among all students’ unions on the cap of Rs 5,000 on election expenditure. All of them say it is “unrealistic”. But they deny bribing voters stoutly.
“The amount is not even sufficient to manage even the petrol expenses, forget about a full-fledged campaign,” said ABVP’s Delhi state secretary Saket Bahuguna. But he refuted allegations that ABVP indulges in bribing students. "We don’t need such kind of malpractice as we are a cadre-based party and have presence in all colleges of Delhi University. We have tremendous support of students because we work for them by raising their issues. We are confident of winning the elections,” he added.
NSUI’s national spokesperson Amrish Ranjan Pandey said, “Although we do not cross the expenditure limit set by the Lyngdoh panel, the cap should be revised. We always oppose the use of unethical means to win elections. This is only a propaganda being spread by our rival groups to tarnish our image,” he said.
Explaining how the expenditure limit is “unrealistic”, Kumar of Concerned Students said, “There are around 7,000 students in JNU and at least 1.5 lakh students spread over 50 colleges of DU who are eligible to vote. As printed pamphlets are banned, if a candidate gets two sides of his handbill photo copied to distribute it, he or she will have to spend Re 1 on each copy. Rs 7,000, will be spent on required 7,000 copies to reach out to all eligible students in JNU. As per the guidelines, it is a violation of the code of conduct. When Rs 5,000 is insufficient for JNU, forget about the DU.”
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