Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU)
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JNU Students’ Union elections
JNU still a red bastion, but SFI no more the leader
Manash Pratim Gohain TNN
The Times of India 2013/09/17
New Delhi: Jawaharlal Nehru University remains a red bastion. But the organization that dominated students’ politics there for nearly 25 years received its worst drubbing in 2013. Students’ Federation of India, CPM’s student wing, failed to win even a councillor post in JNU Students’ Union polls. In the contest for the four central panel posts, SFI fell below NSUI and ABVP in three. The decline of SFI has been attributed to deterioration of left politics in general and CPM’s weakening in particular.
in 2013, SFI’s presidential candidate came an embarrassing fifth; the group has won the president’s post just once since 2004, and no central panel post since 2007. The expulsion of some of its senior-most members in July 2012 — they’d first formed SFI-JNU and later Democratic Students’ Federation — for opposing CPM’s support of Pranab Mukherjee’s candidature for the post of President may have driven the final nail into the coffin.
Political scientist Yogendra Yadav says, “Established Left has lost its moral and ideological charm. This was compounded by the split. When SFI started looking like a wing of the political establishment, AISA emerged as a formation that represented radicalism. The youth is naturally attracted to radical movement. There is an emerging space in national politics for alternative politics. In JNU, at least for now, AISA appears to have captured that space.”
Emergence of SFI in JNU dates back to just before the emergency, the same period which produced prominent leaders such as Sitaram Yechury and Prakash Karat. But even then, among the Left organizations, CPM was considered “elite”. As JNU’s roll strength grew, students from semi-urban and rural background also multiplied. This, some Left analysts claim, resulted in the emergence of a “genuine Left” like Progressive Students’ Organization, which many say was a precursor to AISA.
The president of PSO in JNU in 1980-1981, a senior journalist now, Urmilesh says, “JNU has been a campus of some of the best minds and has a tradition of secular democratic ideology. The students are idealists and therefore the influence of Left has been immense. The fall of SFI is not an isolated incident; it’s connected to the decline of CPM’s political attractiveness. AISA has been raising issues like Nandigram. Leftleaning students who couldn’t shift to NSUI or ABVP, got an alternative in AISA.”
Former president of JNUSU (1985-86) and a senior journalist T K Arun says, “It has to do with the overall deterioration of Left politics. Though JNU remains a Left stronghold, the mainstream Left is not identified with raising issues such as poverty.” AISA has been present on campus since 1992; they contested JNUSU elections first in 1993, winning three central panel seats including president.
Questions are being raised on CPM’s treatment of its best student leaders. In fact, according to former JNUSU president (2001) Albeena Shakil, “Except one former president, nobody is with CPM. One lot joined the Congres. From 2000 onwards, all the anti-Congres JNUSU presidents from SFI have been expelled.” She argues that CPM is “close” to Congres and that puts off majority of the voters.
AISA wins, ABVP second
The Times of India, Sep 14 2015
ABVP wins seat in JNU after 14 yrs In a comeback after 14 years, ABVP secured a JNU central panel seat in the students' union when Saurabh Kumar Sharma, who won by just 28 votes, took oath as the new joint secretary on Sunday , reports Shreya Roy Chowdhury . In 2014, ABVP candidates came second for the posts of VP and general secretary but, in both cases, the gaps were appreciably wide.
In 2015, ABVP second runners are practically snapping at the heels of the firsts with just 234 and 213 votes between them and the winners from AISA. ABVP last made a dent in the Left stronghold when Sandeep Mahapatra, who became president in December 2000.
The Times of India, Sep 11 2016
United Left wipes out Right, Feb 9 fails to impact outcome
If the main goal of the Left was to decimate the right-wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad this election, it has been achieved. The alliance of All India Students Association and Students' Federation of India won all four central panel seats in the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union elections. Mohit Kumar Pandey of AlSA is the new JNUSU president. A sizeable section of the student community believe that this is the true verdict on JNU, its stand on the February 9 Afzal Guru event and the ensuing furore.
