The DRCSU Election 2018-19 presented itself all enveloped in controversies. A new face of politics revealed itself to the students as they fought, protested, won, and lost.
The Daulat Ram College Students’ Union (DRCSU) Election was held on 10th September 2018 and the voting hours were between 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Here are some major and vital highlights of the same:
- The Absence of NOTA
“I entered the hall to cast my vote with the above-mentioned prospects of a ‘democracy’ clear in my mind, only to realise that a violation of these prospects was waiting for me in the form of an Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) where there was no option of ‘None of the Above’ (NOTA). I voted only for candidates whom I believed were worthy of voting. As I made my way out of the little space reserved for voting, a teacher told me to cast my vote for all the posts. I told her that I wanted to vote only for two posts. But then, I was informed that voting for each post was a compulsion. Apparently, the vote wouldn’t be recognised if one person from each post was not voted for.”
In a survey conducted by DU Beat, among Daulat Ram College (DRC) students which asked ‘Do you think the option of “None of the Above” (NOTA) should have been there while voting?’ 80.1% marked their opinion as a ‘Yes’, out of the 500 people who participated in the survey. The whole purpose of having NOTA as an option is to provide the voters with a space to express that they do not find any of the candidates contesting the election deserving. NOTA gives us an explicit insight into a picture of the elections. It creates scope for future candidates to improve their ways.
In the DRCSU Elections, students had to wait for more than 2 hours to cast their vote, in a humid and crowded corridor. A few voters standing in the queue were seen backing out too. “The entire scenario could have been avoided if voting happened in slots. Subject wise, we could all be made into groups and asked to vote. It would have created much less havoc”, a second-year student who chose to stay anonymous suggested when asked how the situation could be improved.
- Ill-working of the EVMs
As mentioned before, it was mandatory for the voters to select one person each for every post. The vote would be invalid if not cast for each post. According to this, the number of votes for each post should be equal. However, it was not so. A recent count of the votes says that there is a difference of about 200 votes between the post of General Secretary (GS) and others. Meaning, there are 200 more votes for the post of GS as compared to others. How and why such a discrepancy occurred is unknown but it sure questions the spirit of the voters.
When asked about the working of the EVMs, a few voters were reported saying that some of the buttons on the machine weren’t working when they pressed them. A little here and there is still something that can be understood. But a difference of 200 votes may turn all the tables.
- The Controversy: Where it started
The candidates contesting for the prestigious post of college President were in a tussle long before the elections even began. Neha Beniwal, a presidential candidate allegedly claimed that unlike her, none of her opponents (Sonia Sehrawat and Diksha Verma) had the minimum percentage of attendance required to contest for the post. The shortage of attendance was a problem for several other candidates contesting for the posts of Vice-President as well. All the candidates were, just before the declaration of the nominations for DRCSU, made to sign undertakings promising the completion of 75% attendance in the ongoing semester, to be able to be eligible to contest in the elections. The college was, as a result, witness to a lot of protests and counter-protests.
The rivalry soon took an ugly turn. On the evening of 10th September, the results of the elections were declared and, Diksha Verma was elected as the President of the 2018-19 Students’ Union of Daulat Ram College. Out of the total votes cast (1439), she got 40% votes and won with the margin of 71 votes. The victory was celebrated by her supporters but was short-lived. She was questioned by the opponents from the panel, which won a significant majority in the DRCSU, but their presidential candidate, Sonia Sehrawat, had lost.
The most contentious matter however, was the result of the General Secretary post, wherein the total votes did not tally with the other posts, and an increment of 200 votes was seen.
The panel, along with their supporters, alleged that the EVMs were not working properly and demanded the recounting of votes, despite having tested the EVMs on their functionality on morning of the elections themselves. All electoral candidates were invited by the Election Commission to affirm the correct working of the EVMs, post which they signed a document, confirming the same.
They staged aggressive protests outside the Principal’s office on the evening of the elections, wherein things got violent as students banged the doors and the windows of the admin block, demanding an answer from the administration.
The 11th of September was a new day for everyone but it brought with it the putridity of protests. The other two candidates, along with their followers assembled outside the staff room of the college, sat there and shouted slogans. Interestingly, the protests questioned Diksha Verma’s win, rather than questioning the working of EVMs. “Diksha Verma nahi chahiye” (We don’t want Diksha Verma) “Goondaraj nahi chahiye” (We don’t want hooliganism), were some slogans that the students were heard shouting. Most of them, it is believed, belonged to the college hostel.
This protest witnessed around 100 students blocking the corridor of the college, as they were sitting outside Lab 5, the room in which the Students’ Advisory Board (SAB) was deliberating the fate of the elections. The protesters were joined by Debangana Baruah, who was the DRCSU President from 2014-15, and Nandita Nain, who was a presidential candidate in 2017. Both ex-students of the college were seen enticing the students and motivating them to raise such slogans. This practice raised several concerns as it is a clear violation of the Lyngdoh Committee Recommendations Clause 6.3.1.
Later, a demand for re-elections was also raised by the protesters. The Election Committee agreed to it and informally announced the scheduling of the re-elections to be held on the 13th of September, 2018. However, no such notice was delivered officially to the students from the administration or the Principal. The protesters rejoiced and dispersed, and the news of the re-elections, which was still not confirmed officially, spread like wild fire.
The evening of 12th September, brought about a message from the convenor of the SAB, calling all electoral candidates to the committee room of the college on 13th of September, at 10 a.m. The SAB along with the Principal of the college addressed all the queries and concerns of the candidates, they were re-assured that the elections have been carried out in a fair manner, with discrepancies in the post of General Secretary, which were caused due to a fault in the buttons of that specific post. The meeting resulted in the official declaration of Diksha Verma as the President of DRCSU 2018-19. The solution for the matter of General Secretary was not that of a re-election, but the inculcation of all three electoral candidates in DRCSU as the General Secretary.
The Oath Taking Ceremony was held on 14th September, wherein only the President, General Secretary, and ICC member participated. Meanwhile, the opposition continued their protest outside the college building demanding “justice.”
Feature Image Credits – Students of Daulat Ram College