Why NSUI’s Win in DUSU Elections is a Half-Triumph for Congress
Before the Congress goes into over-drive to tom-tom its victories in the Delhi University student elections as evidence of a political comeback, here are some serious reality checks.
The Congress-affiliated NSUI won two of the four seats. The other two were bagged by the RSS-backed ABVP.
So, the Congress’ performance is at best a half-triumph.
In fact, ABVP’s Mahamedhaa Nagar was the best performer of all four. She defeated her NSUI rival by 2624 votes to win the post of secretary.
Best Performer, A Face of ABVP Violence
Mahamedhaa, by the way, was a prominent ABVP face during last year’s violence in Ramjas College when the rightwing students’ organization shut down a seminar on the Naxalite problem.
The ABVP was protesting the presence of Umar Khalid who along with Kanhaiya was in the eye of the political storm that rocked JNU in early 2016 when the BJP and the saffron parivar first brandished nationalism as a stick to beat all its critics with.
While the Congress has chosen to blame the ABVP’s poor performance on, among other things, the brand of hypernationalism promoted by the rightwing, there was clearly no such backlash against Mahamedha.
If anything, her role in the Ramjas incident may have been her best calling card in the student election. The Congress should, therefore, be careful not to jump to hasty conclusions about the fading attraction of BJP planks such as nationalism, Hindutva, etc.
Huge Jump in NOTA Votes
But the real story of the DUSU election lies in the huge jump in NOTA votes, from less than 10 % last year to 16.5% this year. It screams disillusionment with student wings of mainstream political parties and should be a cause of worry for both the Congress and the BJP in their attempts to reach out to educated young voters ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Had there been a viable third force, perhaps it could have caught the imagination of the students and sprung a real surprise.
Remember, it is this very disillusionment with the tired politics of the BJP and the Congress that led to the rise of an outsider like Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi. And even after devastating knocks in Punjab and the Delhi MCD polls, AAP is still alive and kicking in the Capital as the recent assembly bye- election in Bawana proved.
AAP won that seat by an impressive margin, relegating the BJP to a poor second and the Congress lagging at third place.
A Partial Comeback For NSUI
It is important, therefore, to see the DUSU results in the right perspective.
ABVP has lost and its five-year domination of DU’s student politics has ended abruptly. But the fact it still controls half the union shows that it is down but not out. NSUI’s victory is not an endorsement of the Congress party and its politics. NSUI has won by default, so to speak. Its comeback is only partial.
At the same time, there are straws in the wind that should serve as a warning for the BJP and from which the Congress can draw some lessons if it cares to learn. While a student election is by no means a pointer to popular national mood, it does reflect the mind of the educated young voter.
NSUI’s victories in DU come on the heels of its impressive performance in recent polls in Guwahati, Rajasthan and Punjab Universities. It is safe to assume then that the educated urban youth is flashing a message. And the message is to the ABVP and its mentors in the RSS and BJP to keep campuses free of divisive, polarizing and violent politics.
Message Not For ABVP Alone
After the Modi government assumed office in 2014, ABVP has been on an expansion spree in universities across India, trying to capture new areas.
Much of its outreach has led to violence and disruption. The suicide by Rohith Vemula in Hyderabad University and the upheaval in JNU after that are two examples of the muscular and aggressive nature of the ABVP’s expansionism.
It is significant that during the DUSU poll campaign, a lot of the resistance to the ABVP came from girls who protested against the rightwing student organisation’s goonish tactics. In fact, at one college, the girls ganged up to throw out ABVP campaigners.
The message from students is not about ABVP alone. Campuses are not insulated from the larger national narrative which is increasingly dominated by debates on beef lynching, abusive social media trolling, diktats on food habits, clothes and anti-Romeo squads, freedom of expression and the right to dissent.
Young people the world over do not like to be dictated to. Students in India are no different. The rejection of ABVP in recent student elections is a signal to the BJP and RSS hypernationalism does not go down well with the educated urban youth.
Young voters were the backbone of the Modi surge in 2014. It is worth recalling that he began his election campaign in 2013 with an interaction with students of Delhi University’s prestigious Shri Ram College of Commerce.
Students of DU have sent out a warning to the BJP. But they have also signalled through the high NOTA vote share this time that the Congress is just a default option.
(The writer is a Delhi-based senior journalist. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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