Arvind Kejriwal has taken DUSU elections to a new low

The entry of debutante Chhatra Yuva Sangharsh Samiti (CYSS), the student wing of AAP, has transformed DUSU elections into a triangular contest. (Image: Wikipedia)

The entry of debutante Chhatra Yuva Sangharsh Samiti (CYSS), the student wing of AAP, has transformed DUSU elections into a triangular contest. (Image: Wikipedia)

As part of my MA Convergent Journalism course work at Jamia Millia Islamia’s AJK Mass Communication Research Centre, I paid a visit to Delhi University’s North Campus on September 3 with the purpose of doing a video story on the upcoming Delhi University Student Union (DUSU) elections. A triumph in DUSU elections can turn out to be a life changing experience for young students interested in taking the political plunge.

Several DUSU presidents have used the opportunity to launch their political careers, including BJP’s Nupur Sharma who contested against Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal in the Assembly elections held earlier this year. Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)’s MLA Alka Lamba, who was formerly associated with the Congress, has also been a DUSU president. But the most prominent name in the list is that of Union finance, corporate Affairs & information & broadcasting Minister Arun Jaitley, who served as DUSU president prior to the Emergency.

Traditionally, DUSU elections have been dominated by the Congress’ National Students Union of India (NSUI) and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s (RSS) Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP). But the entry of debutante Chhatra Yuva Sangharsh Samiti (CYSS), the student wing of AAP, has transformed it into a triangular contest. Unfortunately, all the three student parties, that is, CYSS, ABVP and NSUI are united in one thing – the violation of the poll code as laid out by the Lyngdoh Committee guidelines, which carry the sanction of the Supreme Court.

Among its many recommendations, the Lyngdoh Committee suggested that election expenditure cannot exceed Rs 5,000 per candidate. It also stated that students would not be allowed to make use of any printed posters or pamphlets and would have to resort only to handmade posters and pamphlets while canvassing for votes. However, a visit to the university campus made me a firsthand witness to the blatant violations of the binding Lyngdoh Committee guidelines by different political parties. Right outside the Vishwavidyalaya metro station at North Campus was a huge billboard advertisement of the CYSS, which displayed the findings of a survey predicting their victory in the DUSU elections slated for September 11.

A few metres away, I saw yet another billboard – this one belonged to the NSUI. This advertisement also listed the findings of an election survey and claimed that the NSUI would win hands down. Such surveys have become a point of controversy since the veracity of the research agencies that conducted them is not fully known. The sample size is also not established. But the worst thing is the fact that the advertisement costs run into thousands of rupees and are printed digitally. They clearly violate Lyngdoh Committee guidelines and yet they find space inside the university campus.

When I met Hitanshi Chauhan, a student leader belonging to CYSS and asked her about the printed advertisements as also who was funding them, she told me that these things were taken care of by Arvind Kejriwal and that she would like to “thank him” for whatever he is doing for them. Isn’t it unfortunate that a sitting chief minister is blatantly violating the code of conduct of the student union elections? Student leaders like Hitanshi Chauhan, who should categorically distance themselves from such unethical election conduct, do not condemn such violations. They would rather choose to convey their regards to their party supremo.

Considering the fact that ABVP swept the last elections by winning all the four posts – president, vice-president, secretary and joint secretary – I thought that it was necessary to have a word with their leaders and proceeded to their office, which is walking distance from Patel Chest Institute. I did not get a chance to interact with their leaders as they were busy campaigning, but realised that ABVP is no different when it comes to following the Lyngdoh Committee guidelines.

Sunil Kumar, a shopkeeper outside Ramjas College, showed me how ABVP and other student wings had stuck posters and stickers all over his shop without seeking permission. He pointed out that this kind of publicity material is either stuck early on in the morning or late at night, much before his arrival and after his departure. What kind of student elections are these? Poll code violations are bipartisan and rampant in the case of DUSU elections, with student parties defiling property clandestinely.

