Vinay Sinha [Finally… an aspiring politician with a difference. He didn’t want to be named!] is a seasoned NSUI member and hopes to eventually become a national leader. He tells us why he chose the DU platform.
What makes the DU elections different from all the other student body elections in the country?
DU elections mean instant recognition. A candidate gets publicity from all over. Practically every newspaper features them. It is the first step for the candidate’s political career. He/she can go on to contest the municipal elections and then for an MLA seat. It is the best way to get noticed by Youth Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. Considering there are 82 colleges involved in the whole of DU, these elections are bigger than an average MP’s election. It is the perfect launching pad.
Give us a real picture of the road to DU elections.
It all depends on the parties you are associated with. With the NSUI and the ABVP, one must have money and the muscle power. Links with the nearby villages are important. But most importantly, you have to be from the right caste. There are candidates belonging to the SC and OBC quotas. They even get tickets, but no one has won so far. The campaigning is done like any other proper political party. There are rallies, posters, banners and speeches. Everything that is done in mainstream politics is carried out here. The Presidential candidate has to make everyone happy. Alcohol and food is passed around in the hostels. Freshers parties and other parties are thrown.
Just as a political party tours slums and various communities to make sure they get the votes, a presidential candidate has to make sure he/she pleases various communities too. It is important that the candidate makes the Jaats and Gujjars happy. These two communities are heavily into politics and have a lot of connections. The candidates also have to placate the Biharis and other minority communities.
The Congress and BJP cannot directly fund the student candidates, but it all done through ABVP and NSUI. A tonne of money is spent on the campaigning. Fancy cars are brought into the picture and more than 20 cars are
used at once.
And all this has to be done within a span of 10 days, as the registrations of the candidates are done by 25th of August and the elections are held by the 4th or 5th of September every year.
How much money was being spent on the elections up till the previous years?
There is no ball park figure. It depends on how much a candidate wants to spend. I know people who have spent about Rs 10 lakh to Rs 25 lakh. You need to look after all the 50-60 people who do your campaigning — their daily travel, food and alcohol, and the parties thrown for the hostelites. These cost a lot of money.
In the intra-college elections, similar things are carried out, but there the candidates have to struggle a lot because inside their own colleges there is a limited scope of getting votes.
Were the rules really followed this year (even by students who have not been disqualified)?
It was not so in the beginning but as soon as six students were disqualified, the opposition members started to keep a tab on who is doing what and if someone deviated from even one norm, they would file a petition against them. So after this candidates stuck to the rules.
How have the elections changed over the years?
You will see a distinct difference in the quality of candidates. Arun Jaitely, who was elected president in 1974 was a great guy. But now students just want to settle for an easy life with lots of money. For example, this year’s winner is a Buddhist studies student. There is no scope with such a subject, therefore, elections are the best way out.
There has been another change in the trends lately. Over the past 4 or 5 years it has been seen that a pretty face goes a long way. The girl chosen last year was a first year student who knew nothing about DU, but just because she was good looking, she garnered a lot of votes and surprisingly landed herself a ticket!
So, what’s the road ahead for you? Has DU helped you prepare for your political career ahead?
I would like to take up politics ten years from now. DU elections has taught me how to approach the people [basically how to spread alcohol!] and appease them. It has also taught me about intra-party politics which means that one has to be alert around their very own party members.
They began at DU too
Arun Jaitely: Jaitley was Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) student leader in the DU campus in the seventies and rose to be President of the University Students’ Union in 1974. He was actively involved in the anti corruption campaign launched by Jai Prakash Narayan. He is now a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha and has previously served as a Union Minister for commerce, industry, law and justice.
Ajay Maken: He became the President of DUSU
in 1985. He is now a member of the Indian National Congress and a member of the 15th Lok Sabha
Alka Lamba: She joined the National Students Union of India in her second year at B Sc. She then later contested the elections for President in 1995 and won by a huge margin. She is now a member of the All India Congress Committee.
Vijay Goel: He was elected as the President of DUSU in 1977 on an ABVP ticket. He is now the All India General Secretary for the BJP.
Rajiv Goswami: He won the elections as an independent candidate in 1991. His self immolation bid against the Mandal Commission’s recommendations for reservation for backward castes started a wave of protests around the country.
What was new this year
The DU elections 2009 saw a lot of changes. The rules chalked out by the Lyngdoh committee in 2006 were finally implemented this year. These included:
> Rs 5,000 limit on election expenses per candidate
> No posters, printed pamphlets or any other printed material for the campaigning was allowed.
> Elections to be held on a yearly basis and the same should be held between six and eight weeks from the date of commencement of the academic session.
> To prevent the inflow of funds from political parties, candidates are barred from utilising funds from any other source than voluntary contribution from the student body.
> No academic arrears for the candidates in the year of contesting elections.
> 75 per cent attendance has to be maintained.
> The age limit is now restricted to 28 years, even for research students and if you have won the elections once, you cannot contest again.
Basic background of DU elections
There are two core parties — the ABVP (Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad) and the NSUI (National Student Union of India). The ABVP is the student wing of RSS [which indirectly means the BJP] and the NSUI is connected to the Youth Congress. Then there are other parties that believe in strong student activism. There are smaller parties, which are against the reservation quota. They have been around for four years now.
There are 82 colleges in DU and there are two elections that take place simultaneously. The first one is the intra college election, which selects the college or student body representative. The second one is the President of Delhi University.
For the first time in 18 years an independent candidate, Manoj Chaudary, was selected and he won just by 11 votes. He has now joined ABVP.
The other posts were filled by:
Kirti Wadhera (ABVP) vice-president, Arshdeep Kaur (NSUI) the secretary Anupriya Tyagi (Samajwadi Chhatra Sabha) the joint secretary