AMBEDKAR University Delhi held its first Students' Union Elections on October 10, 2018. In the elections, SFI won 16 out of 26 councillor posts in the Kashmere Gate Campus of the university, making it the single largest organisation in the campus. Moreover, SFI also won 4 out of the 12 councilor posts in Karampura Campus. This victory is important from two perspectives – one, it gives a setback to various strands of anti-organised politics in AUD and firmly establishes SFI and the organised, democratic politics upheld by it. Two, it enhances the overall process of strengthening the democratic student movement at the level of Delhi.
FORMATION OF THE STUDENTS’ UNION CONSTITUTION
The students’ union elections were held after a two year deliberation process between the student community, and the administration. The administration had given the task of drafting the constitution of AUDSU to a group of 48 elected students’ representatives. However, the drafting committee could not work as a collective and at the end of the academic year; the draft was made only by a group of 12 students. While some left the drafting process due to disagreements over issues such as the structure of the union, and the question of reservations, most elected representative were simply not interested. This shows the effects of the neoliberal ideas in the minds of students who discount the need of collective structures, work and action. Of the remaining drafting committee members as well, there was an aversion to any centralised union structure. These tendencies can be located in the propagation of ruling class ideas, which seeks to weaken a united resistance to the status quo. While on some issues there was friction between the administration and the drafting committee (such as over the question of whether the Lyngdoh Committee recommendations should be applicable to the AUDSU constitution), the administration was more or less in agreement with the drafting committee. There are major problems with the current constitution of the AUDSU, which were raised by SFI during the last leg of the drafting process, and in the elections.
The current AUDSU Constitution does not allow for a directly elected central panel. Every programme elects a councillor on an annual basis, who in turn forms the Council (the highest decision making body of the Union). The councillors then elect a seven member core committee, which has only a six month mandate. Therefore, in the tenure of the union, the core committee needs to be elected twice. Moreover, the core committee has a mandate only to facilitate the meetings of the council, and is not allowed to take any decision. All of this makes quick decision making impossible, and will affect the ability of the union to take up issues with the administration. In the name of decentralisation, what the current constitution ensures is that the union will not be able to ensure its effective functioning and hence become a toothless tiger. SFI, during the election campaign raised this issue among the student community, and asked for their mandate to change the constitution on the lines of the JNUSU constitution which allows for direct election of a central panel, and gives the office bearers greater ability to unite the student community behind issues.
Moreover, the questions over representation and the enforcing of Lyngdoh Committee recommendations on the draft constitution are not acceptable. LCR has over time proved to a tool of the ruling class, wherein student activism is curbed due to the restrictions upon age, and attendance of candidate. On the other hand, it has failed to curb the use of big money in student union elections across universities such as DU.
ELECTIONS AND FUTURE
Some organisations such as the Dalit Bahujan Adivasi Collective and the Queer Collective had boycotted the elections over their concerns of representation. SFI shares those concerns, but was of the opinion of contesting elections, and using the newly formed students’ union as an instrument to develop social justice mechanism in the university, and within the students’ union.
The other organisations which contested the elections were Progressive and Democratic Students Community (PDSC) (a coalition of Gandhian, Anarchists, post-Marxists, Trotskyites, and Ultra-Leftists), All India Students’ Association (AISA), and the ABVP. It is to be noted that the ABVP were scared of the anti-Hindutva discourse set by the SFI and other organisations in the campus, and as a result fielded some of its members as ‘independent candidates’. In Kashmere Gate, SFI won 16 councillor (of which 12 were unanimously elected), PDSC won 4, AISA won 1, while 3 independent candidates were elected. The elections for the Committee for Prevention of Sexual Harassment (CPSH) were also held along with the students’ union lections. In the CPSH election, DBAC and AUDQC contested together. Out of the five student representatives to the CPSH elected by undergraduate and postgraduate students, SFI won 2, while AUDQC-DBAC won 2. An independent supported by SFI also won. What is worth noting is that the SFI candidates secured the highest number of votes. Our candidate for CPSH in Karampura Campus was also elected.
As promised in the election manifesto, SFI will continue to build movements on the issues of hostels, scholarship for the economically weak students, the formation of SC/ST/OBC Cell, and will strive to strengthen the CPSH. This is to be done through building a broad unity of students on these issues. However, the spectre of identity politics, the culture of NGO-run student organisations, and the general effects of neoliberalism leading to a depoliticised student community shall remain the major challenges for SFI in AUD.
The recently formed unit committee of SFI has been guided by the first conference of the SFI – AUD KG Unit (which was held on October 4, 2018) to take these challenges seriously. In the report adopted by the conference, it is mentioned that a two-pronged strategy must be adopted to counter such tendencies. On the one hand, there is a need to take up issues of the marginalised sections and work towards clinching them, so that trust can be generated among students from these sections. On the other hand, the disruptive tendencies of some of the student groups – which work as agents of the administration – should be continuously exposed among the student community. Moreover, the KG unit, with the help of the state committee of SFI plans to expand organisation in other two campuses of AUD by the next academic year. The electoral victory will definitely help gear the organization to meet the huge challenges that it faces in the future.