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  • Aneesh Sriram

New Chief Election Commissioner appointed, AUSG and Presidential Elections likely to be held by end of April

On 13 February 2024, the Ashoka University Election Commission (AUEC) announced the appointment of the new Chief Election Commissioner (CEO), Teshi Sharma (UG’25), in an email to the student body. According to the mail sent by Rudransh Mukherjee (UG’24), the former CEO, Teshi will take up the forthcoming elections and induct the new Election Commissioners to form the AUEC. The following day (14 February), in an email to the student body, Teshi expressed that she was “eager to work alongside [the student body] to uphold the integrity of our electoral process”, thus opening the inductions for the post of Election Commissioner.

Immediate Plans

In this regard, The Edict reached out to Teshi for an interview. “I am currently vetting applications and conducting interviews with the applicants for the Election Commissioner posts”, she said, also remarking that the body will be ready by the end of the following week. Similarly, she reports that a mixed bag of candidates have applied, who are “mostly first-years”.

Over the last few months, the UG Council has seen a series of resignations: Anshika Chaudhry (UG’25) in November, and more recently Debadrito Poddar (UG’25) and Hrishit Lath (UG’25). The Election Code states that by-elections are to happen for these empty seats. According to Teshi, the reason for the delay in these by-elections owes to the fact that, by November, the tenure of the Election Commissioners came to an end. As the body was without a CEO from November to February, the by-elections for Anshika’s seat could not be held. 

“As soon as the new EC is formed, the first point on the agenda is to address this,” adds Teshi. The causes of these successive resignations have not been brought to the attention of the AUEC.

AUSG and Presidential elections

When asked about the election timeline, the CEO mentions that the Commission is “looking at the end of April or by the second-last week of April” to conduct both the Council and the candidate elections. This, according to her, will “give [them] enough time to prepare for the forthcoming cycle.”

“We want the AUEC to take up things that go beyond just elections, whether that is to generate some sort of political dialogue and increase participation from the junior batches as well,” Teshi remarked about changes the new EC is looking to implement. 

Similarly, with the precedent on turnout set by the previous elections — 53.29% turnout in the UG Council Election and 50.67% turnout for the Presidential Election in 2023, compared to a mere 38.5% voter turnout in the 2022 8th House of Representatives election — there certainly is a promising growth, but not sufficient voter turnout percentage. 

When questioned on ways to increase this, Teshi says, “The strategy for this is being planned currently through inputs from conversations with people around campus as well as the SG.” Ultimately, she says, “dialogue is the only way [the AUEC] can achieve this, including incentivizing voters.” The growing turnout trend was also due to the fact that “people clearly were frustrated [with the lack of a fully functioning Student Government] and [the AUEC is] hoping for a larger number this time”.

Debates to be held

Finally, the candidates’ debate and the presidential debates were confirmed to be conducted before the student body heads for the polls in April. The arrangements for the election cycle will be made in the forthcoming weeks. The possibility of conducting an accountability debate is also “something [the AUEC] will be taking into consideration”. The accountability debate serves as a platform for the student body and The Edict’s Politics Newsdesk to pose questions to the current SG on all aspects of their tenure and activities. The significance of having such a platform was highlighted during the recent presidential and candidate debates. While these debates emphasized the importance of accountability, the candidates faced challenges in providing accurate and complete responses, with some absences.

“Since we have a longer period to prepare this time, we wanted to get started as soon as possible,” said Teshi. Over the forthcoming weeks, the student body is likely to see this process unfold .

This article forms a part of the larger annual special election coverage of the Politics Newsdesk department.

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