Will DUSU repeat the same mistake?


How young student leaders are trashing Delhi University norms as well as a High Court order in the run up to the country’s most glamorous Students Body elections

Delhi University Students Union (DUSU) is one of the biggest and most glamorous university students’ unions in the country. Even though the polls to elect the unions at university and college levels in Delhi University is set to take place only in the second week of September, the students’ parties have already swung into action.

While the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) has finalised nine hopefuls for the DUSU candidature, Aam Aadmi Party’s students’ wing, the Chatra Yuva Sangharsh Samiti (CYSS), has announced its return to the electoral fray politics after a gap of two years. Meanwhile, the Congress’s National Students’ Union of India (NSUI) has been demanding a more transparent election process, and the Left’s students’ body, the All India Students’ Association (AISA), has been regularly taking out rallies and marches on campus.

The defacement of public properties across the city is also quite visible, especially in the form of banners and pamphlets being flooding campuses. Stickers carrying names of candidates and their respective party names can be found practically anywhere and everywhere inside college campuses, from canteens to washrooms; the names of young leaders—hoping to contest the polls—will follow you everywhere on campus.

Most importantly, all of this is happening in violation of DU election norms. The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has also rapped the knuckles of university officials over their blatant wastage of paper during the campaign. In 2017, the Delhi High Court had issued much-needed guidelines for student’s parties and candidates to abide by—most important of which was to penalise candidates responsible for defacement of college properties and metro stations.

A ‘trend’—and that too an innovative one—has erupted in colleges ever since the guidelines came into the picture. Although posters and cards continue to float around campuses, there is a catch: it involves a minor spelling mistake, in order to avoid cancelation of their candidature and legal action.

Some candidates are ‘smarter’ and don’t directly say “Vote for XYZ” on their pamphlets. What they do is hand out pamphlets with “Welcome to the college” written on them, followed by the name of the party next to it, or a “May I help you” pamphlet, along with the party’s name. Names can be seen engraved in the most random of places, from flyovers and metro stations to cars moving about the roads of Delhi.

It will also be refreshing to see candidates explore new ways through digital means to achieve the same effect as their on-ground campaigning, keeping in mind that the Delhi High Court’s guidelines prohibit defacement for campaigning purposes, and encourages social media instead.

Since students’ parties are yet to finalise their candidates for the upcoming DUSU elections, campaigning for this too, is yet to begin. At the same time, campaigning for college unions has already begun in most DU colleges.

Many candidates believe that the guidelines are difficult to adhere to—especially since “campaigning toh karni hi padegi na.” Since campaigning is allowed, so will posters and pamphlets too —only now there will be a dedicated space for this called the ‘Walls of Democracy.’

Each college will assign two walls: one for DUSU campaigning and the other for posters/pamphlets for campaigning for the College Union. However, most colleges are yet to assign these walls. If the college does not assign the two walls when DUSU campaigning begins, in that case, the college authorities will also be held accountable for unwarranted posters, pamphlets and slogans on the walls.

Sandeep Sherawat, who is planning to run for the post of President at the Dyal Singh College (Evening) said: “We prepare way in advance for campaigns since the time span allotted by the university isn’t enough. We weren’t aware of the guidelines when we got these cards printed. Now it’s best to use them instead of wasting them. But we have resolved not to get any new ones printed, and use Facebook and Instagram to campaign from here on.”

When asked about the defacement thing place on campus, I S Bakshi, Principal of Dyal Singh College (Morning), told Campus Politik: “For people who are slightly changing their names during campaigning, I think it is important that we check around the campus when they file their nominations and if any such evidence is found, it (their names) will be cancelled.” He further added: “It is nothing but a very unethical gimmick to promote themselves. I believe the election commission is competent enough to cancel the nomination of those candidates.”

Bakshi said that a two-member committee, comprising of one senior faculty and one police inspector from the local police station—as required by Delhi HC guidelines—has already been created to keep campaigning in check.

We’ll be waiting to see if DUSU is doomed to repeat the same mistakes as before during its campaigning phase. But if the trend continues, the bigger question is whether penal action will be taken against offenders?

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