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Delhi University Students Union (DUSU) Elections: A Festival of Democracy

It’s that time of the year again when student leaders across the university try to woo the students to elect them as their leaders. The dynamics of students’ politics has changed a lot over the last a couple of decades in DUSU elections as narrated by students and people who have seen this election over the years. A group of students feel that DUSU elections are all about people who want to get into mainstream politics, money, muscle power and is infected by caste combinations. There’s another group of students who feel that DUSU elections is a great platform to understand the value of their vote and get a glimpse of how the world’s biggest democracy operates.

When I finally made up my mind to pen down my thoughts on DUSU elections, having witnessed them myself over last 14 years, I was surrounded by a dilemma, whether to be unbiased towards both the ideologies but having interacted with some students myself changed my opinion to focus on the former than on the latter.

As a member of the prestigious Delhi University, for almost fifteen years, in different responsibilities, it is important for me to help students and other stakeholders understand how we ourselves are responsible for whatever we observed in the DUSU polls year on year. My goal to write today is to be able to answer all the apprehensions which surround the students and teachers about DUSU.

One can assume that people who contest in DUSU elections or college elections are future leaders and or at least aspire to be leaders in their lives. One should, however, not have a myopic vision to envisage these students getting into mainstream politics, only.

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DUSU leaders, as I like to call them, have been and will continue to be successful journalists, academicians, for everyone has a different understanding of leadership. Having said that, it stays a harsh reality that our country really has a dearth of effective leaders. However, there is no shortage of leaders in the country. DUSU and other University elections have given great leaders to the country, thus making it of great significance. Mr Arun Jaitley, Mr Ajay Makkan, Mr Vijay Goel, Mr Vijender Gupta are a few to mention. Recently nominated to Rajya Sabha by President of India, Mr Rakesh Sinha also contested for DUSU president in 1986. The list of successful entrepreneurs, journos and academicians is very long. Mr Rajat Sharma, Mr Ashok Tandon and Mr Shriram Khanna are to name few.

DUSU, as a platform is a great opportunity not only for students who are contesting the elections but also for other students to show and develop their leadership skills by following the elections closely and motivating their peers to come out and vote in larger number.

A large section of students do not participate or take a keen interest in DUSU elections because they feel that the entire election is polluted by money, muscle power and caste. Students who have good leadership skills tend to get pessimistic because of the aforementioned reasons and mostly don’t get support from their parents and teachers. Political Stalwarts, University representatives and think tanks are now focusing more on a leadership vacuum in India than at leadership at a global level. Any vacuum needs to be filled up sooner or later. The only question is who fills it and how soon?

It is a harsh reality that DUSU elections are now dominated by various caste factors and majorly these combinations are proving palmy for almost all the students’ organizations. But for this dominance of caste politics in university, students are equally responsible as much as the student organizations. Swami Vivekananda defined a leader or leadership, as not merely a position where someone gets the necessary power to give command over a group of other men and women.

In Vivekananda’s point of view, leadership is a work of responsibility, it is a duty. Unfortunately, most often, we have failed to be a leader and don’t fulfil our responsibility of choosing the right leaders. We have not shown enough interest to vote and elect our leader, a leader who can represent us. The poll percentage of DUSU elections is abysmally low and it’s falling every year. Student’s organizations such as ABVP and NSUI which dominate DUSU elections have fielded candidates from all the castes and economic background over the last five decades. But their choice majorly depends on what the student community demands.

All these political parties want to win the elections and therefore they tend to support candidates whom the students want to elect. Tomorrow, if students community decide that they want a to elect a leader who has good oration, carries a pleasing personality and is strong in his/her academics, the student organizations will be pushed to support the candidate with required skills. But unfortunately, students at large choose an easy way of turning a blind eye to DUSU elections and hence result is clear in front of us.

The youth of this country is making a tremendous contribution towards the development. We have seen almost everyone coming out with their perspective, ideology and thought process on social media. There’s a great sense of satisfaction to see students coming forward to participate in debates, crucial dialogues and decision making. We have improved percentage of voting at State and General elections but we are lacking behind in University elections. DUSU is recording around 40-50 % voting over the past few years.

Another aspect which leaves many in a conundrum over DUSU elections is the role of national-level political parties. I feel the presence of the student organizations affiliated with these political parties is important to both strengthen the role of students in building democracy and identification of future leaders. DUSU is a sizable election where candidates have to cover around 50 colleges spread throughout the city. The time of the campaign has also been reduced from ten days earlier to now almost 3-5 days only. Because of the paucity of time, it is almost impossible for candidates to reach out to each and every college and hence it becomes easy for the student’s community to relate their own ideologies with those of the organization which is backing the candidates.

DUSU has been led by RSS backed ABVP and Congress backed NSUI. Almost all the students studying in university colleges and departments are aware of the policies and ideology of both the groups at local and national level. Thus, it gets easy for them to elect the candidates on the basis of ideologies and the narrative these national parties are set at centre stage.

NOTA has also been introduced in DUSU and votes in NOTA are also increasing. However, to speak from political aspirations the objective with which NOTA was introduced has not been achieved. Students who come unaware about the candidates opt for NOTA. In my view, election officers must think of some innovative steps like a brief introduction of all the candidates on their website or maybe launch a mobile application on DUSU elections, having information on all the candidates. This will help students choose and make a wise decision.

I put forward my views today, with a hope that students across different DUSU affiliated colleges will come out in large number and vote in DUSU elections 2018. Participating in elections is very important for our democracy and the future of our country. University, with the help of NSS and other students, should also come out with ideas similar to that of Election Commission to motivate students to participate in the festival of Democracy called DUSU elections.

Before I conclude, I would like to quote Nobel laureate, Mr Kailash Satyarthi, “The power of youth is the commonwealth for the entire world. The faces of young people are the faces of our past, our present and our future. No segment in the society can match with the power, idealism, enthusiasm and courage of the young people.”

For, the youth needs direction; they can change the world and what better way to begin than to understand the power of their vote, the power to change who leads them, the power to empower!

(The author is a former leader of DUSU) 

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