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The Tolls Of Delhi's Student Polls

15/09/2015 8:06 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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Hindustan Times via Getty Images
NEW DELHI, INDIA - SEPTEMBER 12: Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) candidates for the Delhi University Student Union elections Satender Awana, President, Sunny Dedha, Vice President, Anjali Rana Secretary and Chayrapal Yadav, Jt Secretary celebrating after winning all the four posts in the Delhi University Students Union (DUSU) elections, at Delhi University on September 12, 2015 in New Delhi, India. The polling was held in two phases on Friday and it saw a turnout of over 43%, a slight dip from last year's 44%. A total of 1,35,298 students were eligible to exercise their franchise. (Photo by Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

As yet another election season ends in Delhi, the Capital bears the fatigued look of a city reeling from the spurt of political activity. Multiple elections have already taken their toll on an already disfigured public infrastructure.

As has become the norm, campaigning for university elections is not restricted to campuses alone. Throughout the city, multiple layers of political posters plaster walls hitherto marred only by the usual paan-and-paint combo, and pamphlets, defamatory and laudatory, lay strewn across streets and pavements. Not even the metro, Delhi's most recent piece of world-class infrastructure, seems to have been spared, with campaigners only revelling at having yet another segment of public property to smother with campaign material. Even areas of the city distant from a college campus assume the role of battlegrounds for contestants, each eager to trump the other in the clash of the parchas.

"The CYSS, perhaps owing to the rub-off of its association with the AAP, has managed to effectively politicise campus elections even further than they already were..."

Even as most bills feature little more than the names of candidates and their organisations, no less than the Chief Minister features on quite a few, gleefully beaming at weary passers-by. Another set of posters depicts the CYSS -- the latest entrant into student politics, affiliated with the state's ruling dispensation -- as leading in an uncited poll (perhaps they conducted the poll among their own members). While Delhiites go through the trouble and tumult of the campaigning for campus elections annually, this year has seen a further negative progression, courtesy majorly the CYSS. Its campaign reeks of the kind of craftiness that, in recent memory, has been associated mostly with the AAP (certainly not with our plain and simple college lads). The CYSS, perhaps owing to the rub-off of its association with the AAP, has managed to effectively politicise campus elections even further than they already were, forcing all other affected mainstream political parties to jump into the circus ring of student politics.

No election is complete without blatant disregard of set rules of fair play, but few contestants manage to break every written rule. This, apparently, was never a challenge for our young student leaders. To further assist them, many rules for campus elections set by the Lyngdoh committee in 2005 seem laughably unimplementable. One rule states that a candidate may spend no more than Rs 5000 on campaigning. Another asserts that campaign posters must be painted, not printed. Cut to reality, and we have the AAP organising a full-fledged concert "to spread awareness about government policies" (with a 20-minute-long speech by the CM about the CYSS) and bills written using MS-Office handwriting fonts (so they seem painted). How our bureaucrats underestimate our young politicos and they, in turn, their non-political counterparts!

The condition of DU college campuses inspires disgust (even greater than the CM's smile), with practically entire campuses garbed in coats of campaign material. Not just walls and pillars but trees, benches, even random cars (and people) are layered with bills and notices. Calling the commotion inside the campus merely political activity would be an understatement -- this is a political war, thankfully restricted in its extreme forms to the campuses.

All student organisations, be it ABVP, NSUI or CYSS, emphatically supported the much-hailed Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan last year, yet they consciously turn a blind eye towards the wreckage they create. It is perhaps time that the campus election system is not merely amended, but overhauled.

But until it is, we might just have to bear our CM's teasing (and costly) grin.

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