Active in Delhi since 2012, when it was formed, AAP is yet to make a mark in either student or teacher politics in the biggest university in the country. And the switch last week of a teachers’ group that has ties to the Congress to AAP may not change that much.
The AAP’s teacher body, Delhi Teachers’ Association, contested polls for the first time last year, winning no seat. After the elections, its office-bearers blamed the AAP government’s policies for the defeat.
AAP and the 12 DU colleges it funds have been at loggerheads over the past several years over the issue of formation of governing bodies and disbursal of salaries. Deputy Chief Minister and Education Minister Manish Sisodia has accused colleges of failing to maintain accounts of colleges properly, not appointing governing body members nominated by it, and corruption, on several occasions. Colleges have denied the allegations and accused the state government of using strong-arm tactics to control their administrations.
After the defeat in last year’s DUTA (Delhi University Teachers’ Association) polls, AAP teachers’ body candidate Hansraj Suman blamed the loss on the animosity between the colleges and AAP government.
Last week, members of the Academics for Action and Development – a Delhi University teachers’ group with ties to the Congress – joined AAP in the presence of Sisodia. Among the members of this group are four DUTA office-bearers, a member of DU’s finance committee, two elected Executive Council members, three elected Academic Council members and two former Executive Council members. Chairperson Aditya Narayan Misra has been elected DUTA president thrice.
एकेडमिक्स फ़ॉर एक्शन एंड डेवलपमेंट के चेयरपर्सन व 3 बार के डूटा अध्यक्ष डॉ. आदित्य नारायण मिश्रा आज आम आदमी पार्टी में शामिल हुए।
— Manish Sisodia (@msisodia) July 17, 2022
However, over the past few years, the group’s influence has waned. The battle for DUTA is now firmly between the Left-affiliated Democratic Teachers’ Front and the RSS-linked National Democratic Teachers’ Front, which won the post of president for the first time after 24 years last year.
AAP insiders say they can still get acceptance in teachers’ polls but only if they put in place a team that understands how university politics works.
According to one leader, that can be the Academics for Action and Development. “It has in the past been a strong presence in the university. They have raised valid issues and we feel our ideas about higher education align well. However, we have not taken a final decision on whether we will be contesting DUTA polls yet,” the leader said.
The scepticism is on account of the fact that the issue between DU and the 12 colleges remains unsettled. “There is a section of the party that believes that till the time this issue is resolved, AAP should stay away from polls. There is no way we can win till teachers continue to raise the issue of salaries. You can’t be in a battle with teachers and ask for votes at the same time,” a party leader said.
Others, however, feel that the current political environment of DU provides the perfect ground for AAP. Speaking about the teacher bodies affiliated with the Left and RSS, a leader said: “They have been the main players in DU for at least seven years now. AAP is a party that thrives in an environment where people are looking for a third alternative. We believe this is the time to make the move to show teachers that we will work for their benefit.”
DUTA aside, AAP students’ wing Chatr Yuva Sangharsh Samiti has also not made much impact despite being around since 2014. It contested the Delhi University Students’ Union polls in 2015, after its parent party won a historical mandate in Delhi, but could not secure a seat.
The AAP students’ wing then sat out the next two polls, while taking the stand that the Lyngdoh Commission guidelines for student elections were ignored by other parties. In 2018, it formed an alliance with AISA, the student body of the CPI (M-L), but its vote share remained low. It has not contested DUSU polls since.