Delhi University Polls: AAP Student Wing to Counter Money, Muscle, Rain-Dance Parties

Unable to match the “money and muscle power” of the two big national parties, the students wing of the Aam Aam Aadmi Party, that rules Delhi, has decided to take on the political heavyweights in the in the high-profile Delhi University Students’ Union (DUSU) elections through more mass contact and social media outreach.

Thus far, the NSUI and the ABVP, the students wings of the Congress and the ABVP, used to dominate the students polls in Delhi. But this time, AAP’s students wing, Chhatra Yuva Sangharsh Samiti (CYSS), is heavily relying a “person-to-person” campaign – a tried and tested strategy that brought the party to power in Delhi this year.

The state president of the CYSS, Anupam Yadav, said that the group already had over 750 volunteers who were contacting new students joining DU colleges on a personal basis.

“Our aim is to make DUSU polls free from money and muscle power. We will do issue-based politics for student welfare. We have prepared an application form for those new members who would like to contest in the DUSU polls in future. The poll aspirants will be asked to provide personal details like their political and criminal background, if any, and their social networking IDs (Twitter, Facebook), apart from basic details,” Yadav told IANS.

The party will go through all the applications to select the most deserving candidates in a free and transparent manner, Yadav added.

Yadav said that there are 77 colleges affiliated to Delhi University out of which 44 colleges participated in the DUSU polls. This year, 60,000 new students were admitted to various DU courses, of which 54,000 joined under-graduate courses.

Unlike the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and the National Students’ Union of India (NSUI), the AAP’s student wing does not have the money and muscle power that the older groups wield. But Yadav insisted that money and muscles were not required.

“Everyone knows that lakhs of rupees are spent during students’ union election in Delhi University every year. But instead of spending large sums of money, we will abide by the Lyngdoh Committee recommendations which say that every candidate can spend up to Rs. 5,000 in student union polls,” Yadav said.

“To reduce expenses, we will opt for hand-made posters and activity-based campaigning like street plays and classroom contact. With over 750 volunteers, we will reach out to every class in all the colleges participating in the polls,” he added.

DUSU elections are notorious for the money and political clout that candidates use liberally to tilt the results in their favour. Those involved with students’ politics say that the spending starts much before the actual polls, in fact, it starts right from the first month of the new academic session when freshers, as new scholars are called, start their university.

“Students are shown the good life with DJs and rain-dance parties, free liquor and even movie tickets. These are all methods to make students fresh from school acquainted with the candidates,” said a member of a students’ group who has been involved with DUSU politics for over a decade.

“DUSU elections are considered the nursery of national politics and major political parties like the Congress and BJP consider the poll results a sample survey of sorts for the mood in the country as DU colleges get students from all over the country. In fact, Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit would personally oversee poll arrangements for NSUI and so would the national leadership of BJP for the ABVP,” said the student leader on the condition of anonymity.

Some Left-affiliated groups, however, have been already operating on a shoe-string budget. They have also managed to trump their richer counterparts on occasion.

Delhi state secretary of the All India Students’ Association (AISA) Om Prasad said that they had limited financial resources so they believe in contacting students personally to spread their message in the polls.

“Instead of spending money on parties and advertisement to attract students, we physically meet them and tell them about our agenda in the elections that are related to students’ issues on the campus,” Prasad told IANS. “We conduct public meetings, use handmade pamphlets and posters for campaigning.”

Kanhaiya, a member of the All India Students Federation (AISF) state council, said class-to-class based core campaigning would be their tool to win the polls.

“We will reach out to every student in their classrooms for our campaign to save money. Credit-Based Choice System (CBCS) will be our main agenda in this election,” he told IANS.

Kanhaiya added that AISF would contest the DUSU polls in alliance with the Students Federation of India (SFI) and the All India Democratic Students Organisation (AIDSO).

To woo new students at Delhi University, AAP leaders Dilip Pandey, Alka Lamba and Raghu Ram had earlier visited several colleges when the new session began last month.

NSUI president Roji M. John said that they would also opt for issue-based politics in the election. He, however, said that it was not possible to contest polls within the Rs.-5,000 cap recommended by the Lyngdoh Committee.