I realized Student Politics does reach an unprecedented level at Delhi University. The commencement of the session meant that an inquisitive and perhaps impressionable crowd of freshers still finding their feet and undergoing the transition from school to college were being attracted towards the buzzword-in-chief phenomenon: GAINING EXPOSURE! This is where unpaid internships and student politics reigned supreme in guaranteeing the fulfillment of these lofty promises to a fresher.
The Initial Experience
My remembrance of the most notable visuals of students campaigning in college leads me to Sri Venkateshwara College. My lunch in the college canteen was interrupted by these activists cum chamchas, garlanding us, robotically folding hands and chants of “Vote for NSUI” being blared into our ears. The chants subsided as the campaigners moved on to table after table and our sight steadied itself to our table where we spotted a bunch of pens and notepads lying scattered.
In the days that followed, doling out freebies as free meals, movie or amusement park tickets were commonplace. A Eureka moment made me realize the fact that campaigning in student politics imitates its tainted self that is employed in the state or national elections wherein political parties organize functions giving out oozes of alcohol, food or narcotics (maybe! remember Udta Punjab?). Elections then, be it in student politics or the serious politics is based on monopolization of votes “by hook or by crook” which is echoed in the same breath as “everything is fair in love and war”.
When my perception changed
Being on the favorable side of the student wing of a political party certainly had its perks which were all too apparent now. However, a friend’s involvement with the student ally made me realize the repercussions of being on their wrong side with a senior casually warning us against the involvement, “College ke andar nahi ghusne denge”. We were naïve enough to take that in jest.
It was only 1 and a half years later, on 22nd February 2017, the date when Ramjas boiled in protests. That for organizing a lecture? Seeing DU’s North campus resemble a curfewed Kashmir with barricades and an ample police presence that I started contemplating the validity of that senior’s warning. A second Eureka moment was in the offing now as I realized that student politics mirrored the state or national level politics in that it too relied on the suppression of a dissimilar ideology which may be viewed as hostile to one’s own.
Promotional visibility matters
Then came the magnanimous exhibition of power for campaigning in the Delhi University Students’ Union (DUSU) polls, competing to capture more eyeballs with their frequent roadshows, tons of pamphlets being carpeted on the corridors, classes, and streets of the campus for decisive viewership. Hell, I even saw some plastered in washrooms, maybe to ensure that the user
gets in reading time whilst conducting their essential business. It was strange that these pamphlets never really talked about addressing the more serious student issues.
Clean is Student Politics at Hindu College
My first encounter with the good that can come from campus politics was at Hindu College. A well-defined Manifesto was presented to the students present in the classroom followed by a round-up of the work undertaken by that candidate and his comrades. These included the physical assurance placed in front of each and every student and included photos of metallic boards and
refurbished notice boards along with a series of letters exchanged between those students and the college authorities over the delay in the construction of the girls’ hostel and other underlying issues such as the hostel fees etc. However paltry these achievements may seem to be, it was a pleasant departure from campaigning tactics employed in the DUSU Polls, beaming greater validity to the candidate with superior decibels. The efficiency and earnestness which I witnessed in Hindu college and am sure would be the case in several other colleges is far from being realized in
the DUSU Polls. Whether that will happen someday is a fanciful idea. All that I am perceiving it to be as of now is an attempt by the political parties to monopolize the ideologies of a vast and humongous student base to bring them into their respective folds.
Student Politics in its entirety needs to focus on tangible goals and objectives such as making the campus more disabled friendly and ensuring that the numerous paid accommodations in the campus have reasonable rents etc, rather than focussing on going up against the powers that be, since the fulfillment of such promises is conditional on the university authorities paying heed to their demands, if not outrightly rejecting them, in which case, valuable time in the student wing’s tenure has been lost, which could have been utilized had the focus been on achievable goals.