The results were declared on Saturday night, the same day as DUSU's, and are a remarkable achievement by the election committee considering the paper ballots are counted manually and there's no EVM in sight.
Not only did AISA-SFI leave ABVP biting the dust on central panel posts, its wings have been clipped in the schools as well. ABVP has scored just one councillor seat--a massive drop since last year when they claimed to have scored 11--and that too in Sanskrit Studies. Left students maintain that even science school votes have gone to independent candidates. Left unity has scored big, winning 14 of 15 seats in the schools of Social Sciences, International Studies and Languages. The other seat has gone to a Left group too--Democratic Students' Federation.
Pandey got 1,954 votes but won by a relatively narrow margin, perhaps hobbled by Sonpimple Rahul Punaram of Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students Association. Clearly the latter's appeal doesn't extend to the rest of his group. Punaram got 1,545 votes. “Look at the margins by which ABVP lost! I will work towards preserving the democratic space on cam pus,“ says Pandey .
Similarly , AISA's nominee for joint-secretary--Tabrez Khan--faced stiff competition from DSF's Pratim Ghosal, but managed to win 1,670 votes. Ghosal got 1,308.The two candidates who won by the widest margins are from SFI--Amal PP for vicepresident (2,461 votes) and Satarupa Chakraborty , for general secretary , with 2,424.ABVP came second in both these posts but lost by a margin of over 1,000 votes.
All of them agree that this, finally, is the real ver dict on the February 9 event.All the actors who were the prime targets of the antiJNU campaign and who did time in jail--Umar Khalid, Anirban Bhattacharya and Kanhaiya Kumar--were present during the celebrations.They surrounded a rag-doll representing the death of ABVP and hauled it out on a charpoy like you'd carry a dead body .
“This shows unity within the campus--students came together after February 9 and stood with JNU,“ says Chakraborty .
The Times of India, Sep 09 2016
`Jai Bhim' the war cry this JNUSU polls
If the number of “Jai Bhims“ presidential debate at Jawaharlal Nehru University is taken into account, Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar seems big in the students' union polls. It seems each candidate wants to stake a claim to the movement following Rohith Vemula's suicide and anti-Dalit violence across the country.
The Left Unity's presidential candidate, All India Students' Association's Mohit Kumar Pandey , is being considered by his students' body a shoo-in for president, although he's more popular in Delhi University . Their confidence is inspired by the fact that all Left-leaning students would vote for him as there are no other candidates from the Red bastion in the fray .
Pandey spoke about the “Stand with JNU“ movement that took place after the February 9 Afzal Guru event, BJP MLA Gyandev Ahuja's condom-counting arguing that JNU “divides“ people. Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi was not spared. “He's moved from being Pradhan Sevak to Pradhan model,“ he said, referring to the advertisement campaign of a telecom firm.
He also reminded students about the “Occupy UGC“ protests against the scrapping of non-NET fellowships and the struggle against DU's four-year undergraduate programme. However, the Left Unity -an alliance of AISA and Students' Federation of India (SFI) -came in for criticism, as did Pandey for training his guns on Birsa-AmbedkarPhule Students' Association (BAPSA) before Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP). National Students Union of India's (NSUI) Sunny Dhiman and ABVP's Janhawi Ojha were also seen chanting Jai Bhim along with the rest. The other candidates included Sonpimple Rahul Punaram of BAPSA and Deelip Kumar from Students Front for Swaraj, who is in the race for the first time.
BAPSA looked significantly more confident this year with more supporters, drums and cheering. They are propelled by the anger generated by Vemula's suicide, violence against Dalits and crackdown on Ambedkarite groups. Calling himself Kabali, Sonpimple declared, “This wave is of an Ambedkarite movement.“
He accused AISA for “defending a rapist“ and taunted SFI with the Supreme Court verdict on Singur and killing of Tapasi Malik. He promised to work on reducing dropout rates at JNU and in troduce minority deprivation points. He shone better while answering questions, encouraging ABVP's Ojha “to read Ambedkar“ and stated that he won't “go begging to the VC“ for anything but “topple him“ instead.
