On October 5, 2023, the Ashoka University Election Commission (AUEC) sent out an email informing the student body that Navya Asopa (UG’24), an Independent candidate and member of the House of Representatives (HoR), had been recalled. Prachet Sinha (UG’25) was elected as her replacement. Upon further investigation, The Edict’s Newsdesk discovered the SG Drive’s attendance record had marked Navya as recalled as far back as September 18.
The Ashoka University Student Government (AUSG), since the commencement of its term, has assured the student body of accountability and a certain level of transparency. However, the recent recall raises a myriad of questions, not only about the member turnover but more importantly about the transparency within the workings of the Student Government. Why was Navya Asopa recalled? Why was there a gap of over two weeks between the recall motion passing and it becoming public knowledge? Why was the reason for the recall not stated explicitly?
The motion of recall exists within the boundaries of the constitution, and the HoR is well within its rights to utilise this provision. If the motion is raised and passed with a two-thirds majority, the process of reelection can be initiated.
The motion to recall Navya was raised and carried through by the Independents on September 18 in the UG Council. Subsequently, a council-wide vote was carried out, said Aditi Warrier (UG’24), the Speaker of the House.
“Navya was elected by the Independents… In this case, specifically, we asked the Election Commission whether the vote needs to be conducted among only the Independents, and they informed us that such a division for the recall vote does not exist within the Election Code and that the vote should be conducted Council-wide,” Aditi said. “We therefore went ahead and conducted the vote, although it was still the Independents that carried the motion through. The vote results were 12-2 in favour of the recall motion.”
The motion to recall passed and necessary processes were initiated September 19 onwards but the AUEC did not hold elections until October 2. The student body was not intimated until October 5.
While unsure of the exact reason for the delay, HoR members have speculated internal reasons within the AUEC behind this.
Aditi said she wrote to the Election Commission on September 19 informing them of a “newly vacant seat” in the HoR and requested them to conduct a re-election for the same. When asked about the delay in sharing this information with the student body, she said she was unsure about why exactly the AUEC delayed the news but assumed “that their internal processes and procedures caused this gap in dates.”
The Edict reached out to the AUEC for information on the delay in re-election, but received no comment.
“The House preferred that both the announcement of the recall vote as well as the announcement of the re-election be made together, which is [why] we didn’t communicate anything prior to that,” Aditi told The Edict.
However, amid all this, there was still no public mention of the reason behind the motion to recall Navya Asopa in the first place.
“We felt it necessary to reveal both the recall and the re-election at the same time so as to not cause any confusion or speculation regarding the empty seat among the student body,” said Prachet Sinha, the HoR’s new pick for the vacant seat.
On the reasons behind Navya’s removal, Prachet said multiple factors such as “attendance in Council meetings, taking up initiatives and work to be done within the HoR” along with “other indicators of inactivity” were considered, and the ultimate decision was to bring in someone who “is able to dedicate more time to the HoR as it can be extremely time-consuming.”
Upon interviewing Navya, she seems to have found the decision to recall by the HoR a bit harsh since the situation she was in at the time was quite strained. “I had lost a family member at the time and was living alone, so clear communication was not possible from my side. That was my fault perhaps, ” she said.
Additionally, Navya mentioned that other members of the HoR had moments of inactive participation as well. “I wonder if the action taken would have been the same in other cases,” she questioned.
Navya has also mentioned that she “gradually started losing hope in the work of the HoR, especially after the meeting with the founders.”
Navya, in a statement to The Edict, said, “The consensus was to focus on positive talking points for Ashoka University and to in turn validate the sentiments of the founders who had been extremely disrespectful to the student community in their public statements. My reservations toward the decision were subtly dismissed. However, despite being disenchanted by my own position and so on, I plan to stay in the Council because the student body voted me in with the belief that I would bring up certain pressing issues, and I won't leave until I am able to do so.”
While the reason for recalling Navya Asopa has now been stated by members of the Council, the problem still lies in the lack of transparency in the email sent by the AUEC on October 5.
Prachet said, “Since the mail was sent by the Election Commission, which isn't involved in any of the meetings of the Council which confirmed the recall motion, they couldn't have mentioned the reasoning behind the recall, and they fulfilled their position to announce the results to the student body. The Council wanted to leave that communication to the EC as the elections fall within their purview. We have, however, been willing to answer any questions and I hope this piece is able to better communicate to the students the rationale behind our decision.”
The delay of the re-election process by the AUEC as well as the subtle lack of information provided by the SG raises some fundamental questions about the level of transparency maintained between the bodies of governance and the students. While these questions now have answers, they still do not account for the absence of a public addressal.