The AISA-SFI victory was predictable. It was an alliance of two traditional heavyweights, with the backing of the communist parties. But BAPSA’s performance is a cause for real jubilation because it was left to fend for itself, with hardly any resources and no political-party support. In the race for the president, it came second, with Rahul Sonpimple Punaram losing merely by 409 votes. In the elections to the remaining positions (vice-president, general secretary, joint secretary), BAPSA garnered significant numbers of votes. All this was down to the firm resolve of the Bahujan students.
Working behind the scenes quietly but consistently over the past couple of years has been the Mulnivasi Sangh (MS), an offshoot of BAMCEF. If BAPSA kept the issue of abetment of Rohith Vemula’s suicide alive by visiting and revisiting it from a Phule-Ambedkarite perspective, the MS was instrumental in making the whole country realize the gravity of the issue through its network of committed cadres.
Mulnivasi Bahujans and various Mulnivasi Bahujan students’ organizations, such as MS and ASA (Ambedkar Students’ Association), are reading BAPSA’s impressive performance in JNUSU elections 2016 in myriad ways.
On the one hand, there are celebratory statements of BAPSA – “igniting the hope of Mulnivasi Bahujan students for a strong independent presence in campuses” – and on the other hand, others advise caution against getting carried away.
For now, we have good reason to cheer but there is also the need for a critical analysis to go on. The concerns of Mulnivasi Bahujan students are many. They are real and not unfounded. Will our student organizations be able to stand on their own feet, weathering the Left’s assimilations? Will they be able to expand their support in the strong leftist environment of university campuses? Will they be able to sustain themselves without the backing of any political party? If they do seek the support of a political party/organization, which one will it be? These are the few questions that will also keep bothering BAPSA.
The choices they have to make are not so much about the Right as much as they are about the Left and the Centre (ie, Mulnivasi Bahujan Organizations). Will BAPSA be able to remain true to the Birsa-Ambedkarite-Phule ideology?
During the many demonstrations that followed Rohith Vemula’s death, slogans included “Lal Salam Neelaa Salam” and there were calls for freedom from Brahmanism and casteism. (Azaadi from Brahmanvaad and Jativaad). However, the candidates fielded by the AISA-SFI alliance for the top posts in the JNUSU election were upper-caste Hindus, Brahmins and Ashrafs. AISA student leaders who were seen collaborating and sharing public platform with so-called Dalit organizations under the unifying salutation of “Jai Bhim” were caught in a conflict of interest and failed to clearly explain their allegiances. No wonder there was no concrete Bahujan reciprocation to the Left’s shouting Neelaa and Laal Salaam.
In the end, BAPSA did it on its own and made the numbers of Mulnivasi Bahujans count. Could it be the beginning of a new politics both inside and outside the campus?