Posters are out, so are DU's glam dolls, and their images beaming at you from every bus shelter and wall. The new poster-free regime, regardless of its effectiveness, has had a direct fallout - there are fewer women candidates in the fray. Both the leading students groups on campus - NSUI and ABVP - are looking at fielding only a woman candidate each for the DUSU polls. This when women are in a majority in most DU colleges.
NSUI had only one-woman candidate, Amrita Dhawan, seeking a ticket. Last year, it had fielded two women candidates - Ragini Nayak and Dhawan. ABVP's track record is no better. It formally had two women - Gargi Lakhanpal and Jyoti Mahlawat - among probable candidates this year. But it was understood that only one would make it to the final four. So aren't more women students willing to come out and contest elections?
It appears the problem lies elsewhere. Even if a group has several talented women leaders, they know that only one can contest the poll at a time. Groups are unwilling to field more. "Fielding two women candidates at a time is a huge gamble. Frankly, they are a liability because you have to manage the entire poll for them. Very few have family backing on the scale that men students do and these are the ones who ultimately survive in the system. One also needs to take care of them," said a student leader.
Clearly, there is only a marginal role for women candidates in the current scheme of things. Women candidates can only contest an election for garnering "glamour votes". The real business of arranging musclemen, money, booze, and ultimately votes, is left to the guys in DU.
Normally, by this time photo studios in neighbouring Kamla Nagar are inundated with requests for shooting election portfolios -- many of which would put professional models to shame. This year, however, women candidates find themselves out in the cold.
NSUI and ABVP leaders would, however, have us believe that very few women candidates have asked for tickets this time. "We had only women candidate interested in contesting the polls this time," said Ragini Nayak of the NSUI, outgoing DUSU president. ABVP state general secretary Nakul Bhardwaj, however, asserts that there are many women activists occupying important organisation posts. "People working in the Sangathan may be less visible, but they play a role as important as DUSU office-bearers," said Bhardwaj. Women are seen anyway as a constituency separate from men students. "A woman candidate has to be acceptable for both male and female voters," said a leader.