St. Stephen’s College organised elections for the President of its Students’ Union Society on 10th August, 2016. The election, which saw 3 candidates competing for the coveted position, culminated in the victory of Nikhil Varghese, a student of the BA Programme. Nikhil secured 372 votes, winning by a margin of 85 votes.
Prior to the elections, Stephen’s conducts an Open Court- an arena for the candidates to present their respective manifestos before the student body and invite and answer questions concerning the same. Regarding his experience at the high-octane event, Nikhil says, “It was great to watch students support us on the basis of our ideology, which is to be the voice of the students.”
What was it about his manifesto that set him apart from the other two candidates and clinched the victory for his group? “It is a manifesto that was put together after a discussion with the students, giving it a democratic character. Besides, we have studied the manifestos made over 3-4 years to identify those problems that previous Students’ Unions promised, but never looked into,” he says.
The most pressing issues that Nikhil and his Union would like to deal with include matters of discrimination (on grounds of gender or any other aspect) and hygiene. “There is a certain inequality with regard to decision making. Students must have a greater say in matters that concern them,” he asserts. Within a week of having taken charge, the Union has extended library timings to 7 p.m, on a two-week trial basis.
Foremost on Nikhil’s mind is the fact that previous Unions promised a great deal in their manifestos but rarely followed through with them. “This could possibly be why there was a considerable section of the student body opting for NOTA this year. Maybe they had lost their faith in the Union,” says Nikhil. This year, Stephen’s had a NOTA option on the EVM, with 45 votes polled for NOTA.
There has been a clamor for the inclusion of a NOTA button in the DUSU elections as well, while the same has already been implemented at JNU. Should students be given a NOTA option? “If the NOTA option receives a sizable number of votes, the election can even be declared invalid. In such a situation, it definitely is a good alternative to choose candidates who might be incompetent,” says Ankita Srivastava, a third year student at Stephen’s. Shubham Kaushik of Miranda House concurs. “A NOTA option should be made available, particularly if the candidates are not raising the right issues. If the student body feels that none of the candidates are capable, this option is a way of expressing the same,” she says.
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