The United Left Alliance — comprising left-leaning All India Students’ Association (AISA), Democratic Students Federation (DSF), Student Federation of India (SFI) and All India Students Federation (AISF) — on Sunday swept the Jawaharlal Nehru University Student Union elections with candidates from the coalition winning all central panel posts, a day after violence marred the counting process on campus on Saturday.
The Left Alliance candidate for the presidential post, N Sai Balaji, maintained a steady lead since counting resumed on Sunday and won with 2,151 votes. ABVP’s Lalit Pandey came second (972 votes), followed by BAPSA, RJD and NSUI.
Speaking of his loss, ABVP’s Pandey, said that they are taking the results as a win. Talking to News18, he said, “This is the win of our will. The Left had to form a coalition to defeat us. They had to come together to fight us.”
Even before all the votes were counted, celebrations erupted among the Left Alliance supporters on campus as they inched closer to victory.
Before the results were announced, Balaji asserted that the Left Alliance will fight against fund cuts and seat cuts if they won the elections. “Last year, we organised multiple protests against seat cuts and reservation cuts. However, we were attacked by the Delhi Police for the same,” he added.
“The people who accuse JNU of harbouring anti-national sentiments are themselves working against the country,” he also said.
Left Alliance supporters celebrate win in all central panel posts of the JNUSU. Rahul Satija/101ReportersFor the JUNSU vice president’s post, Left Alliance’s Sarika Chaudhary won with 2,592 votes, defeating ABVP’s Geeta Sri, who received 1,013 votes. Chaudhary won by 1,579 votes.
In the polls to the general secretary’s position, Left Alliance candidate Aejaz Ahmad clinched victory with 2,426 votes, while ABVP’s Ganesh Gujar had to settle for 1,235 votes. The Left won by a margin of 1,193 votes.
Amutha Jayadeep, a Left alliance candidate, clinched the joint secretary’s post with 2,047 votes, while ABVP’s Venkat Chaubey received only 1,290 votes. Jayadeep won with a lead of 757 votes.
Counting of votes suspended on Saturday
Counting of votes in the JNU students union polls was suspended for over 14 hours on Saturday by election authorities citing “forcible entry” and “attempts to snatch away ballot boxes” at the counting venue, after the ABVP staged protests claiming it was not informed about the start of the process.
The counting, which was suspended at 4 am on Saturday, resumed at 6.30 pm the same day after two teachers from the Grievance Redressal Cell were appointed as observers for the exercise, officials said.
The deadlock at JNU persisted till evening with the ABVP accusing the election authorities of bias towards the Left outfits and threatening to move court.
The Election Committee, however, issued a statement saying it had made the announcement for counting agents to come and was following the rules.
It said, “A malicious lie is being spread on social media and among students that the Election Committee had not made three announcements and went forth with the entry of the counting agents for post of Central Panel for combined schools and Special Centres.”
As per the established norms, no new counting agents can enter the counting venue, once the seal of the boxes is opened.
“The Election Committee had to reject the request of new counting agents being allowed inside the counting venue. A few students had forcibly entered the building and reached the counting venue, thus we had to suspend the counting process,” it said.
The panel also claimed that their members, including women, faced intimidation.
On Sunday, to ensure transparency of counting of votes, constant announcements are being made about the total vote count and the specific vote share for each candidate.
ABVP, Left accuse each other of roughing up members
The RSS-affiliated ABVP and the Left parties indulged in a blame game on Saturday as they accused each other of roughing up their members in the JNU with the Left even alleging that an attempt was made to kidnap one of their woman members outside the university.
The ABVP claimed their members were assaulted between 5-6 pm by members of the Left bloc. “We were 25 in number and they were 250 in number. They assaulted one of our members and he is currently in a hospital. Some of their women members even tore the clothes of some of our women members,” the ABVP claimed.
This happened outside the School Of International Studies where the counting of votes for JNUSU took place.
Meanwhile, the Left members accused the ABVP members of attacking them in the evening and making an attempt to kidnap them around 10.30 pm. “While coming from the police station after registering a complaint against the goons of ABVP who violently attacked us today, a car with four men from which two men with handkerchief tied on their face came with belt, started beating us from all corners,” alleged a woman member of the Left bloc. She also claimed that they were armed.
Meanwhile, the Left also alleged that ABVP members were stationed inside the campus armed with sticks, a charge denied by the ABVP.
Ahead of the elections on Friday, it was a fiery presidential debate with candidates alleging that “anti-national” elements were present on the institute’s campus and the country was turning into “lynchistan”.
In view of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, JNUSU elections are vital in the political scenario of the nation. Requesting anonymity, some JNU students opined that the university is the core of youth politics and since many young leaders from JNU are currently contributing to national politics, the varsity election would also set the tone for the 2019 Lok Sabha election.
During his presidential debate speech on Wednesday night, Balaji, now the JNUSU president-designate, had said that the country was turning into ‘lynchistan’. “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,” he had said.
“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 had said the “future is rainbow and not saffron”.
Lalit Pandey, the ABVP candidate, alleged that there were “anti-national” elements present on the campus and promised to “fix” them if voted to the post.
The RJD candidate Jayant Kumar — first time RJD fielded a candidate in JNUSU polls — 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.
High voter turnout
The voter turnout in the keenly contested JNUSU election was 67.8 percent, believed to be the highest in six years. Over 5,000 students cast their votes.
“Since 2012, the elections are being conducted as per the Lyngdoh Committee recommendations. In the last six years, I have not seen such a high voting percentage,” an official had said.
Last year and in 2016, the voting percentage was 59 percent. In 2015, the voting percentage was 55 percent. In 2013 and 2014, the percentage hovered around 55 percent while in 2012, the voter turnout had reached 60 percent.