Campaigning for the Delhi University Students’ Union elections began on a violent note on Monday with arch rivals, the National Students’ Union of India and the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad clashing for campaigning space in front of the gates leading up to Hans Raj College.
Trouble apparently began when activists from the ABVP arrived at the college around 11 a.m. only to find all entrances blocked by NSUI activists who refused to budge from the space that they had occupied since early morning. Heated words were exchanged and a scuffle ensued, with both organisations accusing the other of throwing the first punch.
According to the police, both the NSUI and the ABVP have filed complaints on the same issue. “We are registering both cases,” said Deputy Commissioner of Police (North) Sindhu Pillai.
“Our State secretary Nikil Dwivedi has a backbone injury and has been advised to two months bed rest, we have filed a police complaint against the brother of the ABVP presidential candidate, Sachin Awana and 10 other people,” said NSUI vice-president Roji John.
The ABVP on the other hand, alleged that the NSUI had been bringing in “rogues,” from outside the university to campaign for them and that the injured person was not a DU student but an outsider. “He does not even belong to Delhi, he is from Chhattisgarh, the NSUI brings in hundreds of people from outside the university to campaign for DUSU which is against the election code of conduct,” alleged Rohit Chehel, a DU student and the ABVP’s State secretary. He added that Sachin Awana against whom the complaint was being filed was not even on the North Campus when the incident happened. “He was seen by thousands on the South Campus where he was campaigning,” he added.
Roji John explained that a usual campaigning practice is to stand outside colleges handing out pamphlets with the name and ballot numbers of their candidates to students, along with chocolates and things like pens and diaries with the insignia of their organisation.
“The final date for withdrawal of nominations was on Thursday evening and we were able to declare the candidates only by Friday. Although we campaigned on Saturday, it didn’t matter since half the students don’t attend class that day, so Monday was crucial and all our members were in front of almost very college gate half an hour before students started trickling in unlike the ABVP who happened to arrive a little later after all the strategic posts were blocked by us,” added John.
Although campaigning is officially allowed only after the candidates nomination papers are accepted by the election commissioner, unofficial campaigning has been going on since the beginning of the term, from posters, “welcoming,” first year students to the university to stickers on the back of auto rickshaws and private vehicles all over the city.
Campaigning strategies also include “freeing up,” popular eateries around colleges which means that any student on a particular day can go order whatever he wants from the fast food for free.
The Lyngdoh Committee recommendations which have to be followed in every student elections throughout the country mandates that the election budget of a candidate cannot exceed Rs. 5,000 along with other strict rules about the election code of conduct. However, this rule is applicable to the candidate only since the university does not recognise the existence of student political organisations.