The JNU Students’ Union (JNUSU) elections Friday saw a turnout of almost 60 per cent, significantly higher than the last two years. The date for declaration of results had not been specified at the time of going to press. “A total of 5,181 votes were polled, which amounts to 59.6 per cent,” said Chief Election Commissioner Ishita Manna. Last year, the turnout was 53.3 per cent, a marginal dip from 54.58 per cent in 2014. Long queues were seen outside voting centres after lunch.
For a student election that is being seen as a clash between the united Left panel — of AISA and SFI — and the ABVP, the two-year-old Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students’ Association (BAPSA) has emerged as a strong competition, at least for the post of president. In the face of BAPSA presidential candidate Rahul Sonpimple’s popularity, supporters of the Left panel as well as the ABVP conceded it would be a three-cornered fight.
“It looks like a straight fight between the Left panel and BAPSA for president, but we would be stupid to dismiss the ABVP. Last year too, we thought they were nowhere in the picture and then Saurabh (Sharma) won. They have a committed section of voters,” said an AISA leader. Alok Singh, president of ABVP JNU unit, said, “If its cadre-based voting, then the Left has a stronger chance because they have a bigger base, but Rahul has been able to create an aura… Either way, one of them would be our competitor because we’re very much in the race.”
The confusion was palpable among students as they queued up to vote. What was clear, however, was that most students were voting for individual candidates, not entire panels. “I have decided the presidential candidate on the basis of the debate. For the rest I’m relying on my assessment of what I’ve heard of them. I won’t vote for an entire panel,” said Jayant from the School of Languages.
Outgoing JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar seemed surer about the outcome. “There will be tough competition between the BAPSA and Left, especially for president. But one thing is certain, the ABVP is nowhere in the picture this time.” His organisation, the AISF, is not in the fray.
The JNUSU polls are being widely watched owing largely to the nationalism debate triggered by an event held on February 9 to mark the death anniversary of Parliament attack convict Azfal Guru. Alleged anti-national slogans were raised at the event and this led to the arrest of three students, including Kumar.