United-Left made a clean sweep

  • September 13, 2017
  • 12:21 am
  • Priyanshi Chandrawat

In the vote count which concluded early on 10th September 2017, the election office announced Left alliance’s Geeta Kumari as the President-elect for the JNUSU, who defeated the closest candidate Nidhi Tripathi of the ABVP by a margin of over 400 votes.

A second-year MPhil student of modern history from the School of Social Sciences, 24-year-old Geeta Kumari took admission in JNU in 2011 for a BA in French. Kumari (24) a second year M Phil student of history from the School of Social Sciences hails from Panipat, Haryana. She is a resident of Panipat, Haryana, and attended army schools in Allahabad and Guwahati.

Geeta’s mother, Susheela Devi, is a housewife, while her father, Narendra Singh, is a junior commissioned officer (JCO) in the ordinance department of the Indian Army and posted in Jodhpur. Geeta said that while her parents worry for her safety, they support her involvement in campus politics. Speaking of the February 2016 incident involving Kanhaiya Kumar, she said that it was a very trying time for her because her parents were scared and initially put pressure on her to focus only on her studies. She also said that despite her parents’ support, her political inclinations have always been criticised by people in her town. Geeta said, “My father is an army officer, for whom the nation comes first. Just like him, JNU students harbour a deep love for the country.

As the president of JNUSU, “I will dispel people’s misconceptions about the JNU campus. I will spread the message of inclusiveness, not divisiveness.” It is perhaps ironic and fitting that JNU, a university that is often branded anti-national due to its Left-leaning student body, now has a student union president who is a daughter of an army officer as well as a Leftist, proving that the two aren’t mutually exclusive. Praising Geeta’s win, AISA’s Rama Naga said that from the political perspective, Geeta was the most experienced and senior to all the other candidates. He said that right from the time of her admission, Geeta has been a champion of women’s rights and played a leading role in organising JNU’s protest after the 2012 Delhi gang rape incident.

Kumari has been an All India Students’ Association (AISA) activist for the last five years and has been was elected as a councillor in the School of Languages twice. She was also the student representative to the GS-CASH (Gender Sensitive Committee Against Sexual Harassment) in 2015.

Jawaharlal Nehru University Painted Red Again, Left-Unity Beats ABVP in Students Union Elections Geeta (AISA) has been elected President (in red), Simone (AISA) is the new Vice President, Duggirala (SFI) is the General Secretary and Shubhanshu (DSF) is the new JS.

The Left-Unity made a clean sweep of the JNU students union election and retained all four seats, defeating the RSS-backed ABVP with considerable margins.

Geeta Kumari got a total of 1,506 votes against Tripathi’s 1,042. Shabana Ali of Bhagat Singh Ambedkar Phule Students’ Association (BAPSA) ranked third with 935 votes. AISF’s Aparajita Raja polled 416 votes and independent candidate from the School of Languages, Mohammad Frooque Alam, who suffers from cerebral palsy, secured more votes than AISF, 419.

Geeta Kumari from the Left Unity is the daughter of an Army man. She dedicated her win to slain journalist Gauri Lankesh and the values she stood for. During her term as the president, she plans to take up campus issues, pursue the Najeeb Ahmed case and fight against the seat cut and for gender justice.

Left supporters said, “The victory shows that there was no disenchantment against our politics.”

Simone Zoya Khan, the Vice President-elect of the union, received 1,876 votes against 1,026 of ABVP’S Durgesh Kumar, who was the second closest.

Duggirala Srikrisha (Left) won the General Secretary’s post by polling 2,082 votes. He was followed by ABVP’s Nikunj Makwana with 975 votes.

The post of Joint Secretary went to Shubhanshu Singh (Left) who got 1,755 votes. Pankaj Keshari of the ABVP got 920 votes.

In the central panel, a total of 1512 NOTA votes were polled for all the four posts. Total 31 councillors have been elected for various posts.

CPI-Marxist party’s Students’ Federation of India (SFI), CPI-Marxist-Lenin (ML)-affiliated All India Students’ Association (AISA) and an independent left group Democratic Students’ Federation had formed a coalition to fight the election jointly. The alliance was formed in anticipation of a tough competition from the ABVP — an ideological offspring from Right-wing RSS-BJP stable.