No one is spending as much on advertisements as  AAP’s CYSS. Every corner of the university I went to had an advertisement with CYSS’ name and Arvind Kejriwal’s photograph. The upcoming DUSU elections are being treated as a prestige battle by Kejriwal. He is not content with his dramatic victory in the Assembly elections, wherein he won 67 out of the 70 seats. He probably wants to win every election inside Delhi – be it the much politicised student union elections of Delhi University or the municipal body elections.

Winning DUSU elections is important for Kejriwal. He hasn’t delivered much after becoming the chief minister. His government has been embroiled in an ugly faceoff with Lieutenant-Governor Najeeb Jung and blamed the central government led by Narendra Modi for everything that has gone wrong. Internally, the party has shown signs of disarray with the ouster of Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav. AAP’s supposedly clean image also suffered a setback due to the fake degree row surrounding former state law minister Jitender Singh.

Kejriwal realises that such incidents have hit his popularity. That’s the reason why he has thrown money behind CYSS to ensure its victory. A win in DUSU elections for CYSS would lead to the pundits predicting Arvind Kejriwal’s continuing popularity among Delhi’s youngsters. But a defeat in DUSU elections would be detrimental to Kejriwal’s image. Political parties would use the occasion to suggest that Kejriwal has lost the trust of Dilliwaalas. Party insiders would echo the need for bringing back Bhushan and Yadav so as to salvage AAP and prevent it from degrading into a one-man party whose political fortunes are solely dependent on the image of a single person called Arvind Kejriwal.

To avoid such embarrassment, Kejriwal is leaving no stone unturned to conquer DUSU. But what happened to the idealistic Kejriwal? Aren’t student elections meant to be fought by students and not chief ministers? Kejriwal probably thinks otherwise. That’s why he has put billboard advertisements outside the metro station at Delhi University, urging students to “say no to muscle power, say no to money power”. But the entry of a chief minister in a mere university election itself speaks volumes of the muscle power being utilised by the AAP and the CYSS. As far as money power is concerned, it doesn’t take Einstein to figure out how much 20-30 ft-long printed billboard advertisements cost.

NSUI and ABVP have been habitual offenders of the poll code, but CYSS has lost an opportunity to portray itself differently. In fact it has taken DUSU elections to a new low.

(This article was originally published in DailyO.) 

Can Modi sarkar give DU a vice-chancellor without controversy?

Delhi University should not be content with the tag of the best in the country. It should aspire to become the best in the world. (Image: Wikipedia)

Delhi University should not be content with the tag of the best in the country. It should aspire to become the best in the world. (Image: Wikipedia)

In 2014, when the Indian electorate handed Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party a simple majority in the Lok Sabha, one expected the new government to act with a sense of independence which was clearly lacking in the case of Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) as it suffered from political fragility due to opposition from coalition partners. But so far instead of independence the Indian public has only seen this government act with brazenness. And in no sector has Modi sarkar been as brazen as it has been in the sector of education.

It all began with the appointment of a political lightweight like Smriti Irani as the Union education minister. During the wave elections in 2014, Irani contested against Rahul Gandhi and finished a strong second in the intense electoral fight that ensued at battlefield Amethi which also saw Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)’s Kumar Vishwas woo the voters on account of his shayari and promise for clean governance. Like a large hearted boss, Modi appointed trusted aide Irani (who formerly opposed him on account of his alleged role in 2002 Gujarat riots) despite the fact that she failed to get the job done in Amethi by dethroning Shehzaada Rahul.

But the problem is not that Irani lost the elections. Arun Jaitley too lost the Lok Sabha elections but has been handsomely rewarded as he lords over Union finance, corporate affairs and information and broadcasting ministry. The issue is that Irani might have faked her educational qualification under sworn affidavit. The matter is now before the judiciary and there can be no bigger embarrassment for an education minister if she is found guilty of having lied about her educational qualification.

Secondly, Irani’s appointment as HRD minister was opposed by Modi bhakts like Madhu Kishwar who comes from an academic background. A ministry as significant as human resources development required a visionary who has proven excellence in academia or academic administration. Irani was none and neither is she someone with exemplary electoral records to her name. Her appointment was a farce and so far her term has also been nothing short of being farcical as no concrete steps have been taken to overhaul the nation’s much criticized education sector.

