DUSU elections 2017: Left wing's hopes of repeating JNUSU poll results seem to be far-fetched

Left wing student organisations' thumping victory in the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union elections has led many leaders of the winning front to believe that the same mandate would be achieved by it in the Delhi University Students Union election too. But a close scrutiny into the prevailing political culture in Delhi University shows that the terrain there is quite unfriendly for the Left.

Soon after the JNUSU election results were announced, Left wing students organisation All India Students Association came out with a press release where it buoyantly claimed that the results would have bearing on the DUSU elections to be held on Tuesday.

“The mandate of the JNUSU elections is a strong message for the power-protected gang of hooligans that the minds and souls of students can’t be captured by the threat of violence. The students of DU will give a strong mandate for a university without violence, academics without fear and country without hate," claimed the release.

Representational image. Getty Images

Representational image. Getty Images

The enthusiasm among the Left wing students organisations over the JNUSU results was understandable. Though JNU has been a Left stronghold for several decades, challenges were quite high for it to win the election this time, due to the rise of caste-based identity politics in the campus.

Emergence of Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students Association (BAPSA), which is seen as an outfit based on caste-based identity politics, has challenged the traditional Left wing student politics in JNU.

The BAPSA leaders have been criticising the former AISA-SFI-led student union, stating that its members were upper caste, who were suppressing the real struggle against Brahminism on the campus.

There has been fear among Left parties that the emotional appeal of caste-based identity politics would lead to division of Left wing votes.

Division of Left votes could have made way for ABVP’s victory. Last year, the Left alliance was limited between AISA and Students Federation of India. This year, it was further fortified by taking Democratic Students Federation on board.

The alliance is seen as one of the reasons behind the Left wing's victory in JNU campus.

The advantages of a suitable alliance with like-minded parties is not available for the Left in the DUSU elections, which has long been an ABVP stronghold.

The left and right binary is not quite clear in DUSU elections historically, unlike in JNU. In the last ten years, Delhi University has seen six ABVP, one independent and three NSUI presidents. The Left wing students' organisations have been absent in this position.

The only Left organisation which has some hold in Delhi University is AISA. If it has to ally to prevent ABVP from winning the election, the natural choice has to be National Students Union of India. There is a belief among AISA leaders that allying with NSUI would result in it losing its own votes. For alliance also means sharing of seats. AISA voters may not vote if their leader is not given a chance to contest.

The disadvantage of not being able to ally with other students organisations is likely to result in the division in secular vote bank between AISA, NSUI and others.

Indifference among many of the students for campus politics also puts AISA on the back foot. The voting percentage in DUSU elections has been as low as 44% in past two years, which only means that polling is concentrated among the party-affiliated voters rather than among the neutral ones. This gives ABVP another advantage because it has more than 60,000 members in the student community.

Caste-based politics, which has always been playing a major role in DUSU polls right since it was first held in 1954, is also seen as a factor against the Left wing.

On most occasions, the candidates fielded by arch-rivals ABVP and NSUI have been from the Gujjar or Jat community. The website DUbeat reports that from 2011 to 2017, every DUSU president has been from either the Jat or the Gujjar community.It further said that not just presidents, but often the entire panel hails from these two communities.

No wonder the caste-based identity politics gives the DU elections the feel of mainstream Indian politics, where caste-based emotional appeal plays a decisive role in voting patterns than issues, giving ABVP an edge over AISA.

The ABVP also has the facility to depend on a senior force for strategies. Many of the leaders of the ABVP stay back in the youth wing of the party and work behind the scenes for the organisation. They are called permanent members. They are a constant source of guidance for the young ABVP workers.

The permanent members devote full time to devise election strategy, which is lacking among other parties.

Updated Date: Sep 12, 2017 13:54 PM

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