With the results, Left groups maintained their hegemony intact in the campus known to be a bastion of communist parties. Last year, too, all four central panel seats had gone to the SFI-AISA alliance. The AISF had not fielded any candidate in that election. JNU student union election sees nearly 60% voting Total votes polled were 4,639 making it to a total of 57.6 per cent voting.

Student body elections were held at Delhi’s prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) on 8th September 2017. The campus had set up four polling booths, where the School of Social Sciences witnessed maximum rush.

Former JNU Student Union member from AISA, Rama Naga, said, “Whether the issue is of seat cut or the disappearance of student Najeeb Ahmed, all critical issues need to be addressed. There are no external or internal issues, they are interconnected. We stand united against selective targeting of the university by the government and communal forces. We will raise questions to the University Grants Commission (UGC), as well.”

Geeta also hopes to improve the condition of women and education in her home state. Amar Ujala quoted her saying that she wants to start the ‘Beti Bachao – Beti Padhao’ (Save the girl child, teach the girl child) campaign in Haryana with AISA’s help and work towards equal rights of women.

She also said that as the president of JNUSU, she would take up issues such as Najeeb Ahmed’s disappearance, the seat cuts at JNU, the need for new hostels, saving the autonomy of GS-CASH and deprivation points on priority. She vowed to bring the deprivation points back, work for campus unity and reclaim the freedom square.

She spoke of promises of hostels, placement cell, health centre, metro feeder buses and measures for women’s health and hygiene, including sanitary napkin dispensers and a gynaecologist on campus.

Kumari of the United Left panel went for the ABVP’s jugular, and questioned on the current regime’s take on communal politics, their stance on Najeeb Ahmed and Rohith Vemula, waiving Vijay Mallya’s loans while denying the same to farmers, and the alleged attempts at homogenising the society. “In this country, they want one religion, one language everywhere. Just as Hitler wanted one people, one empire, and one leader,” she said

Representing the student wing of Congress party, NSUI candidate Vrishnika Singh said, “Our priority remains better quality for students inside the campus. All other issues come later. The focus is on regaining deprivation points for girls and students from backward areas during admission that had been stopped and to provide feeder buses for students who do not have transport. The left panel has their cadre but limited and have become non-performing. We will also work on health.”

Interestingly, an independent candidate Mohd Farooque Alam, from Bihar has become a noticeable face that he had been associated with the Left parties but realised they are focussed on other issues beyond the university. While the ABVP is pushing in nationalistic right-wing forces, Left also has not fulfilled its promises since two years. They have maintained that they should move away from sloganeering to campus issues.

The students of JNU also remembered journalist Gauri Lankesh, who was killed in Bengaluru on Tuesday. ABVP student Venkat Chaubey wore a badge seeking justice for Lankesh and distributed black bands requesting others to wear it, as well.

Traditionally, the Left has been a dominant presence in the university’s student union. The union’s last three presidents — Mohit Pandey, Kanhaiya Kumar and Ashutosh Kumar — were from Left organisations. However, JNU’s tradition of political debate and its students’ anti-establishment stance has come under the scanner several times ever since the BJP-led NDA government stormed to power at the Centre in 2014.

In January 2016, Jagadesh Kumar was appointed JNU’s vice-chancellor, an appointment widely criticised as anti-student, anti-dissent and biased. In February, the institute was in the eye of the storm once again, when violence broke out on the campus over an event protesting the hanging of Kashmiri separatist leader Afzal Guru, accused in the 2001 Parliament attack. The student union’s then president, Kanhaiya Kumar, as well as organisers Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya, were booked under sedition charges due to accusations of anti-national sloganeering by the RSS-backed ABVP’s Saurabh Kumar, the then general secretary of Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU).

In October, Najeeb Ahmed, a first-year student went missing after a brawl with some ABVP students. Ahmed’s continued disappearance was one of the main points of discussion in the presidential debate of the student elections. In March this year, there was an 83 percent seat cut in the university’s MPhil and PhD programmes. The scrapping of the ‘deprivation points’ system, a unique admission model adopted by the university to help students from socially and economically disadvantaged sections of society to secure admission in its programmes, also caused a lot of turbulence on the campus.

JNUSU president-elect Geeta Kumari said, “The credit for mandate goes to students because people still believe that democratic spaces should be saved and right now, the only resistance is from students.”