Following the HRD debacle, Modi government went in for a confrontation with Nobel laureate Amartya Sen. Harvard economist Sen not only quit as the chancellor of Nalanda University citing political interference but has also spoken out extensively in the media regarding the imposition of certain political thoughts by Modi government. That political thought is none other than Hindutva. That’s the reason why academics like YS Rao have been appointed to head the Indian Council of Historical Research. Such appointments are aimed towards the “fictionalisation” of history as termed by noted historian Irfan Habib.

There is a great desire among Hindutva ideologues to rewrite history from a supposedly Indian perspective. Prime Minister Modi himself appears to be a part of the plot as he has mentioned how Lord Ganesha underwent plastic surgery to get an elephant head. Lokesh Chandra, a new recruit at the Indian Council of Cultural Relations, has gone one step further and called Modi a “reincarnation of God”. Such sycophancy coupled with tales of mythology concerning flying machines in ancient India has turned us all into a laughing stock infront of the whole world.

The appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as the Chairman of Film & Television Institute of India (FTII) has made matters worse. Academic activity has been crippled at the Pune-based institute and the students are undertaking nationwide protests. These agitations should serve as a lesson for Modi sarkaar. In academia, merit matters and it cannot be replaced with right wing political affiliation or overt Hindutva leanings. The mess at FTII needs to be done away with the revocation of Chauhan’s appointment as chairman and the government should simultaneously ensure that transparency is maintained during the appointment of Vice Chancellor of University of Delhi during the coming months.

Delhi University happens to be the numero-uno university in the country, an accolade which was bestowed on it for the third consecutive year by India Today Group-Nielsen Best Universities Survey 2015. The affiliate colleges of Delhi University attract the best and most aspirational students from across the country. But DU has its own set of challenges. There is a need to develop parity between on-campus and off-campus colleges. Every constituent college of the university should be the flagship college of the varsity in its own way and that will require dogged development efforts on the part of the new vice chancellor.

The V-C will also be responsible for taking Delhi University to the next level. The university should not be content with the tag of the best in the country. It should aspire to become the best in the world. It sounds like an impossible feat but a step in this direction has to be initiated at the earliest so that Delhi University at least breaks into the top 100 universities of the world. Very importantly, the new vice-chancellor should be a consensus builder. Outgoing V-C Dinesh Singh’s several initiatives failed to leave behind a mark (including his trademark Four Year Under-Graduate Program (FYUP)) simply because the consensus was lacking. It would be unwise to expect unanimity in terms of decision making but it is incumbent upon the vice chancellor to take academics and students along by devising a consultative proves that gives everyone a chance to be heard and express their opinion. Decision making should be democratic carrying the sanctions of the academic and executive councils. It should not be bulldozed with a sense of aggression and put into effect via usage of emergency powers.

Lastly, it goes without saying, the new vice chancellor should be an academic of international repute. He should necessarily command a praiseworthy academic background and other essential requirements pertaining to research publications in international and national journals. His profile has to be impeccable and complete with years of academic experience in the realm of higher education. The advertisement for the post is out but if Modi sarkaar’s track record is to be believed, the new vice chancellor might not possess any of the qualities listed above. He/she will be appointed through a non-transparent process full of political interference and will follow the government’s diktats instead of maintaining the university’s autonomy. The new vice chancellor might not have many research publications to his credit but he will certainly be an unflinching advocate of Hindutva and a sincere BJP bhakt.

The capital city might just witness a new round of protests. I hope not!

(This article was originally published in DailyO.) 

Modi-fication of minority institutions

The most obvious qualification which Zafar Sareshwala, CEO & MD of Parsoli Corporation Ltd., has in his kitty is that of being Prime Minister Modi's most trusted Muslim ally. (Image via India TV News)

The most obvious qualification which Zafar Sareshwala, CEO & MD of Parsoli Corporation Ltd., has in his kitty is that of being Prime Minister Modi’s most trusted Muslim ally. (Image via India TV News)

The education sector has been in a state of constant controversy ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi made ‘television bahu’ turned politician Smriti Irani as Union HRD Minister. This move of the Modi government was first criticized by Madhu Kishtwar who raised certain objections in regards to Irani’s educational qualification. Defending herself, Irani maintained that she should be judged solely on the basis of her performance. But Irani’s tenure as HRD Minister has been marked by several controversies ranging from the Sanskrit-German language row to the celebration of “Good Governance Day” in schools on Christmas.

