Inside JNU’s Counting Night Fest: More Than Just Left-ABVP Clashes
Drama, allegations and slogans – the JNUSU polls have all the ingredients of a political potboiler in the making. 
Drama, allegations and slogans – the JNUSU polls have all the ingredients of a political potboiler in the making. (Photo: The Quint)

Inside JNU’s Counting Night Fest: More Than Just Left-ABVP Clashes

It was 4:30 am and yet dhol and dhapli beats continued to resound in the air around Jawaharlal Nehru University’s School of International Studies building, where the votes polled for the student union were being counted.

After nearly 24 hours of high-octane drama (a vandalised counting centre, at least one FIR filed and allegations of violence), the student camps showed no signs of slowing down on their sloganeering – with the Left Unity and ABVP both battling it out with equally loud chants.

(Photo: Malavika Balasubramanian/The Quint)

The beats would only halt when the loudspeaker announced poll trends intermittently, resuming again once the announcement ended – even as assigned party workers scrambled to jot down the trends as quickly as they could.

Also Read : JNUSU Polls 2018: Left Leads ABVP in All 4 Central Panel Posts

The Deadlock

The counting of votes had begun late 14 September, only to be stalled into the wee hours of 15 September, reportedly after some cadre from the ABVP attempted to break into the counting centre and allegedly attacked the members of the Election Committee.

According to chairperson Himanshu Kulshreshta, ABVP members had attacked members of the Election Committee and attempted to snatch away sealed ballot boxes and ballot papers.

The ABVP, meanwhile, had alleged that their polling agent was not called upon by the EC before the counting, and had indulged in a “gross violation” of the JNUSU constitution. “The rule provides that each ballot paper must be shown to the counting agents of all the candidates. EC members broke the seal of ballot box of School of Sciences in absence of the counting agents,” their statement read.

(Photo: Malavika Balasubramanian/The Quint)

The violence resulted in a 15-hour deadlock between the opposing student outfits and the EC, with the election body demanding an unconditional apology from the ABVP. Ultimately, counting resumed on the evening of 15 September - with initial trends suggesting a Left Unity lead.

Also Read : JNUSU Polls 2018: ABVP Attacks EC Members, Counting Halted

Left vs ABVP – Cue the Blame Game

(Photo: Malavika Balasubramanian/The Quint)

Alleging an attack on her fellow students, current JNUSU president Geeta Kumari told The Quint that they had been threatened “with belts and blades” by some unknown faces.

The ABVP has called in goons from outside. These people who were attacking us did not look like JNU students. They were unrecognisable, and didn’t look like they were even from the ABVP.

Refuting Geeta’s claims, ABVP JNU president Vijay Kumar alleged that a “false narrative of violence” was being weaved around his outfit. “The stories about ABVP goons beating up students and attacking them is completely false. It is a Left conspiracy,” he said.

(Photo: Malavika Balasubramanian/The Quint)

‘Outsiders at JNUSU Elections Aren’t New’

Further, another ABVP member Kushagra said outsider participation in the JNUSU elections was hardly anything new. His friend - Shrikant Mishra, a student of Rajasthan University – had come from the neighbouring state just to witness the famed JNU elections for the first time.

(Photo: Malavika Balasubramanian/The Quint)

Geeta, while concurring with Shrikant’s view, stated that outside participation was unwelcome if it were to result in violence.

It is true that we have always had people who are not students take part in the elections - such as our alumni, etc. But now they’ve started using these people to beat us up, and that is an issue.

Fatigue Takes Over

(Photo: Malavika Balasubramanian/The Quint)

Meanwhile, the tent was dotted with students scattered about, lying in awkward angles as they caught some shut-eye before the results were announced.

With their candidates not faring as well as they would have liked, the BAPSA and CRJD sections of the tent were relatively more subdued, with infrequent sloganeering.

(Photo: Malavika Balasubramanian/The Quint)

Speaking to The Quint, Bhagyashree, a first-timer at the JNUSU elections and a BAPSA supporter said the drama from the preceding day had “overshadowed” their politics.

The politics that we stand for – unity for oppressed and marginalised sections of the community – has been overshadowed in this Left vs Right binary.

Among all the drama and noise, we also spotted one soul, kind-hearted enough to get the guards stationed at the venue, some tea for their efforts.

(Photo: Malavika Balasubramanian/The Quint)

The guards had formed a virtual human barricade between the Left and ABVP – most of them bleary-eyed and stifling yawns.

(Photo: Malavika Balasubramanian/The Quint)

As the night wore on, the ABVP experienced a surge in the School of Sciences – a traditional stronghold – before the Left again wrested control, with the School of Social Sciences and School of Languages coming into play.

(Photo: Malavika Balasubramanian/The Quint)

When questioned on their apparent impending loss, ABVP JNU president Vijay Kumar had just one thing to say - his party’s real victory was the Left’s “desperate attempt at unity.”

The fact that three Left parties, who otherwise traded barbs at each other, have been forced to fight the elections together so as to defeat us – that is our biggest victory.

And despite all the commotion the makeshift tent has witnessed over the last two days, the action is hardly over yet. But for now, it appears that JNU might just be painted red all over again.

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