After a presidential debate that continued till the early hours of the next morning, all eyes were on the polling day, September 6th. The much awaited debate was marred by violence by ABVP supporters against their SFI counterparts, which injured one of the Left comrades. Time and again, the former have engaged in violence on campus, particularly during election time.
The counting process could not begin on the same day due to a High Court stay on declaration of results until September 17th. This was after two petitioners approached the Court against the Election Commission. Notwithstanding the interference by the administration, counting finally commenced on the afternoon of September 7th.
The campus has erupted with slogans of Laal Salaam as the Left alliance has retained all the four seats of the Central Panel. Everyone is celebrating the victory of the left front against the right-wing forces. At a time when chants of Jai Shree Ram and Bharat maata ki jai are becoming common and an outfit such as Hindu Defence League has come up in JNU, an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty had gripped the campus. The rise of Fascist Hindutva forces was to be resisted. At the same time, every one felt a need for change. The onslaught of the administration has enfeebled the student as well as teaching community. The need for a strong Union that would not give in to these attacks was strongly felt. The Left alliance seemed to be the only hope. The mandate has clearly proved that the JNU student community has once again rejected the divisive, extremist, Hindutva politics of ABVP. It has restored faith in democracy and peaceful resistance.
However, it must be taken into account that ABVP has emerged as the second largest party after the Left alliance, albeit by a large margin. After the Presidential debate, a large number of first-time voters saw Jitendra Suna (BAPSA) and Prashant Kumar (NSUI) as promising candidates. Both of them put up impressive arguments and rebuttals. Indeed, a lot of them voted for one of these for the post of President, and candidates from the Left alliance for the remaining three posts. It is surprising how Manish Jangid (ABVP) could manage to win the second highest number of votes, marginally ahead of Jitendra Suna.
Clearly, the voting patterns have been in favour of the parties rather than that of the candidates. Over the years, mandate after mandate, the student body has stood by the Left activists. Once again, JNU has been painted red. But on the one hand, the growing number of crises that students are facing every single day, be it in hostels or classrooms have infuriated the student body. On the other, the fault lines among the Left parties are a bit too visible.
In this context, one question looms large – is it not time to problematize the Left?
Organizations like BAPSA and BASO, although new, are asserting themselves with great passion and zeal. In fact, they are seen to be critiquing the Left more staunchly than ABVP. But why could Jitendra Suna win many hearts but not votes? Why could Prashant Kumar make his mark yet finish fourth? Can JNUSU have a President from BAPSA in the future? Or are we too smitten by the intellectual elite to give somebody from the marginalized section that opportunity?
This Left victory is to be celebrated as one of democratic and secular values. However, as critical thinkers and politically aware students, we must not make the mistake of allowing the construction of a Left hegemony. The Left alliance must not be made to believe that it is invincible in JNU. Rather, it has to remain accountable and strengthen the struggles for reclaiming our University from a tyrannical administration. We must continue to reflect upon our own decisions and subject our student leaders to constant scrutiny to uphold the democratic ethos that defines our University. Unless we resist the construction of this hegemony, we stand the risk of the Left becoming more Right than Right itself. While we welcome the new Union, let us hope that our comrades continue the struggles and help save the University from the despots. Student unity long live!
Please note: The present article is only a reflection based on trends, the details may alter over time.
Aishwarya Bhuta is pursuing her Masters in Development and Labour Studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University.