Tale of two universities

However, the most recent controversies emanating due to the actions of the HRD Ministry concern two famous minority institutions in the country. The first was the appointment of Modi aide and businessman Zafar Sareshwala as the Chancellor of Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU). This was followed shortly by the election of Muzaffarnagar riot accused MP Kunwar Bharatendra Singh to the court of the Aligarh Muslim University. Another MP who was elected to the AMU court was Satish Kumar Gautam who had earlier threatened to celebrate the birth anniversary of Raja Mahendra Pratap Singh inside the varsity’s campus in Aligarh.

There is no denying of the fact that over the past few months there has been a surge in anti-minority rhetoric across the nation. Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti hogged the limelight courtesy her “Ramzaade” remark while BJP Uttar Pradesh Chief Lakshmikant Bajpayee stated that the Taj Mahal was originally a temple. Simultaneously Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh Sarsangchalak Mohan Bhagwat kept reiterating that India was a Hindu Rashtra while Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj pitched for the designation of Gita as the country’s national scripture.

At such a critical juncture, the union government has scored an own goal by means of the appointments it has done in AMU and MANUU. How can the reins of a Central University be given in the hands of a lifelong businessman? The most obvious qualification which Zafar Sareshwala, CEO & MD of Parsoli Corporation Ltd., has in his kitty is that of being Prime Minister Modi’s most trusted Muslim ally. If we remove that, he would have been the last person on the list to be appointed as chancellor of a central university because he has no credible record of administering any education institution. Moreover, what should we expect from a riot accused MP? The ideological opposition of the Sangh Parivar to minority institutions is well known and appointment of such elements is bound to cause communal rift in the varsity.

Narendra Modi’s own track record

In an interview given to CNN’s Fareed Zakaria prior to his US visit, Modi had tried to reach out to the Muslim community by stating that “Indian Muslim will live for India. They will die for India. They will never do anything against India.” But the repeated actions of his government are merely alienating the minorities, specifically Muslims. In his erstwhile avatar of Gujarat Chief Minister Modi had opposed the implementation of the Central Government’s pre-matriculation minority scholarship scheme in the state. However, Gujarat High Court upheld the constitutional validity of the scheme and the Supreme Court too refused to accept the state government’s plea of not complying with the high court’s order.

The way forward

The Modi government has to realize that minority rights are sacrosanct in a democracy. It is the Prime Minister’s duty to not only clampdown on his own ministers and Sangh Parivar leaders who are making vitriolic statements against minorities but also to ensure that the autonomy of minority institutions is not crucified by means of dubious appointments. The challenge would not be an easy one for Narendra Modi as he himself carries the burden of having criticized minority scholarship schemes in the past. If the Modi government fails to act then surely the perception of this government being “anti-minority” is bound to increase and minority institutions in line to be “modi-fied.”

(This article was originally published on

Reclaim lost glory of Allahabad University

Reclaim lost glory of Allahabad University - Hindustan Times

Newspaper clipping from Hindustan Times

The residents of Allahabad have been in jubilant mood ever since it was announced that the “sangam city” would be turned into a “smart city” as part of an ambitious developmental plan involving the government of USA. But we must remember that merely economic growth and infrastructural progress is not sufficient to propel inclusive development. India has repeatedly sidestepped human development resulting in the country registering a dismal rank of 135 in the human development index maintained by UNDP.

The seed for balanced development has to be sowed in the education sector. In the case of Allahabad, the government must initiate the process of reclaiming the lost glory of Allahabad University which was earlier referred to as the “Oxford of the East”.

