By Aneesh Sriram UG ‘25
It’s been almost 3 months since the student body voted for the new constitution said to shape Ashoka’s Student Politics. Nonetheless, elections are still yet to happen and the student body is in an awkward state of a deadlock, with communication and negotiation between the Election Comission, Constitution Drafting Comittee, and various members of the administration taking longer than expected.
Shortly after the constitution was voted for in a resounding victory by the student body, The Edict reached out for an interview to the CDC regarding their meeting with the Board of Management of the University. This meeting was to present the student body ratified constitution and required the assent of the Board which was composed of various stakeholders including the DSA and the previous Vice-Chancellor, Malabika Sarkar.
The approval of the new constitution had been deferred by the Board in December despite it being chosen unanimously by the student body. This was, in part, due to the fact that there was no election code to go with the new Constitution.
The CDC held though, that they have been in constant touch with the admin during the drafting process and the provisions were made in a coordinated effort. The continued back and forth between students and administration has sustained despite the supposedly coordinated efforts that they undertook.
After the new Vice-Chancellor took charge in January, at least two board meetings were held. In these meetings, the newly drafted Election Code prepared by the election commission was briefly discussed.
The new Vice-Chancellor seems to have a fundamentally different approach to the process than Professor Sarkar. While Sarkar chose to have the BoM approve the Constitution before it was sent for legal vetting to the University lawyers and other officials, VC Raychoudhury wished the process to be the reverse. As a result, the document was perused first by the Dean of Student Affairs.
The DSA and Registrar raised objections to the code, communicating the Board’s sentiments that the language of the document was not simple. The DSA, on behalf of the Board, also expressed foreboding regarding the integrity of the appointments in the Election Commission. It is important to remember in this context that according to the new constitution, the current CEO appoints the next in consultation with the President - this process is something the administration takes issue with. The Registrar and the DSA in addition required an accountability mechanism for the CEO in order for them to offer their support to the code.
Finally, there was a concern regarding the timing of the election cycle itself, with the DSA expressing a need for the financial cycles of the SG to be in concurrence with that of the University.
In response to the assertions raised by the administration, the CDC drafted a reply stating tha given the process is complicated, the language of the code ensures that there are no caveats. Alternatively, a document which explains the code in a simpler manner could be prepared.
Regarding the process by which the CEO is chosen, it seems to be contradictory to make the student body elect a CEO, as the position itself is apolitical and incharge of conducting those said elections. Finally, apprehensions about the unity of the financial cycles of the SG and the university are adressed. In consultation with the Finance team, it was established that there is no requirement for the parallel nature of the two budgets.
After a round of back and forth between the Election Commission, the CDC and the Admin - the following were the final points presented by the CDC.
The Constitution will be written as it is, with some minor simplifications. A simplified explanation of it will be attached alongside so that students find it easier to understand.
The EC appointment procedure will remain as it is. Post the election, however, of the new SG the EC alongside the SG can look at potential for change before the next appointment.
Elections will be held in the second half of semester with voting being tentatively at least a week before reading week commences. The SG shall take office in July. This is owing to the uncompromising nature of the Board with regards to the financial cycle of the University and the SG having to be similar.
So what can we take away from this as the student body? First, elections are likely to happen around April, as opposed to the proposed plan in February. We can also predict that the new batch of UG 26 coming in during Monsoon 2023, and freshman batches in general in the future, will have a chance to elect their representative body outside of the tentative election cycle between April and July. The documents for the approval of the edited code have been submitted to the Registrar on the 21st of February. The process for the final approval of the Constitution, and the beginning of the new election cycle hinges on this initial approval from the Registrar.
On the process itself, the CDC had the following to say :
“The delays in the process have been unfortunate but considering the transition that the administration is going through with a new VC and board it is understandable. Both the administration and the committee is hoping for a speedy ratification of the Constitution paving the way for elections. We hope that this new Constitution and structure is more accommodating of Ashoka University and it's growing cohorts, and is able to create a system beneficial to those within it as well as the student body at large.”
The deferral of the Constitution approval, the questions put against the election code and the objections to the Financial code raises a question. Is it necessary for the administration to dampen the process of election? Are comments about the code made by the Registrar, Board of Management and the DSA within the purview of ensuring that the code abides by the University Policies? Ultimately, the Student Government is an institution made by, for and of the students themselves.