The Delhi University is in a state of controlled chaos. A crowd of students can be seen distributing pamphlets, and men with drums are sitting in a corner waiting for cues. There is an air of excitement in the campus, ahead of the Delhi University Student Union Elections that will be held on September 22. The elections are being held after a gap of four years.

With Covid-19 and universities shut, the election could not take place but they are back now and there is a ‘poll-buzz’ everywhere. As many as 95 candidates are contesting for the polls scheduled for September 22. The last election held was in 2019.

As one enters the DU’s North Campus heaps of campaign pamphlets are scattered on the roads, while huge billboards with candidate’s names are set up everywhere. The DU is one of the most prestigious Indian institutions attracting thousands of applicants each year.

For many, getting admission in DU affiliated colleges is a dream. The DU elections are one of the most anticipated times on campus, with intense rivalries and campaigning taking place side by side.

Two of the most prominent student unions, the RSS-Bharatiya Janata Party-backed Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), and Congress-backed National Students Union of India (NSUI), are busy campaigning for its presidential candidates.

However, even as intense rivalries take over the campus, many of the students say they are not interested in politics.

Outside Ramjas College a student was seen tearing the campaign hoarding of an ABVP candidate. Meanwhile, Delhi Police officials are trying to deescalate the situation as members of ABVP and NSUI argue, which turns violent. “This happens every time. Ramjas is very political so it is no surprise this is happening,” a student observes outside the college.

As traffic situation escalates, Delhi Police tries to calm down the situation as students nearby, excitedly click pictures and record.

Students The Citizen spoke to said they were ‘non-political about the elections’, and wondered if the unions address the normal students’ issues.

“Honestly, there is no need for elections because this is just about political rivalry and who will win. The elected members don’t do anything for the students,” a Physics Honour student at Ramjas College told The Citizen.

Fairly interested in the argument between the opposition student unions, another student said that only a handful of people go to vote. “I won’t go to vote, because it really does not matter who wins. I mean, we only know the name of the candidates through pamphlets which, as you can see, are everywhere,” said he.

Outside various colleges the campaigning students were seen stopping other students, giving them information about their candidates.

When asked by a couple of girls what are the most prominent issues that the unions should address, Sakshi who studies at DU’s Law Department said that it is the fights that take place between union members that should be taken up.

“These fights are very common and happen more often than you can imagine. It is annoying as just like today, we are stuck in traffic. So, I think the unions should find a solution to this because we are not a gangster university,” Sakshi said.

On asking whether issues like women safety are ignored, Sakshi said that the administration and the union at North Campus have taken up the issue and they feel safe. “I know for sure the situation is better than before,” she added.

Another student, however, said that more steps need to be taken to ensure women safety. “It might be safe because we are inside campus or near colleges, but there are still a lot of safety issues that need to be considered. I see the unions have focussed on women's issues, but it is imperative they work on it,” a student from Miranda House said.

Interestingly, both ABVP and NSUI have focussed on women safety in their manifestos. The Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) on September 18 released its 21-point manifesto titled “WoManifesto” for the upcoming Delhi University Students’ Union (DUSU) Elections.

The key promises of the ABVP, include affordable metro train travel for students through concession passes, ‘one course, one fees’, special university buses for students, and construction of new hostels and girls’ hostels in every college.

Addressing a press conference, Aprajita, ABVP’s candidate for the Secretary post, emphasised the party’s commitment to women’s empowerment, mentioning initiatives like ‘Mission Sahasi’ for self-defence training and ‘Ritumati Abhiyan’ for sanitary pad distribution.

Aprajita said that the ABVP aims to further these efforts through measures like restoring and renewing sanitary pad vending machines and incinerators in all colleges, full-time gynaecologist and psychologists in the WUS (World University Service) health centre in the DU, pink booths near every hostel, installation of CCTV cameras inside and outside college campuses, hiring female trainers in sports and co-curricular activities, among others.

The NSUI’s five-point manifesto includes menstrual leaves up to 12 days per semester; legal assistance in cases of harassment, moral policing, cyberbullying and administrative issues; an emergency response system for distress calls; and a “safety and security” team with an increased number of female guards.

The party further promises to establish a “functional ICC”, and hold regular gender sensitisation workshops and self-defence workshops. The NSUI’s “HER Manifesto” also promises to provide women with better infrastructural facilities like hygienic washrooms, changing rooms for sportswomen, functional medical rooms and counselling centres in colleges.

The All India Students’ Association (AISA) also released its manifesto for the upcoming DUSU Elections on Tuesday. The AISA manifesto promises student welfare and affordable, accessible, inclusive, and quality education for DU students.

It also included dilution of courses, as per which the content of the core honours’ papers be returned and VAC and SEC courses will be scrapped, no fee hike, anti-discrimination cells at the college level among other things.

On the other hand, amid the election frenzy, the university also has tight security arrangements in place. There CRPF officials posted on duty at every corner of the campus.

A special meeting was organised under the chairmanship of Vice-Chancellor (V-C) and patron Prof. Yogesh Singh on Monday in order to discuss arrangements for the same.

During a meeting held at the Council Hall of the Vice-Regal Lodge, various issues related to DUSU Elections 2023-24 such as general arrangements and security measures etc. were discussed. The V-C took stock of the pre-election situation and held talks with university officials, principals of colleges, provosts of halls and hostels and police officials regarding the arrangements to be made for the elections.

The V-C asked everyone to leave no stone unturned to ensure that the DUSU elections are conducted smoothly and peacefully. On this occasion, DUSU chief electoral officer Prof. Chandra Shekhar said that the individual college elections will be held using paper ballots, while DUSU polls would see the deployment of EVMs.

To ensure flawless use of EVMs on election day, training sessions of designated teachers/staff from colleges have been organised with the help of executives from ECIL from September 18-20 at the University Sports Stadium. EVMs will be delivered to colleges on September 21.

Shekhar said that colleges are responsible for the security of the EVMs in their custody. To ensure that DUSU votes are cast first, EVMs should be placed prior to paper ballot boxes.

Polling timings are from 8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. for day classes and from 3 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. for evening classes. After voting, the EVMS will be sealed in boxes in the presence of student representatives and the election officer and sent to the Multipurpose Hall of the University Stadium in the North Campus. The college must obtain the handover receipt from the returning officer. Counting of votes will take place in the Conference Center.

A graduate of Delhi University told The Citizen that elections are a big deal in DU and it is important to see which union wins. While there were 27 nomination papers filed for the post of president, 24 candidates are in the fray for the post of vice president. There are 24 nominations for the secretary's post and 20 for the post of joint secretary.

All Photographs Nikita Jain.