DUSU Elections 2018

The Democracy is Broken: Scenes from the Vote Counting Center

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The din of electoral sloganeering has been replaced with the protests about EVM tampering. We shouldn’t worry about the noise though, it will die soon. We should be bothered about how the controversies around elections have been normalised. 

On the 13th of September 2018, results of the Delhi University Students’ Union (DUSU) elections were to be declared. It was a big day not just for the candidates or for those who cover student politics, but also for big media houses. It was one of those occasions when the University of Delhi (DU) becomes important. The polls more or less reflect the mood of national politics, and it’s believed that those who rule DUSU will end up ruling the Parliament. A huge crowd of media vans, supporters, and police were deployed at the Community Center, GTB Nagar. The crowd, comprising overwhelmingly of men, competed with roaring slogans as a show of strength. They changed the names of their male leaders, but not one slogan was raised for the female candidates. You can’t help but notice the glaring absence of women in these types of public spaces.

A few days before the elections, Professor V.K. Kaul, Chief Election Officer, DU, published an appeal to the students of DU. Those, like us, who did read it realised that it was a copy of the last year’s appeal. The letter said 2017 in the body of its content. “Your decision to support only those candidates who respect the rules governing elections will go a long way in helping the University conduct the elections as per the law,” said the appeal. In its stoic language the appeal makes a great point, but let’s not forget where it is coming from. The DU administration constantly fails to conduct peaceful polls. During the course of voting, Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), whose own genesis is debatable, fails, the code of conduct is violated, and the candidates are never held accountable for their deeds.

The DU Election Commission doesn’t care, its appeal is a farce. After the initial hiccup, where one EVM was seen as faulty, the counting began again. A sole media person, closely followed by the representatives of political parties, would come out and give the latest update about the current vote count. The fact that these updates were greedily given and consumed after every 15 minutes shows how media considers trivial information important. By egging on the anticipation of results, it fails to focus on questions like, “Why are the representatives coming out and declaring the latest count to their waiting supporters when it’s against the code of conduct?” The fueling of passions can any second lead to a violent confrontation, then why is this prompting being allowed? We spotted a SFI candidate trying to get signals in spite of the jammers. I asked her, “Has your vote share increased?” She pointedly declined to comment and said they can’t discuss anything about it while counting is going on. I admire her faith in the rule of law.

The policemen stand lazily and gossip. You will notice those who come from the North-East huddled together, the female officers talking in a close group, their demarcation being obvious. “Will they protect us if the barricades break?” we wondered. At one point we discussed the exit strategy in case they broke loose. Detailed scanning of the location was quickly followed by a decision to meet at a designated point in case we get separated. Live coverage had become an occupational hazard. This is what the counting of mere 44% of voter turnout takes.

Soon enough, the results were declared. A loud public celebration broke; we scooted after clicking the generic pictures before things got messy. While dogging the rowdy celebrations, I recalled what our Editor, Kinjal Pandey, wrote in the last editorial, “DUSU politics was never too ugly, we just neglected what was ours for too long.” We deserved this, congratulations.

Feature Image Credits: The Hindustan Times

Niharika Dabral

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