AISA Victory in JNUSU Elections

JNU students in victory march led by the newly elected JNUSU President
Mona Das (second from right)

IN the recently concluded JNUSU Elections, AISA won the post of President after 9 years. AISA’s Presidential candidate Mona Das swept to victory, polling 1077 votes and defeating the SFI candidate by a margin of 137 votes. ABVP polled third, with 835 votes on the post of President.

The other central panel posts were won by the SFI-AISF combine, with the ABVP finishing second on the posts of Vice President, Jt. Secy, and NSUI being the runner-up on the post of General Secretary. AISA’s VP candidate Satya Venkata Siddartha and Jt. Secy. Candidate Sanjeev polled around 450 votes, while the General Secy. Candidate Awadhesh polled over 500 votes. AISA also won 3 councillor posts (Seema S. in the School of International Studies, Ajoy Ashirwad Mahaprashasta and Harshita Chaudhry in the School of Social Sciences). AISA’s candidate Kanika Singh also won the post of Student Representative to the GSCASH (Gender Sensitization Committee Against Sexual Harassment). Overall, AISA’s votes have steadily increased since last year.

The JNUSU 2004 mandate not only reflected the students’ aspirations from the Left, it also showed their clear choice in favour of a radical left leadership in JNUSU. In the Presidential Debate, the ABVP candidate was grilled on the question of his organization’s position on women, the Godhra victims’ accusation that BJP leaders appropriated their compensation money, as well as Savarkar’s advocacy of rape as a weapon of Hindutva. The debate focused on the sincerity of various formations in fighting against communal fascism and for democracy. The NSUI candidate was hard placed to defend the Congress-led UPA’s soft stance on communal figures like Savarkar and Uma Bharti, as well as draconian laws like AFSPA. The SFI candidate faced questions about CPI-CPI(M)’s defence of pro-imperialist economic policies and draconian laws imposed by the UPA Govt. He ended up justified consultations with McKinsey rather than left economists, in order to defend CPI(M)’s positions. On the AFSPA, the SFI found itself in an unenviable predicament. When the agitation first broke out in Manipur, the SFI in JNU demanded repeal of the AFSPA. But when the CPI(M) took a position in favour of the Act, the SFI fell silent. Goaded by repeated criticisms on this issue, as elections drew near, the SFI then began to claim that the CPI(M) had always been in favour of a repeal. In the face of repeated press cuttings and even statements of the CPI(M) PB in PD, the SFI continued its bare-faced denial of its Party’s stance. Faced with a direct question from the floor during the Presidential Debate, however, their candidate offered a roundabout defence of the draconian AFSPA in the light of “insurgency” in the North East. The CPI(M)’s position in favour of draconian laws like AFSPA and POCA, and the SFI’s attempts to cover it up, cost SFI in credibility.

The SFI was also discredited because two years back, their leaders including their current Presidential candidate, a couple of months after an incident of violence by the ABVP, had signed a “compromise deed” with the ABVP leadership. This deed, signed in presence of a Magistrate, avowed that the incident of violence had not, in fact, taken place, thereby considerably weakening the chances of punishment for the ABVP lumpens.

The elections also displayed students’ support for AISA’s determined resistance to the corporate takeover of JNU Dhabas by companies like Nestle, in contrast to NSUI-ABVP’s and even SFI-AISF’s support for such a takeover. It was in fact an SFI-AISF Union which had given the green signal to the leasing of land to the Nestle Outlet. This came to light the previous year, and in fact the AISF’s Councillor from the School of International Studies had resigned from the Union and from his organization in protest against the SFI-AISF’s position in favour of Nestle. Teachers and students alike had spoken out for an unequivocal scrapping of the Nestle Outlet, but the SFI-AISF continued to prevaricate, calling for a “debate” on the Nestle issue after having brought it in without any debate!

The JNUSU polls saw, for the first time, poll-time violence by ABVP goons. The Central agenda for the campus now is punishment for these elements, whose attempts to disrupt elections were foiled by students’ resistance.

This year, the ABVP tried to stage a comeback in JNU and, despite increasing its vote substantially, suffered decisive defeat. The NSUI too tried to made hay while the Congress sun shines at the Centre, and even came closer to victory on the post of General Secretary, but the JNU students rebuffed their bid. It is hardly surprising that these outfits, frustrated by defeat, are trying to tarnish JNU’s pro-left mandate. But it is disturbing that even SFI, and the article on JNUSU polls in PD, in the manner of bad losers, has tried to blame their loss on a so-called ‘unholy alliance’ between AISA, NSUI and ABVP.  This ‘mahajot’ theory, first peddled by SFI last year, has been ridiculed by students, as reflected in the thumping mandate in favour of AISA. The PD article has also claimed that AISA never took on the ABVP, concentrating its attack on “the Left” (i.e the West Bengal Govt) instead. Nothing could be further form the truth; in fact on issues like POTA and the arrest of DU lecturer Geelani, it was AISA which resisted ABVP’s jingoistic propaganda and defended Geelani, in contrast to SFI, which “played it safe” until Geelani was actually exonerated by the Court.

Actually, in JNU, the SFI is embarrassed by the fact that it defends the Congress-led Govt. at the Centre while claiming to oppose the NSUI in JNU; and also that the foundations of NSUI in JNU have been laid by a string of JNUSU office-bearers from SFI who have joined Congress! The PD deliberately equates AISA’s criticism of the LF Govt with NSUI’s or ABVP’s; misrepresenting the fact that the NSUI and ABVP use the LF Govt’s policies to justify their own right-wing economic policies, while AISA challenges them in order to assert the positions of the Left! The PD’s and SFI’s accusations against AISA smack of the position,“If you’re not with us you’re with the BJP”.

In contrast to the SFI leadership’s public statements discrediting AISA’s win as being a win for the Right, not the Left, the newly elected JNUSU General Secretary’s stand was much more mature and balanced. He asserted that the JNUSU results were a victory for the Left, and a defeat for the NSUI and ABVP.

The JNUSU faces the challenge of becoming the ideological-political centre for the student movement against privatization, communal forces, killer economic policies and draconian laws.

— KK