New Delhi: Chants of “azaadi” and beats of traditional ‘daflis’ marked the polling day at Jawaharlal Nehru University which recorded a voter turnout of over 59% in its students’ union polls, up by around 6% from last year.
A turnout of 53.3% was recorded last year in the JNUSU polls which are being closely watched this year in the aftermath of the recent controversies which surrounded the campus.
“The poll process went off peacefully. The voter turnout was 59.6%. While 8600 students were registered on the electoral rolls, the total number of votes polled was 4481,” said Ishita Mana, Chief Election Commissioner for JNUSU polls.
The voting, which began on a slow note in the first half of the day, gained momentum post lunch as students queued up to cast their ballot.
More campaigners were spotted outside polling booths than voters. Shouting of slogans, display of handmade posters and distribution of pamphlets marked the occasion. Students were seen dancing to the beats of traditional dafli (small drum).
Two representatives of the Visually Challenged Students’ Forum in JNU, assisted the visually impaired students as they cast their ballot using an interactive HTML portal, which was introduced last year.
A total of 18 candidates are testing their electoral fortunes for the Central Panel and 79 are in fray for the post of councillors.
The JNUSU polls, a keenly fought contest, have been hogging more limelight this year against the backdrop of the February 9 event during which “anti-national” slogans were allegedly raised. The incident had led to the arrest of outgoing JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar and two others.
CPI-affiliated All India Students Federation (AISF), of which Kanhaiya is a member, is not contesting the polls this time.
The campus which has been Left-dominated over the years, saw RSS’ student wing ABVP securing a seat last year, making a comeback in JNU after a gap of 14 years.
However, the contest this year is majorly triangular with Birsa Ambdekar Phule Students Association (BAPSA) being in the fray with its presidential candidate Rahul Sonpimple being a show-stealer at the presidential debate.
For the first time, AISA, the student wing of Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), and SFI of CPI-M have formed an alliance for JNUSU polls, naming it “Left Unity”.
Students Front for Swaraj (SFS), the student wing of AAP’s breakaway group Swaraj Abhiyan, is making its debut this year by fielding its candidates for the four crucial central panel posts in the varsity.
Other organisations which have fielded their candidates in the JNU polls include Congress’ National Students Union of India and Democratic Students Federation (DSF).
JNUSU is the representative body of the students in the university. While the polling has coincided with that for that DUSU polls for the fourth consecutive year, the poll pattern at JNU differs from that of Delhi University.
Besides the routine campaigning, the candidates in JNU are also supposed to make speeches about their agenda followed by a round of questions at the presidential debate.
The night-long event, conducted in the style of US Presidential debate, is a sought after affair and also a deciding factor for the union elections.
Rohith Vemula’s suicide, sedition row, nationalism debate and B R Ambedkar’s legacy were the highlights of this year’s debate.
“The counting for JNUSU polls will begin tomorrow night and the results are expected to be announced by Sunday morning,” Mana said.
Unlike DU, ballot papers are used in JNUSU polls and students have an option of choosing the ‘none of the above’ (NOTA) option.