It was called an experiment, but members of the National Students’ Union of India (NSUI) — the university wing of the Indian National Congress — are realising that the changes are here to stay.
The NSUI held its internal elections in Delhi last week — a first for an organisation used to nominations made behind closed doors.
Many “old-hands” from Delhi found themselves watching from the sidelines. They had been barred from contesting for causing disruptions.
“In Delhi, the interference was a bit too much. The student leaders were themselves tampering with the process,” admitted Hibi Eden, NSUI national president.
Debarred candidates Narendra Tokas, Devraj Tehlan, Mahendra Chaudhary, Manish Chaudhary and Ashish Gehlot — all former DUSU office-holders — would not contest any internal elections for a year, said Eden.
“National office-bearers Amrita Dhawan and Ragini Nayak were served show-cause notices for misbehaving with the Deputy Returning Officer (at Campus Law Centre, DU). Former office holder Ashok Basoya was also involved in the disruptions. We have to ensure that criminalisation of politics does not take place,” said Kommajosyula Jagannadha Rao, general secretary, FAME (Foundation for Advance Management of Elections), the NGO overseeing the NSUI polls.
FAME comprises several former Election Commission officials, including former Chief Election Commissioners J.M. Lyngdoh, T.S. Krishnamurthy and N. Gopalaswami.
AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi had approached Lyngdoh for conducting clean polls for the Indian Youth Congress and NSUI.
Lyngdoh referred him to Rao, a former Election Commission observer, who was credited with the 2005 Bihar Assembly polls clean up.
“Earlier, NSUI office holders were handpicked by the AICC general secretary,” said Eden.
Eden was himself selected through the National Talent Hunt launched by Rahul Gandhi.
“In two-three years, we would be able to internally elect our national president,” said Eden, pointing out that he was the first president from Kerala in 25 years.
The resistance to the reforms was clear. FAME was not informed about the NSUI election schedule in Delhi. It was a fortnight by the time they were informed.
“We informed Rahul Gandhi about the lapse. That’s when we learnt of the irregularities and issued our recommendations on November 20. Action was taken on the same day,”
Indian Youth Congress, as a result, was asked to notify their election schedule in advance. The NSUI panel in Delhi almost entirely comprised fresh faces.