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Candidates Battle it Out at Fiery JNUSU Prez Debate Ahead of Polls

The election to the JNUSU president’s post is scheduled to be held on Friday, 14 September.

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In the run up to electing its next Students Union, Jawaharlal Nehru University witnessed a fiery presidential debate ahead of the JNU Students Union (JNUSU) polls, with candidates exchanging heated arguments on issues gripping the university and country collectively.

The election to the JNUSU president's post is scheduled to be held on Friday, 14 September.

In the fray to win the four posts in the union are, RSS-backed Akhil Bharatiya Vidy Parishad, United Left Panel, Congress-backed National Students’ Union of India (NSUI), Dalit-centric Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students’ Association (BAPSA), Rashtriya Janata Dal’s student wing Chhatra Rashtriya Janata Dal (CRJD) and four independent candidates.

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In his speech, United Left Panel candidate N Sai Balaji, a frontrunner for the top post, said, "Mobs are allowed to kill people and get away with it as they have the backing of the RSS and the central government, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The country has been turned into lynchistan."

Representing the United Left Panel — a coalition of the All India Students’ Association (AISA), Democratic Students’ Federation (DSF), Students’ Federation of India (SFI) and the All India Students’ Federation (AISF) – Balaji teared into the JNU administration, ABVP and decisions taken by Vice-Chancellor M Jagadesh Mamidala.

Balaji further posed a question to ABVP, asking them if their faction will demand VC’s resignation for failing students on several fronts like staggering seat-cut, fund-cut to the university and removal of Gender Sensitisation Committee Against Sexual Harassment.

“They won’t ask for it (resignation) because they are glove in hands with the vice-chancellor,” Balaji said, alleging that the varsity has witnessed concentration in decision making powers with the vice-chancellor.

Presenting his coalition party’s model, Balaji asked students to pick between ABVP and their ‘fight-back’ model which has fought for students’ rights despite several FIRs, alleged contempt of court, fines in the last two-three years in power.

"Demonetisation was a failure, there are no jobs as promised and there is a constant attack on higher education," Balaji said on Wednesday, 12 September.

"The year started with violence of Bhima Koregaon and we recently saw the arrests of activists and academics. This government is employing intimidating tactics. Here V-C is destroying the university, which the students have to reclaim," he said.

Referring to the Supreme Court's order that decriminalised homosexuality, Balaji said the "future is rainbow and not saffron".

Lalit Pandey, right wing party ABVP’s presidential pick, alleged that there were "anti-national" elements present on the campus and promised to "fix" them if voted to the post.

The Rashtriya Janata Dal's student wing has fielded a candidate for the first time in the JNUSU elections.

Its candidate Jayant Kumar, much like the Congress-affiliated NSUI's nominee, Vikas Yadav, attacked the Centre over reducing funding for higher education, and lowering the number of seats at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and scuttling with its reservation policy.

The Birsa Ambedkar Phule Student Association's (BAPSA) presidential candidate, Thallapelli Praveen, said his party represents the voice of students from oppressed classes on the campus.

Praveen accused the Central government of shouting slogans like “Bharat Mata ki Jai” but bringing tears in the eyes of mothers like Radhika Vemula and Fatima Nafees (mother of missing JNU student Najeeb Ahmed), The Hindu reported.

Akin to BAPSA’s argument every year, Praveen asked students to think beyond the Left and Right binary.

"The Left parties say that the BAPSA should not be voted for otherwise the ABVP will come. The ABVP is alive and among us and that is the contribution of Left politics on campus. Just don't get caught in the banner of Left and Right politics and work for the oppressed," Praveen said.

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Excluded from Elections Process, Visually Impaired Students Protest

Demanding their right to be included in the election process, some members of the university's Visually Challenged Forum formed a human chain in front of the stage, delaying the presidential debate further.

"We have written several times to the Election Commission (EC) about how the election process is inaccessible to us," said Dheeru Yadav, the convenor.

"We want to use braille for asking questions in the debate but we are not allowed. We have no arrangements for ourselves in the voting process. There are no sign language interpreters and hence the election process is not accessible for the hearing impaired," he added.

Ritesh Tomar, another member of the forum, said, "The EC did not listen to our demands for asking questions in the braille format. The members think it will raise doubts of manipulation in the mind of contenders. For the EC, the doubts of candidates are more important than making election accessible".

Besides routine campaigning, candidates in the JNUSU polls are supposed to give speeches about their agenda at the presidential debate, which is followed by a round of questions.

(With inputs from PTI)

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