In the contemporary era, education is the single most potent weapon through which individuals transform their lives. We often hear of success stories of students from prestigious institutes like IITs and IIMs who go on to fetch crore plus salaries. But such tales of triumph, though not entirely absent, are nevertheless negligible in the case of Allahabad’s ancient varsity.

What are the reasons behind this? It is a matter of fact that many of the departments in AU do not even hold regular classes. This practise needs to be completely done away with. Instead of manual computation of attendance which provides ample space for interpolation, attendance records should be maintained via computer software. Disciplinary action should be taken against errant professors who spare time for political activism instead of lecturing in class. Absenteeism on the part of students should be dealt with equal firmness.

The education imparted in the varsity should make appropriate use of information communication technologies (ICTs). Besides building on strong theoretic fundamentals, students should be enabled to improve upon their communication skills and become computer literate. The university should have at its disposal the required technical infrastructure to provide hands on learning to its students. New age courses involving media, animation, designing etc need to introduced with students being provided access to laboratories with cutting edge technology and sophisticated equipments of professional standard.

Projectors should be installed in classrooms for computer backed teaching through PPTs or power point presentations which would help in better comprehension of complex topics. Lectures should be recorded and made available on the university’s website in the form of videos or podcasts which can be downloaded by students. E-libraries must also be created.

Moreover, political goodaism in the name of student politics on the campus should make way for rational debates and discussions as witnessed in places like Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).

Technology is an asset which cannot be ignored by educational institutions. The smart city initiative has to necessarily combine intellectual capabilities with technology. If this is achieved then the resurrection of Allahabad University is bound to follow. The varsity will attract the best of talent from across the nation and once again be recognized among the foremost centres of higher education. But for that to happen the education sector has to be given primacy in the smart city initiative.

(This article was originally published in Hindustan Times.) 

Swachhta-fever grips Delhi University

Featured image

Representational Image via University Express

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s much touted Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan is making headlines across the nation. The country’s premier varsity, Delhi University, is too smitten by the “Swachhata-fever”.

The university campus is witnessing green campaigns by the student wings of political parties. BJP’s Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) had distributed cartons to be used as dustbins near the momos-stands inside the campus. They also requested the students to avoid littering on roads. On the other hand, volunteers from the National Students Union of India (NSUI) initiated cleaning drives at several places including Faculty of Law and Ramjas College wherein the volunteers went around collecting waste material which was later on disposed at an appropriate place.

“It’s a good idea in terms of reinforcing the fact that citizens should be responsible for the cleanliness of the environment in which they dwell,” says Aditya Mishra, 2nd year student of the prestigious Hindu College. Aditya is principally in agreement with the essence of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan. When questioned as to whether the campaign is an attempt by Modi to develop a personality cult, Aditya responds by stating that “it is the outcome which matters, not the intent.”

Despite of not being aware of the committee constituted by Delhi University in regards to Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan, Philosophy student Sadaf supports the initiative. She incorrectly mentions that the cleanliness drive in her college took place on Teachers Day ie 5th September, almost a month prior to the launch of Swachhata Abhiyan on Gandhi Jayanti. Talking about whether the campaign would lead to blurring of caste distinctions, Sadaf says, “I don’t think that one measure can wipe out the institution of caste which has plagued our society since a thousand years.”

Undeterred by Modi’s image of being a Hindu Hriday Samrat, Sadaf stresses on the inclusivity of the PM’s endeavour. “A clean India would not be solely for Hindus but for Muslims too,” she says.

Amal David of St. Stephen’s College is unsure of Narendra Modi’s “commitment to Gandhian principles.” He however mentions that the need for a nationwide cleanliness movement was long due. Currently a student of mathematics and an aspiring social worker, Amal was part of the activities which took place in his college during the launch of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan on 2nd October.

In his speeches, Modi has often stressed on the need to convert the campaign for cleanliness into a mass movement. He wants the Swachhata Abhiyaan to command the same amount of importance for 21st century Indians as the freedom movement did for the countrymen from the previous generation. Considering the fact that “well begun is half done”, Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan has already made a promising start by taking into confidence India’s youngsters.

(This article was originally published in University Express.)