New Delhi: Delhi University’s student elections, seen by many as the crucible of national politics, won’t be fuelled by the customary hostility between the country’s two main political parties when 85,000 students get a chance to vote for their union on Friday.
The reason: proctor Gurmeet Singh has disqualified most of the candidates fielded by the student wings of the ruling Congress and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for breaching the election code of conduct. That leaves the field open to the Left to take control of the students’ union for the first time in the university’s history.
University elections are often used as a springboard to the national stage by student leaders. Raising the rhetoric levels on campus gives them a chance to get noticed for a larger role in the party.
In 1979, the Left-backed Students Federation of India (SFI) managed to win a lone post in the students’ union, but missed the coveted president’s office.
This time the party is “confident of winning” the president’s post, said Robert Rehman Raman—a member of SFI—the student’s wing of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPM, who approached the proctor’s office on Thursday to complain that rival student factions were printing pamphlets to get SFI candidates disqualified.
The use of printed pamphlets and car rallies are what got candidates into trouble with the Delhi University authorities.
Singh, a chemistry professor whose job as a proctor is to maintain discipline, is enforcing electoral guidelines set by the Lyngdoh committee (a panel headed by former chief election commissioner J.M. Lyngdoh).
“This time I have stopped that shakti pradarshan (show of strength),” said Singh, referring to the use of motorcades and hundreds of thousands of printed pamphlets by student leaders to canvass for votes.
Three candidates each of the National Students’ Union of India (NSUI), the student wing of the Congress party, and the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) backed by the BJP, stand disqualified for violating one or the other of the guidelines.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court dismissed a petition by NSUI candidate Deepak Negi and ABVP’s Rohit Chahal, challenging the rejection of their nominations for the polls. The candidates had moved the apex court after the Delhi high court on 1 September dismissed their petitions, refusing to interfere with the university’s decision.
The election guidelines allow candidates to use only handmade pamphlets and bar the use of vehicles for campaigning—an attempt to control rising expenditure by candidates in student elections.
Both the ABVP and the NSUI said the strict guidelines such as a cap of Rs5,000 on expenses would curb students’ ability to campaign.
“It is a slow poison to end student activism,” said Hibi Eden of NSUI.
Political parties, which back student leaders, had opposing views on Delhi University’s action against student candidates.
CPM leader Brinda Karat said “the kind of money that was spent in university elections set a bad example for democracy”.
A BJP spokesman said though the party was in favour of stopping malpractices in student union elections, the “wholesale rejection of nominations is not a good sign”.
PTI contributed to this story.