Beyond the news: DUSU polls indicate BJP losing hold on campuses
The stunning defeat of the RSS-backed Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) in the students’ unions elections first in Jawaharlal Nehru University and now in Delhi University indicated a trend that the BJP is losing its hold on campusesdelhi Updated: Sep 14, 2017 19:33 IST
The back-to-back defeats for its students’ wing in university campuses in the country’s political centre should sound alarming bells for the BJP, which had captured the imagination of the youth, especially students, largely due to its popular and successful Brand Modi.
The stunning defeat of the RSS-backed Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) in the students’ unions elections first in Jawaharlal Nehru University and now in Delhi University indicated a trend that the BJP is losing its hold on campuses. Even in Rajasthan, the ABVP’s performance was far below expectations.
The Congress has pegged the victories of its students’ wing, the National Students Union of India (NSUI), in varsities in Delhi and Punjab as its major comeback in campus politics.
For the past four years, the student politics in Delhi University was dominated by the ABVP as the NSUI had last won the DUSU president’s post in 2012.
Understandably, the grand old party is also celebrating the Left victory over the ABVP in Jawaharlal Nehru Students Union (JNUSU) polls.
Away from the national capital, the Left also swept the student council elections on Wednesday in all 22 government-run degree colleges in Tripura where the BJP has been making steady attempts to gain some political foothold.
Of the 778 seats, the two students’ wings of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) -- Students’ Federation of India and the Tribal Student’s Union – won 751 while the ABVP came a distant second with 27 seats. The NSUI failed to open its account.
Back in Delhi, the Congress described the NSUI win in Delhi University not only as a wake-up call for Prime Minister Narendra Modi but also a triumph of liberal values. Clearly, a retort to BJP chief Amit Shah who had termed the ABVP’s victory in DUSU polls last year as the triumph of nationalism.
The politics and discourse in the campuses across India in the past few years have been dominated by a free speech versus nationalism debate that on many occasions led to violence.
The talk of intolerance, vigilante violence and diktats about what to eat and what not to wear appeared to have had a significant impact on the outcome of the recent elections to the students’ bodies, including DUSU.
BJP leaders after every win in the past had claimed that their party was on an upswing arguing that the DUSU outcome reflects the popular mood, the subsequent assembly elections in the city proved to the contrary.
Take, for example, the Delhi assembly elections in 2013 and 2015, which took place a few months after the ABVP had registered resounding victories in DUSU polls. Not only did the BJP fail to form the government in 2013 despite emerging as the single largest party, it was humiliated by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the 2015 assembly polls.
The BJP has been unable to break its 20-year dry spell in the national capital despite the ABVP having an upper hand in DUSU for a major part of the past two decades. The defeat in DUSU also comes barely a fortnight after the saffron party’s loss in a by-election in North Delhi’s Bawana constituency.
The NSUI’s victory brought cheers to the grand old party’s adversary. The AAP did not contest the DUSU polls but many of its leaders, including Sanjay Singh and Ashutosh, celebrated the ABVP’s defeat on Twitter.
Notwithstanding the results, the cause of concern for both the BJP and the Congress should be the increasing use of the NOTA (none of the above) option by students. While this option was significantly used in DUSU elections, more students voted for NOTA than NSUI in JNUSU polls.
Having said that, the DUSU results have no doubt lifted the sagging morale of the Congress, which is desperately looking for big and small electoral successes in a bid to win back the confidence of the people, particularly the youth, after its rout in the 2014 general elections.