One of the Lyngdoh committee recommendations mandates that a candidate cannot spend more than Rs. 5,000 on his entire election campaign. But this past September, in the midst of the fight for the Delhi University Students’ Union, sponsored visits to amusement parks, parties at popular discos, celebrity visits and free food at the college canteens was the norm.
“The money limit is not practical for a candidate to fight even a classroom election,” says Roji John, vice-president of the National Students’ Union of India. He added that the problems faced by them while contesting elections were uniform throughout the country. “A student who contests once cannot contest again; this rules out the accountability of the candidate who wins.
The age limit is also a problem: earlier a candidate had to work his way up the organisation before he could contest, and it gave him a certain level of maturity to handle a big university like DU. Now a first-year student can contest and win,” he said.
His sentiments are echoed by Lenin, president of the Jawaharlal Nehru Students’ Union. “Ours is a research institution, and most of the courses are Ph.D and M. Phil courses. By the time a scholar manages to make himself worthy of being fielded for the top posts, he is too old and the age limit of 28 is not practical,” he said, adding that the relaxed 30-year limit for JNU was only marginally better.
Campaigning in the university, based on ideology and issues, also makes a good case to say that another rule that elections be held within eight weeks of the new term is impractical. “New students need time to decide whom to support.”
However, it is not all gloom and doom, some good has come in the years since J.M. Lyngdoh and his team submitted a set of rules to be followed for students’ union elections all over the country, with creative poster and wall work also becoming the norm at the universities, as another rule bans use of printed material for campaigning. “Students are being politicians and not like before where politicians became students. These rules have mandates like minimum attendance which has effectively stopped non-students from contesting elections. The overall intention of making a students’ union free from criminal and outside elements has been met,” added Roji.