JNU Election 2018: Candidates from ABVP and Left Unity Lock Horns at Presidential Debate
The Jhelum lawns, where the Jawaharlal Nehru University Student Unions Presidential debate traditionally takes place, was on Wednesday reverberating with slogans of ‘Jai Bheem’ and ‘Lal Salaam’.
BAPSA candidate Thallapelli Praveen speaks during the JNUSU presidential debate.
New Delhi: Unlike other candidates, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) candidate Lalit Pandey didn’t have an easy start at the Jawaharlal Nehru University Student’s Union’s Presidential debate on Wednesday. His turn to speak was marred by disruptions from all corners occupied by the opposition parties.
The situation turned out to be similar for the Left Unity (a coalition of four left parties) candidate N Sai Balaji, who was stopped from his debate after some ABVP students in the audience created ruckus midway.
Balaji and Pandey were the last two to speak. But the manner in which the two candidates stirred the crowds gave a clear signal that the JNUSU 2018 battle is going to be fought primarily between the Left Unity and the ABVP.
The much awaited polls will be conducted on September 14. The main contenders are the Left Unity, the Dalit-centric Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students' Association (BAPSA), the Congress-affiliated National Students' Union of India (NSUI) and the right-wing ABVP. Four independent candidates are also contesting the polls. Jayant Kumar from Chhatra Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) —which is contesting the JNUSU polls for the first time — in his speech mentioned the party chief Lalu Prasad Yadav several times.
The Jhelum lawns, where the Jawaharlal Nehru University Student Unions Presidential debate traditionally takes place, was on Wednesday reverberating with slogans of ‘Jai Bheem’, ‘Lal Salaam’ and a conch that was being blown by members of the saffron party.
Disruptions and Dissent
ABVP candidate Pandey, whose speech was marred by several interruptions, said, “There is no point in disrupting my chance to speak, it will only embolden me. The campus stands for freedom of expression and I should be given the right to exercise it.” Pandey said that if made the university president, he will make the campus safer for women.
N Sai Balaji from Left Unity brought up the issue of Bhima Koregaon in his debate. ““The year started with violence of Bhima Koregaon and we recently saw the arrests of activists and academics. This government is employing intimidating tactics,” he said. Balaji added, “VC is destroying the university, which the students have to reclaim.” Referring to Supreme Court’s decriminalisation of homosexuality, Balaji said that the “future is rainbow and not saffron.”
Questioning the Left Unity and insisting that his party “truly includes the oppressed”, BAPSA candidate Thallapelli Praveen said that he believes in keeping politics away from the left and right banner. “The Left parties say that BAPSA should not be voted for otherwise ABVP will come. ABVP is alive and among us and that is the contribution of Left politics on campus. Just don’t get caught in the banner of left and right politics and work for the oppressed,” he said.
Demand for Braille Format
Demanding their right to be included in the election process, some members of the Visually Challenged Forum formed a human chain in front of the stage where debates were taking place, delaying the presidential debate further. “We have written several times to the election commission about how the election process is inaccessible to us,” said the convenor Dheeru Yadav.
Yadav added, “We want to use braille for asking questions in the debate but we are not allowed. We have no arrangements for ourselves in the voting process. There are no sign language interpreters and hence the election process is not accessible for the hearing impaired.”
Ritesh Tomar, another member of the forum, said, “The EC did not listen to our demands for asking questions in the braille format. The members think it will raise doubts of manipulation in the mind of contenders. For the EC, the doubts of candidates are more important than making election accessible.”
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