The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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JNU shame for SFI, blame on Nandigram

New Delhi, Nov. 4: Nandigram has handed the CPM-backed Students Federation of India its worst rout in campus polls at Jawahalal Nehru University in at least a decade.

The All India Students Association (AISA), student wing of the ultra-Left CPI-ML, has for the first time won all four central panel posts after a campaign targeting the SFI’s “hypocrisy”.

“They tried to justify Nandigram in a politically aware campus like JNU’s. They suffered the consequences,” said Sandeep Singh, the new students’ union president.

The SFI, traditionally the strongest political group on the campus, failed to win even second place in two of the four central panel posts, getting pipped by the anti-quota Youth for Equality.

“This is embarrassing for us... coming behind even YFE, but we will fight back,” a senior SFI leader said.

Politics is serious business at JNU and, unlike most other campuses, student elections here are fought primarily on issues in the national limelight.

For nearly a month, student groups — most backed by some political party or the other — paint posters, prepare bills listing candidates and hold marches just as the parties themselves do in the run-up to Lok Sabha and Assembly elections.

Yet, academic standards and “social consciousness” are not the only reasons that draw students to the campus. Accommodation is highly subsidised by the Centre, and civil-service aspirants joining a course just for a hostel room are not uncommon.

And although some students go on to join politics professionally — like the CPM’s Sitaram Yechury did — most go job-hunting after collecting their degrees.

A senior SFI leader admitted that Nandigram was a major reason for the defeat. “Our position is that Nandigram happened because of the Trinamul Congress and the Naxalites. But yes, we obviously failed to convince people.”

When CPM cadres were killed in police firing in Congress-ruled Andhra Pradesh a few months ago, the SFI did not hold a protest march at JNU because of its embarrassment over Nandigram, an AISA leader said.

“We were the ones who held a march condemning the firing in Andhra.”

Voting was held for 31 councillors’ posts in the various university departments apart from those in the students’ union central panel. In addition, two students were elected to the university’s “gender sensitisation committee against sexual harassment”.

The AISA won six councillors’ posts. One, at the School of International Studies, went to Sudanese student Khalid Abdallah. Last year, American Tyler Walker Williams had won the post of vice-president, also on an AISA ticket. Abdallah is the first African to win any election at JNU.

The SFI won seven councillors’ seats and the YFE nine, all in the science departments. Four seats went to the BJP-backed Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, three to Congress affiliate National Students Union of India and two to Independents.

AISA and SFI candidates won one seat each on the sexual harassment committee.

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