JNUSU Election: Fiery Debates Set the Stage

In one of the most hotly contested student elections in recent times the focus shifts away from student issues to ideological contestations
Shibu Kumar Tripathi Delhi

Amid loud slogans of ‘We stand for JNU’ and ‘9 ka badla 9 ko lenge’ (we will avenge the events of February 9 on September 9), the Jawaharlal Nehru University Student Union (JNUSU) presidential debate was held on Wednesday night. The event ended up setting the tone for the September 9 elections to decide the successor of the incumbent President Kanhaiya Kumar. The 2016 JNUSU election is going to be one of the most talked about student elections in the illustrious history of the institution. The election is being held in the backdrop of the February 9 incident where allegedly anti-India slogans were raised while protesting against the judicial killing of Afzal Guru.

The presidential debate saw a host of issues being addressed by the candidates ranging from the suicide of Rohith Vemula, LGBT rights, repealing of Section 377, the February 9 incident, the plight of tribals, the fate of women who are being used as sex slaves by terrorist organisations like Boko Haram and ISIS. While NSUI candidate Sunny Dhiman took a jibe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi comparing his politics to that of ISIS, ABVP presidential candidate Janhawi Ojha questioned the rape of women within JNU campus and said ‘bahar rape ho to Nirbhaya, campus mai rape toh kuch nahi hua.’ The Left front which has fielded Mohit Pandey for the Presidential post talked about the rising violence against Dalits. Ironically most of the candidates failed to address the common day to day problems of students which include issues of hostel facilities, scholarship delays and campus placements. 

The students came to the debate with the hopes of hearing fiery speeches from the candidates with Kanhaiya Kumar’s 2015 presidential speech in their minds. Rahul, a second year MA students said that, "last year’s speech from the presidential candidates was related to our problems where Kanhaiya talked about the day to day issues of the students, this year the situations have changed and a more political tone has taken over.” Trenchant female students openly dismissed the allegations of ABVP candidate Janhwi Ojha of rape in the campus.

JNU which is a bastion of the left is facing a crisis with legal proceedings taking place against many left backed student union leaders. The elections are likely to be conducted under camera surveillance to curb any wrongdoings. Meanwhile, in a first, the union has appointed a female Chief Election Commissioner to overlook the proceedings.

The 2016 election is being fought between National Students Union of India (NSUI), RSS backed Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and an alliance of Student Federation of India (SFI), and All India Student Association (AISA), Swaraj party has also fielded its student union candidate this year.

As All India Student Federation of India (ASFI) has decided to stay away from the humdrum of the election, this time, left splinter parties of Student Federation of India (SFI), and All India Student Association (AISA) have formed an alliance in the name of Left Unity. Supporters of SFI said that “Since the RSS backed (ABVP) is planning to capitalise on the emotional aspect of nationalism this year to gain momentum in JNU student politics. Therefore it becomes necessary for the SFI and AISA to join hands.” 

While ABVP will be eyeing the presidential post, they will aim to continue their success in 2015 when they ended up winning the post of Joint Secretary and thus ending their 14-year long drought. The last JNU Student Union President from ABVP was Sambit Patra.

The election will be held on September 9; however, officials in the election commission speculate a low turnout as most of the students might leave for their homes on the weekend due to Eid-al-Adha holiday. Officials said that a similar situation was seen last year as well when the vote count fell drastically. Kanhaiya Kumar who was then the AISF candidate won with 1025 votes.