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.
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.
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.
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.
Left vs ABVP – Cue the Blame Game
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.
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.
‘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.
Geeta, while concurring with Shrikant’s view, stated that outside participation was unwelcome if it were to result in violence.
Fatigue Takes Over
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.
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.
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.
The guards had formed a virtual human barricade between the Left and ABVP – most of them bleary-eyed and stifling yawns.
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.
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.”
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.