Every year before the students’ union elections, the JNU campus sees new posters on hostel walls and a host of meetings being organised by student organisations where political leaders and civil society members speak. Another unique feature is the ‘mashaal juloos’ — a show of strength rally held by every organisation. But unlike in Delhi University, where every election sees clashes and posters being torn, in JNU, things are structured and space pre-allocated by the Election Committee.
“After the final list of nominations, we call an all-organisation meeting and space is allotted for three things — hostel mess space for public meetings and pre-election GBMs (general body meetings); hostel wall space for postering; and space for student organisations to sit before the presidential debate. It’s all done through a lottery system,” says EC member Bhagat Singh.
Pre-election GBMs are crucial as organisations get to introduce their candidates to voters. “For hostel walls, suppose there are nine organisations who come for the all-organisation meeting. We number nine spaces on each hostel’s wall, which is about 5-6 feet. These are for the big handmade posters which every organisation makes before elections. We then make nine chits. A representative from each organisation picks a chit with a number on it and that space is then allocated to that organisation,” says Bhagat.
Similarly, hostel mess space is also allocated—from the day the final list of candidates comes out to the day before the election. So this year, that was for every night from September 5-11. “Hostel names are written on chits. This is done to avoid clashes. Each organisation gets allotted a hostel mess for the entire election process. It’s up to the organisation to either hold public meetings in which speakers are called to deliver talks on certain topics, or hold pre-election GBM. The day on which each organisation’s mashaal juloos is organised is also pre-decided,” says outgoing JNUSU president from AISA, Geeta Kumari.
However, ABVP said organisation-wise space allocation poses a problem. “The Left organisations are all fighting together, but they have been allotted four spaces for postering instead of one. This is a clear violation of rules and regulations. We have even written to the EC,” said ABVP JNU president Vijay Kumar. Singh, however, said the the Election Committee “does not recognise coalitions”.
Bhupali Magare from BAPSA said getting individual organisations spaces is not the issue. “The bigger problem is an atmosphere has been created on campus, where first the administration created problems in postering, and now we see some instances of posters being torn which never used to happen in JNU.”