One student, one vote: How Arun Jaitley helped change DU polls
Jaitley was elected as the DUSU president as an ABVP candidate in 1974, a year before Emergency rule was imposed in the country. Last year, in a blog titled Revisiting the Emergency, Jaitley called himself the “first Satyagrahi” against the Emergency.
In 1973, when Delhi University (DU) reformed the way it used to conduct students’ union elections and allowed all students to vote, Arun Jaitley played an instrumental role in making that possible.
Jaitley, who was the president of the students’ union at Shri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC) at that time, led the university’s longest students’ agitation along with fellow Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) members in support of the reforms.
Sri Ram Khanna, a professor at DU’s department of commerce and former DU Students’ Union (DUSU) president (1972-73) shared a long association with Jaitley since their SRCC days.
Khanna, who was associated with the ABVP back then, said, “We organised the longest students’ strike that started in November 1972 to January 1973. Tens of thousands of students joined the strike for over 50 days. This strike made the university administration change the DUSU election system from indirect to direct mode.”
He added: “Till 1972, the colleges would first elect 10 councillors. Those councillors then used to vote and elect the DUSU president and vice president. For the first time in 1973 after this long-drawn student strike all DU students got to vote for the first time in the election. ABVP won all the posts and Jaitley was elected as the vice president.”
Remembering him as an “articulate leader”, Khanna said, “I saw him for the first time during a debate in SRCC. He was my junior. He was very articulate. I immediately persuaded him to contest the college union election with me as college union president. We won the election and he became a DUSU councillor and part of the college’s union as debating secretary in 1971.”
After graduating with a BCom (Hons) degree from SRCC in 1973, Jaitley joined DU’s law faculty. He had earlier attended St Xavier’s School in Civil Lines.
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Jaitley was elected as the DUSU president as an ABVP candidate in 1974, a year before Emergency rule was imposed in the country. Last year, in a blog titled Revisiting the Emergency, Jaitley called himself the “first Satyagrahi” against the Emergency. He was arrested from the DU campus on June 26, 1975, under the Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA), for organising a protest against the Emergency.
His former teachers remember him as a “sincere student”. JD Agarwal, a former faculty member at SRCC, said, “Despite being an active member of students’ politics, he never compromised with his studies. He was a regular student. He also continued to participate in the debates. Even after becoming a popular face of the national politics his behaviour did not change at all. He continued to respect his teachers. He eagerly came forward to help the college whenever required.”
Another former SRCC teacher, RN Goel, said, “Everyone in the college used to know him for his debating skills. He was a great orator. He could speak extempore on any topic.”
Simrit Kaur, SRCC’s present principal, said that Jailtey was closely associated with the college because he was a member of its governing body. “We conduct the governing body meetings three to four times a year and he had always been there. He would be listening to every word and asking what the college was doing. Two months ago he attended the college’s annual day as the chief guest,” she said.