A "Progressive" Candidate?
by Devansh Mittal (UG '24)
On January 29th, the Ashoka University Election Commission (AUEC) sent out an email to the student body, listing out the candidates who have filed their nominations for elections to the 8th House of Representatives (HoR). Below the towering list of 13 candidates of the Allied Socialist Syndicate (ASS) and the 4 Independent candidates was the name of Karan Chawla, the sole candidate representing the Progressive Alliance (PA).
PA positions itself on the left of the political spectrum. The preamble of the Party’s Constitution says that the Party members “stand for socialism, secularism, democracy of representation and commit to actively engaging in the welfare of the Ashokan Student Body and its workers.” They also “commit to eliminating differences among Ashokans.”
On being asked why the party was formulated in the first place, Karan says, “
When we entered Ashoka in 2021, we saw the entire student government fall, which was very saddening … What is the Ashokan Dream? The founders of Ashoka wanted to make a university which is at par with institutes like MIT, Stanford, Harvard, and other top universities. The reason why I want to be in the student government is to contribute to this beautiful cause called “Ashoka” which will be me indirectly contributing to helping India grow and showcase herself in the international league…”
The Party currently has only two members, both in their first year - Karan Chawla, who is the President and Kritika Shankar, who serves as Vice President. The PA has various committees like the Ideation Committee, Communications Committee, Complaints Committee and the Social Media Committee. Each of these committees will have a person heading these (Committee Heads) and specialized officers under them, to undertake Specific Tasks. It also plans to have Year-Group Heads, who are going to represent and convey messages of respective year-group students at meetings. Apart from the President and Vice-President, the Party Executive also serves on the Executive Committee, about which there is no information in the Constitution. The Party also has the post of a Chamberlain. The Chamberlain is designated to be the “keeper of all financial records of the party”. All these posts (except the President and Vice-President) lie vacant right now.
On being questioned about his inexperience in student representation, Karan says that they’re very adamant about their goals and that’ll help. “Nobody is well-learned from the onset, we’re all learning and one thing we know for sure is that, no matter the barriers, we will keep moving forward.”
One of the main purposes of the PA, as enlisted in the Constitution, is “to overcome a lack of interest among Ashokans for participating in various activities that take place across campus..”. Chawla believes the main cause of this apathy is the lack of a centralized database of different events happening at the university. “We’d urge the ministry of academic affairs for the regular maintenance of a calendar for all the academic seminars and the extra-curricular activities taking place across multiple disciplines. We will be ready to help them in any way we can … make it easier for students to decide which activity they would want to join. Since, that removes the barriers and nudges people to attend and contribute,” he asserts.
An email titled “Problems by Ariana Grande” reached the inboxes of the students of Ashoka on January 22nd. It was sent by the PA asking people to tell them their “problems”. Counting this survey as their “primary research”, the PA concluded that one of the main hindrances to active participation in student politics at Ashoka is that the information pertaining to it is “either difficult to understand or hard to find”. They hope to solve this by shortening the meeting reports of SG so that it is less time consuming for students to read.
The Progressive Alliance started it’s induction process on January 21, just 3 days before the filing period was supposed to end according to the AUEC’s Election Timeline. This prompted allegations of opportunism due to the low electoral competition against them by some of the student body. Chawla was asked to respond to these criticisms. “We will raise issues that students want to be raised and the competition will bring about policies in the best interest of students, the constituencies and the university. But, we don't see competition as a fight to win, but as a challenge to serve better and no matter what, we will continue doing that,” he stated diplomatically.
*Link to the MPA Survey: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfJu-qI6Vz4UXhWW0Z26HVvO1_RaewQATVXOXFtH5J8X9ontw/viewform