In The Inbox: What we heard before campaigning officially began
Updated: Apr 25, 2021
Published on January 11, 2021
With the onset of the campaigning period on 11th January for the upcoming election to the 7th House of Representatives, student inboxes are expected to be inundated with emails. All the three active political parties have concluded their first rounds of inductions, and the second rounds are underway. As they invite new members, each party is keen to stand out from the rest. Here is an overview of everything that we have heard from them so far:
As of 11:59 PM on 10th January. (Note: the first email thread from Tarz also announced the introduction of the new party.)
The ruling party in the 6th House, with 10 members out of 15, Prakrit has dominated the electoral field for the last three elections. Back-to-back, it has thrice secured the presidency, no less than seven House seats, and at least four Cabinet posts. In four of the five elections it has fought till date, Prakrit has emerged as the single-largest party. Before 11th January, Prakrit has sent out the most number of email threads, including seven for events and four for inductions.
Their Ideology. Prakrit, with its signature push for unionising the student body, strives to “unflinchingly commit to progressive principles and civil liberties.” In the House, the party has been vocal about “its stance on matters of national politics.” With Prakrit in power, the SG has issued public statements against CAA/NRC, condemning police brutality in Jamia Milia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University, backing protests against fee hike at Jawaharlal Nehru University, opposing arbitrary arrests of Umar Khalid and other activists under UAPA, denouncing acts of brutality against Dalit women in Uttar Pradesh, expressing solidarity with the worldwide racial justice movement, and most recently, supporting the farmers’ protests.
Their Organisation. Prakrit maintains that they have a “horizontal power structure,” meaning that their internal decision-making is democratic. It is the only party to have self-published any data about its gender composition. A majority of the party’s members, elected Representatives, and Cabinet ministers are not cis-men. Under Priavi Joshi of Prakrit, the first female President of the SG, the Cabinet has seen its highest ever number of women getting appointed — seven out of nine.
On Student-Admin Relations. In unionisation, Prakrit sees a viable balancing act between “effective, democratic negotiations” and “collective action through student mobilisation.” The party “uncompromisingly” believes that negotiations can be democratic only when the students are “at an equal footing” with the administration. Prakrit reserves using the “leverage” of assured student mobilisation for redressing abridgement of “students’ or workers’ civil liberties or their right to be consulted” as primary stakeholders. For proof of concept, the party points to their three years’ track record, such as the P/NR policy and workers’ welfare.
Their Events. Prakrit has held five events before the campaigning period. One was an open dialogue on the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). The second was an introductory meeting for the freshers. There were two more open dialogues, one on the assembly elections in Bihar and the other on stress during finals week. The most recent event was on academics, including UG23’s FC requirements, grade appeals, and STEM in liberal arts. (Prakrit claims that its members in the Academic Affairs Ministry have advocated for “academic reform in all these avenues.”) A sixth event has been announced, related to hate-based violence in India, to be held on 13th January.
Dhamma is the second-largest party in the 6th House, with two seats, and has given the SG its two most recent Leaders of the Opposition. As the oldest surviving party on campus, it bagged two consecutive presidential terms before Prakrit came to power. The party did not contest elections to the 4th House and sent a single member to the 5th. The last time a Dhamma member served in the Cabinet was in the 3rd House, when they also held the Presidency. Leading up to 11th January, Dhamma has sent out nine email threads, six of which were for inductions.
Their Ideology. Dhamma considers student politics to be “an integral part of one’s development as a student and as a citizen of a democracy at large.” With its “wide-eyed optimism and change-the-world energy,” the party wants to use its platform for “the welfare of the Ashoka community and the world.” Dhamma laments how some groups claim to “speak for everyone” and suppress deviating views, especially in the university’s “current cyber culture.” The party highlights classism as an overlooked issue that has festered a “subtle otherisation” of the underprivileged in policies and representation.
Their Organisation. Dhamma adheres to a “horizontal structure of power dynamics” that treats every member equally. The party wants to effectively imbibe “a learning mindset” in its members so they can “work as well as grow as individuals.” Even with no two members sharing “similar opinions on any issue,” the party strives to act as “a safe space for discourse”.
On Student-Admin Relations. Dhamma says it approaches issues with “sensitivity and thoughtfulness.” Even as the SG engages with the administration, it should be “equally receptive to the voices of all its constituents, no matter where they come from.” Dhamma plans to achieve this by conducting “focus groups” and promoting “active participation” of students in the SG’s decision-making. Once “diverse opinions” have been heard, the party’s strategy is to deliberate and mutually decide on “a further course to action.”
Their Events. Dhamma has organised one public event, where it invited students to interact with its ex-members about the history of student politics at Ashoka. Apart from that, it has circulated a form for students to sign up to meet a pair of Dhamma members. The party chose to hold “direct and personal conversations” with students, over sending lengthy emails.
The newest party on campus, Tarz was formed as a reaction to the withering opposition in an electoral field that is increasingly dominated by Prakrit and marked by the exit of Moksh. It was co-founded by two former election commissioners, Amola Mehta and Maanya Saran, and an ex-Prakrit member, Dhrupad Damani. Prior to 11th January, they have sent out nine email threads for inductions, the first of which also announced the introduction of the new party.
Their Ideology. Tarz, like Prakrit, professes its “progressive left leanings,” even as it decries the “lack of ideological plurality” in student politics. The party derides unionisation as “a futile venture” and promises to offer “an alternative manner” of doing politics on campus, by striving for individual growth, compassion, and professionalism. Tarz accuses those in office of “resorting to aggressive or overly defensive tactics” in the face of criticism.
Their Organisation. Tarz alleges two deficiencies in the existing parties. Firstly, that parties foster “mentor-protege dynamics” that favour “seniority” and stifle “individuality.” To remedy this, the party proposes to democratise its “internal voting and deliberation processes”, inculcate “collaboration as a fundamental tenet”, and “respect the intellect” of its members. Secondly, the parties’ “lack of internal structure” unavoidably makes way for “implicit and biased hierarchies” of an “uncodified nature.” To prevent such “arbitrary hierarchies,” Tarz proposes a formal structure that “values organised and dedicated work ethic” by rewarding hard work with “upward mobility.”
On Student-Admin Relations. Tarz rejects the assertion that opposing unionisation is an admission of being pro-administration. The party argues that protests eventually result in “unwarranted antagonism” which hinders reaching “mutually beneficial solutions.” Tarz respects the students and the administration as “two key stakeholders” and recognises the need to set up a “sustainable channel of communication” between them. The party believes in “engaging effectively” with the administration through “persistent negotiation,” to take part in “important administrative decisions.” Tarz strives to usher in “a nuanced and reflexive approach to dialogue” that champions “the vibrancy and evolution of Ashokan politics.”
Their Events. Tarz has not yet held or announced any public event.
– Reporting contributed by Deep Vakil. The methodology of the article involved close reading and analysis of more than 30 public emails and all social media posts so far by the three parties.