Ojha, the only woman in the line-up, said that she represents a party that “has won student elections from Kashmir to Kanyakumari.“ “We are the voice of people troubled by Naxalites and Leftists in Jharkhand and West Bengal. ABVP has fought for Indian languages in UPSC exams, for higher education and against floods in Bihar,“ she said.
Calling herself Babbar Sherni, Ojha told the Left, “You are not JNU.“ She bashed AISA over the rape case saying, “When rapes happen outside the campus, it's Nirbhaya. When it's on campus, it's kuchh nahin hua.“
NSUI's Dhiman said that the Left groups “hid in their rooms“ after the last JNUSU president was picked up by the police following the February 9 incident. “The radical people are responsible for the rise of ABVP on campus,“ he said. He also spoke at length about meeting Vemula's mother and asked if “Bharat Mata gave birth to people who beat Dalits and Muslims.“
Members of All India Student's Federation (AISF) and Democratic Student's Federation (DSF), though present in the crowd, came without their trademark daflis and were some of the quietest participants. AISF isn't contesting the polls and DSF has a candidate only for the post of joint secretary .
ABVP member, others can vote
A BVP's Saurabh Kumar Sharma has been allowed by the JNU election committee to vote on Friday. Earlier, the JNUSU joint secretary was barred from voting for involvement in the February 9 incident. Some other students have also been allowed. TNN
BAPSA emerges as strong force
The Times of India, Sep 10, 2016
Till the candidates from Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students Association (BAPSA) filed their nominations, the Left groups had no inkling they'd present the main challenge. The strong position of the new group's presidential candidate, Sonpimple Rahul Punaram, on the Jawaharlal Nehru University campus election 2016-17 has surprised everyone.
In JNUSU election, 59.6% of an electorate of about 8,600 voted — a turnout significantly higher than last year's 53%.
Polling at the School of International Studies (SIS) was halted because a councillor candidate's name was missing from the ballots.
Even AISA members said they didn't see BAPSA coming. "During the movement against the government and after February 9 and Kanhaiya Kumar's arrest, Shehla Rashid Shora, former vice-president and Rama Naga, general secretary, took over and generated goodwill for AISA. But the Left wasn't able to engage BAPSA in debate. There was no ideological dialogue till they filed nominations," said AISA's Sucheta De.
"Some are tired of the existing Left structures. Punaram, son of a rickshawpuller, has washed dishes in a canteen and he's the sort of leader common students want," said a member of another Left group. His speech at the presidential debate and pugilistic tone, helped.
"Now BAPSA's commitment to Ambedkarite politics will be tested," added De. Various members from the Left including Umar Khalid, have questioned BAPSA's politics and countered their claim of joining the movement after the Afzal Guru event. The Left maintains they even stayed away from protests against the High Level Enquiry Committee investigating it.
There are rumours that right-wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) is propping BAPSA up. "We aren't against just ABVP's politics but want to toss even their culture out. The oppressed unity is supporting us," said Punaram. But ABVP is clearly pleased to see BAPSA do well as the spreading votes drastically improve their chances of scoring a seat — exactly what Left Unity was created to avoid. BAPSA's Habeel MM said the organisation — a little over a year old — has the support of non-contesting ones such as Students Islamic Organisation, Youth Forum for Discussion and Welfare Activities and Jharkhand Tribal Students' Association. "BAPSA is visible this year. The situation outside — the Rohith Vemula issue, the lynching at Una — has brought attention to us too," said Habeel.
JNU is red again.With 32.6% of vote share, 10% points more than second best ABVP, the alliance of `Left Unity' bagged all four central posts in the JNU Students' Union polls. Left Unity , comprising AISA, SFI and DFS, also won 13 councillor posts.
