JNUSU Elections: The War Between a Fractured Left & Empowered ABVP

The Left may have to pay for its inability to come together as a united front against the ABVP in the elections.

3 min read

Torchlight procession being led by students belonging to the Students’ Federation of India, 5 September 2016. (Photo Courtesy: SFI JNU/<a href=";album_id=1213047132050755">Facebook</a>)

There seems to be no disagreement among the Left and progressive groups in JNU about the dangers and consequences of the rise of the ABVP in the campus. Their threat was visible in the events that followed 9 February, as much as it was indicated by the results of the last election, when ABVP managed to secure a seat in the central panel after a gap of 14 years.

The necessity, and subsequent display, of a united stand in the ordeal that followed 9 February did raise hopes that the same consensus would be extended to the upcoming elections.

What transpired in the run-up to the election, however, was not only unfortunate but also raised doubts about the intent and risk of petty partisan differences.

The so-called United Left alliance, or to put it more correctly, the AISA-SFI partnership, reveals how easily partisan egos undermine response to an immediate threat, if not a speculative bid to strip smaller groups like DSF (Democratic Students’ Federation) of their influence.

It does make voting for the alliance a pragmatic choice, especially so in the light of consolidated base of ABVP, lest the votes get divided.

AISA and JNUSU stage a demonstration against JNU rape case outside Delhi police headquarters in New Delhi on 25 August, 2016. (Photo: IANS)
AISA and JNUSU stage a demonstration against JNU rape case outside Delhi police headquarters in New Delhi on 25 August, 2016. (Photo: IANS)

United Left Front Missing

Keeping out DSF, or for that reason the BAPSA (Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students’ Association), isn’t the most appropriate response; and certainly not the most efficient because of the additional competition it generates, at least in one of the seats of the central panel.

What is more disturbing, however, is the pretext put forward by AISA for the apparent failure to come up with a united effort.

DSF can’t be blamed, according to one of their members, because a general call for unity came through Facebook and no ‘direct’ communication was done.

It is obvious AISA can’t have it both ways, but that’s still not the point. The point is how fragile the intent to fight fascist tendencies appears when confronted by partisan egos.


Kashmir, the Bone of Contention

Apart from this justification for the absence of ‘direct’ communication, AISA, and to some extent other parties, have elaborated on difference of opinion on the Kashmir issue as being tantamount to irreconcilable difference.

Undoubtedly, Kashmir is an extremely sensitive and crucial issue, so much so that even a minor difference in opinion can’t be ignored.

However, before such subtlety of opinions can find a meaningful place in the political discourse, they need to confront, first and foremost, the threat of being silenced by the ever-imposing right wing influences.

AISA’s fears and apprehensions clearly are manipulated, or at best miscalculated. Any failure to keep the ABVP out of the central panel would invariably result in the curtailment of the very space where opinions can be asserted and contested. This would be a far bigger attack on whatsoever little ground that remains to discuss Kashmir as a political problem.


Threat from Right Wing Politics

It is therefore rather appalling that despite identifying the danger of right wing politics, the opposition has failed to gauge its enormity. Mere emphasis on the threat, in absence of an adequate and strategic opposition, might not yield a desirable result.

A fractured Left would only compromise the success of resistance. It is also evident that the Left and progressive groups have enough common ground to come together as a united opposition to ABVP.

They acknowledge the same set of problems; the differences exist only in the identification of possible solutions and course of action. It is of utmost necessity, therefore, to first secure the grounds of debate and dissent and then find ways to work out differences. Partisan ideals must resolve the nuances of opinions, not obstruct attempts to fight forces that inhibit opinions.

I am otherwise as politically indifferent, if not ignorant, as the tag of ‘common man’ lets me be. The fact that I did not vote in the last university election, and for no convincing reason, makes my claim to being the ‘common man’ more believable.

The intent was not to take sides, or slander a particular group, but to press for the necessity of a united fight back. It is important to make a pragmatic choice, but not without recognising the limitations of the choice. Harbouring illusions of sufficiency in what is a pragmatic would imply complacency and, inevitably, distract us from what is actually necessary.

(The writer is scholar of Medieval and Early Modern History at Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University. This is a personal blog and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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