With the list of DUSU candidates out, DU students rejoice there’ll be more freebies
It might not be ethical, but it’s the common practice. We look into the ‘promotion’ culture of DUSU elections
As you step in the Delhi University (DU) campus or its vicinity, you are greeted by student members of various parties handing out pamphlets and slips. They urge everyone to vote for their candidates in the Delhi University Students’ Union (DUSU) election scheduled for September 12.
Cars with stickers and pamphlets of their candidates plying roads is a common sight. And now that the list of candidates for various posts (president, vice-president, secretary, joint secretary) has been announced, the campaigning has picked up pace. “For an outsider, this might just be a university election but the gravitas could be gauged by the fact that it is quite a launch pad for those hoping to enter politics in future,” says Neha Sharma, a graduate of DU’s Campus Law Centre (CLC). She adds, “It is also a thing of prestige for national parties when their youth wings or students’ parties win elections. This year, it’s going to be even more so, as the general elections are next year.” Therefore, candidates leave no stones unturned to lure voters. From organising free film screenings to footing the canteen bills of the entire college, there is a lot that the candidates and their supporters do to win, even if that might be against the Lyngdoh Committee recommendations, which regulate student elections.
Promotion, by the way, is just a term to mask the efforts these candidates make to bribe students into voting for them — a move to generate greater vote counts. These bribes do not come in monetary forms. Students are instead offered all kinds of freebies — free meals, lavish parties, and more. All you have to do to avail them is come with a promise of casting a vote for the particular candidate. “I’ve personally never gone to any of the parties, but my friends have been offered ‘free parties’ in the name of elections. The candidates often come up with such celebrations as the front to get to know the new students better. But we all know that such arrangements always come with the ‘Vote for...’ requests at the end,” says Rishab, a third year student of Kirori Mal College.
Sushant, a second year English (Hons) student of the varsity, says that the seniors told us this would happen in first year of college. “Our seniors have got many freebies during the election time, and they often used to tell us that ‘election time ka matlab hai full aish’. I remember that our batch had got party packs (boxes containing chocolates, chips, soft drinks, and other snacks) last year. This year, I have already received at least six party packs,” says Sushant. Abhinav, a student of Hindu College, recounts an incident where a week before the elections, a senior told him to go treat himself at any fast food joint in Kamla Nagar and a particular candidate would take care of the bill. “This was about three years ago, and we used to go there every day till the elections got over. All we were asked to help with in return was ‘Shakti Pradarshan’ (which means to be part of the parade that each candidate takes out around the campus to show how many people support him) when they come to our college,” he says.
Some candidates go to the extent of booking movie halls for students, distributing free alcohol, booking party lounges and clubs, and come bearing expensive gifts.“Every year, we get free movie tickets, our canteen food is made free, and even alcohol is distributed to students in the hostels. I remember going for a party that was organised for us in a club in Saket when I was in first year. Every vote for them is important, and this method, according to them, is the best way of getting votes. It is ethically wrong and bizarre how much these candidates spend just to get votes, but it is equally amusing, too,” says Rahul from Atma Ram Sanatan Dharma College. “My friends and I have already been shown a few films, because we are in sports team and we constitute an important vote bank. Poori teams sath vote karti hai and we ask other friends in other colleges also to vote for the same candidate. We have been gifted crates of packed juice and other sports teams have been too,” says a Hindu College student, who doesn’t wish to be named.
On questioning if this actually helps swing votes their way, the Hindu College sportsperson says, “Yaar, hum toh karte hain. We accept freebies from people we want to support. In fact, we also canvass for our person.” However, not everyone does. “Every candidate distributes freebies. You can’t vote for all. But yes, whoever has a recall value, we press the button besides that person’s name on the voting machine,” says Rohit from CLC. Meanwhile, Abhinav says, “I never voted for that candidate, but I made sure I made most of the opportunity we were given. Who would say no to free food?”
A DU student tells us, “Spending so much money is not allowed at all. Most of the things are done by the candidates’ supporters and that too in a hush-hush manner. According to Lyngdoh Committee recommendations, the maximum expenditure should be ₹5000. Itna toh petrol hi lag jayega nomination file karne mein.”
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