While Geeta Kumari of AISA defeated ABVP's Nidhi Tripathi to become JNUSU president, Simone Zoya Khan (AISA) bagged the VP's post beating Durgesh Kumar (ABVP). SFI's Duggi rala Srikrishna and DSF's Shubhanshu Singh were elected general secretary and joint secretary, respectively. While Left Unity swept the JNUSU polls, the results of which were announced, the rightwing ABVP put up a close fight till social science votes went overwhelmingly in Left's favour, pushing the organisation out of the race.
“It was a straight fight between two ideologies.They (ABVP) gave us a good fight. The credit for the mandate goes to the students who still believe that democratic spaces should be saved. This is a victory for the ideology of social justice,“ said Geeta Kumari, the JNUSU president-elect.
As in the presidential debate, independent candidate Farooque Alam gave a gutsy performance, getting 419 votes without any organisational base and coming fourth in a sevencornered election. Alam got more votes than AISF's Aparajitha Raja.
Unlike the rest of the Left organisations, AISF decided to go it, as they did in 2015 when Kanhaiya Kumar won the election.However, this time, its presidential candidate finished fifth. The results show that the “silent“ Dalit and minority politics of the Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students' Association (BAPSA) had found favour with many . It is likely to be part of JNU politics at least for the time being. “Our supporters are silent voters. They don't make a lot of noise or come out in processions, but they vote for us,“ said Sonpimple Rahul Punaram, a senior leader.
The same, however, can't be said of Congress' National Students' Union of India (NSUI). At 1.7% vote share, it got fewer votes than even NOTA, making “NOTA se bhi chhota“ the punchline of the counting evening.
While ABVP got the maximum number of votes in science schools and special centres, Left Unity swept the rest of the schools. However, even in its strongholds, ABVP lost 173 votes to BAPSA and 72 to NOTA.
The contest remained close till the ballots of the School of Social Sciences were opened where BAPSA made major gains, pushing ABVP to third position.
Although BAPSA slipped at School of Languages, Left Unity won hugely here and sealed its pole position.
Vote share for President post, JNUSU- 2017-18
The 2018 results
Calls It Victory Of Students Against ‘Fascist Administration’
The Left coalition swept the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union polls again this year, warding off the saffron challenge in an intensely fought election that saw the highest voter turnout in recent years.
Left Unity, an alliance of four groups (AISA, SFI, DSF AND AISF), won all four central panel and 15 councillor posts, the results of which were announced on Sunday, with N Sai Balaji of AISA defeating Lalit Pandey (ABVP) by a huge margin of 1,179 votes for the post of president.
Left Unity routed its rivals comprehensively in the other three top posts as well, with Sarika Chowdhury (SFI) winning the vicepresident’s post with a 52% vote share. Aejaz Ahmed Rather of DSF and Amutha Jayadeep of AISF are the new general secretary and joint secretary, respectively.
The resounding victory for the Left came amid a massive voter turnout of 67.8%, 9 percentage points higher than last year. The elections were marred with tussles, allegations of rigging, a 15-hour blockade and a night full of rumours of violence.
Calling the results a victory for unity of students against the “fascist JNU administration”, Balaji said: “This election has shown the true face of ABVP and the administration which is anti-democratic. Since there are no EVMs here like DU, they tried to disturb the counting process and falsely accused the neutral EC.”
The new president, a PhD student at the School of International Studies, has been in JNU since 2014. Hailing from Hyderabad, he did his undergraduation from Institute of Management Studies, Noida.
On ABVP terming the Left Unity an “alliance of compromise”, Balaji said their coalition was that of like-minded students “who want to defeat the ABVP, which wants to turn the campus into ‘Lynchistan’.”
Reacting to the results, the saffron group said they has achieved a “moral victory” in the elections.
All four panel candidates of the Left Unity were voted to power by close to 40% vote share. The lowest margin of victory (800 votes) was in the joint secretary’s election, where Jayadeep polled 39.6% of the votes while ABVP’s Venkat Chaubey got 24%.
