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Let’s play election-election

punjab Updated: Sep 08, 2013 11:16 IST
Aarish Chhabra
Aarish Chhabra
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Creativity is the hallmark of DAV-10 students. No, I am not talking about Ayushmann Khurrana being a product of my alma mater. Don’t even mention Yuvraj Singh. This is about Amandeep Singh Bagria.

Here are the basics if you’ve been living under a rock.



Amandeep Singh Bagria wanted to fight the student council presidential elections at the DAV College in Sector 10, but wasn’t eligible due to some academic guidelines of the Lyngdoh committee. Conveniently, he had a friend called Amandeep Singh, this one’s surname being Chahal, also studying at DAV-10. The two Amans decided that the world was too stupid to spot the difference — Chahal’s turban — and planned that while Bagria would be the face of the campaign, Chahal would quietly file the nomination.



http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/Popup/2013/9/aarish_compressed.jpg

The turbaned Amandeep Singh actually won the seat at DAV-10, though votes were sought in the other Aman’s name. Between friends, they say. HT file photo



Chahal’s documents did not carry his surname anyway, so the ballot paper said ‘Amandeep Singh’, and the voters obliged. After the victory announcement, a gullible professor even took Bagria out as the winner. Inside, actual winner Chahal signed the papers, and that’s when their scheme became public. Farce is the F-word you’re looking for. But don’t be too quick to blame the cheeky young leaders. The friendly farce has its roots in a report prepared by JM Lyngdoh, a former chief election commissioner who has injected campus elections with inherent illegalities. DAV-10 students wanted Bagria, and he wasn’t willing to let go of a sure victory. When a ‘supplee’ is enough to make you ineligible, you’re forced to look for proxies to lead those who want to be led by you.

Lyngdoh panel bars printed posters, vehicles and loudspeakers for campaign. If that makes sense to you, consider this: A gap year, a pending supplementary exam and your age will not come in your way if you want to be a student, but you will not be allowed to take a shot at leadership. Eligible to vote, ineligible to contest.

The expenditure limit of Rs 5,000 remains a joke, underlining that votes can be bought. Philosophically, a limit sends the message that huge money isn’t required to fight elections. Well, filing a nomination costs nothing anyway. The need is to check vote-buying on the ground, not to just espouse elitist philosophies that work as blinkers.

Convictions aside, an ongoing criminal case is enough for your nomination to be rejected. No, we can’t trust the voters to reject you. So let’s just club professional campus brawlers with those arrested while protesting a hike in fee, the severe shortage of teachers or a gangrape.

Speaking of criminality, the Lyngdoh panel, in its 2006 report, also considered the manner of student parties to be permitted: “It was generally felt that organizations such as NSUI, ABVP, AISF, SFI etc., had a tendency… to unnecessarily politicize the election process. The involvement of these organizations… leads to the creation of rival factions within the students, which, in turn, leads to the subservience of the ultimate goal of democratic student representation.” A democracy without rival factions is what the committee wanted. So let’s all enroll in Utopia University.

On the same page, the report quotes a UGC panel, which acknowledges: “Political activity in universities is natural because the university is a community of thinking people, of those who […] criticize and evaluate every idea before accepting it... Teachers and a section of students are not only voters but they can also be candidates in local, State or Parliamentary elections. We, therefore, see nothing wrong in political parties being active on the campuses.” But after making the moot point, the UGC committee argues: “… much of [the] ‘political’ activity which we noticed and sensed on the campuses is of a degenerate nature which is a blot on the concept of politics.”

To the practical mind, the argument sounds pragmatic and fair. But that’s the easy way out. Aren’t students, the “thinking people”, supposed to lead the change? If they are exposed to politics off the campus anyway, why have a sham democracy on campus citing the “degenerate nature” of politics?

People who back Lyngdoh’s guidelines underestimate student voters. Well, can you really blame those people in times when the voter can’t even differentiate between two Amans? But at the heart of the problem remains the powerlessness of student bodies, filled with front candidates, having no say in decision-making. The voter is guilty of not seeking more. Real democracy is a tough game, so let’s just play election-election.

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