Balaji polled 2,161 votes to defeat his closest rival from ABVP who polled 982. BAPSA’s Praveen Thallapelli got 675 votes. Interestingly, Chattra RJD too made its mark in its maiden elections with its presidential candidate Jayant Kumar polling 540 votes.
Balaji promised that he would ensure there are no problems in research due to fund cuts. “The reservation policy must be implemented and the Rs 515 crore loan taken by the university administration must be opposed.”
The victory was particularly sweet for the Left as a majority of left-leaning outfits came together with a single point agenda of defeating the ABVP, which is aligned ideologically with the BJP. In 2016, arch rivals AISA and SFI had come together in the backdrop of the February 9, 2016 ‘anti-national’ sloganeering incident on campus. The alliance has grown since then, with two other groups (DSA and AISF) joining it.
One of the highlights of this year’s election was the erosion of support for ABVP in the science schools and special centres, which were considered saffron bastions. This year, Pandey polled 378 votes while Balaji got 335 votes — just 43 votes less — from these schools.
“The Left would never get these many votes from the science schools as they have this year. This is because of the support ABVP gave to Atul Johri, the professor accused of sexually harassing students of the science schools,” said Mohit Pandey, former JNUSU president.
This was corroborated by the new vice president Sarika Chowdhury who said she took lead in the science schools “as many came out to vote in anger against the ABVP and its tacit support to Atul Johri.”
However, the win for the Left did not come easy. While counting was held up for nearly 15 hours on Saturday, the Left camp said its cadres were roughed up in the university. Former AISA general secretary Satarupa Chakrab orty and JNU student Sumitran were allegedly beaten up on Saturday night, after counting had resumed.
BAPSA concedes no.2 spot to ABVP
BAPSA, the relatively new player in the JNU campus politics, has failed to sustain itself in the university’s high-voltage politics, losing its second position in the 2017 students’ union polls to ABVP this year.
While last year Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students Association (BAPSA)’s vote share was 20.2%, it dipped to 13% this year. The performance is disheartening, given the fact that even in 2016, when the Left parties like AISA and SFI had come together for the JNU Students’ Union (JNUSU) polls, the newcomer BAPSA came a close second with its presidential candidate’s speech at the presidential debate laying the ground for the organisation.
While a Left Unity member blamed “poor organisational structure and no concrete ideological backing” for the slip, BAPSA claimed that its performance hadn’t faltered. “We have been working hard this year and built our organisation. But the reservation policy was not met and viva-voce marks were hiked to 100%, making it difficult for students from marginalised sections to enter JNU. We missed out on this support,” said Shabana Ali, BAPSA’s presidential candidate in 2017.
She pointed out that BAPSA had got a councillor’s seat at School of Arts and Aesthetics, traditionally a Left bastion. “Politics in JNU is tough as it is like a fort which we have to break into,” Shabana added.
BAPSA’s poor performance has made ABVP the principal opposition in the campus, though it is still far behind the Left Unity’s almost 42% vote share. While for the president’s post, the AISA candidate got 41.8% votes, the ABVP candidate could manage only 18.9% votes. Its joint secretary candidate did relatively better with 24% vote share.
“We see it as a moral victory where we fought alone but the Left had to form an alliance to stop us as they know that our popularity is increasing on the campus,” said ABVP presidential candidate Lalit Pandey. “While the Left believes in propaganda politics, we talk about issue-based politics. The students have made ABVP the single largest party in this election and we have got more votes,” he claimed.
In its official statement, the right-wing student organisation said they had accepted the mandate and would continue its fight against the Left violence. “ABVP will continue to be a constructive opposition on JNU campus and will keep fighting for students’ rights. The biased act of election commission in JNUSU elections is against the democratic system of the university,” it said.
Congress-backed NSUI did better than last year when they had got less votes than NOTA, but still the new entrant RJD’s presidential candidate fared better than it with 540 votes.