Raunaq Singh Bawa and Vishnu Prakash UG ‘24
On Sunday April 3rd, The Edict interviewed three party members from the newly-formed student political party, Sattva. Sattva is the only political party contesting the elections to the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC), scheduled to be held on 13th and 14th April. The members interviewed were Ishaan Pandey, Anandita Dube, and Rutupurna Debalina Naik, who are also standing in the said elections. These candidates do not have any formal posts within the party and asked to be referred to simply as ‘candidates’.
At the outset, they discussed their motivations for having formed Sattva. Anandita expressed the party’s disappointment at the prevalence of NOTA in the recent elections and felt that the drafting of a new Constitution is a “creative measure” which would reinvigorate the Student Government and transform it into a smooth-functioning body. Ishaan drew on his past experience as the social media head of the Election Commission, from where he observed the past elections closely and claimed to have realized the need for reforms. As per him, “If the student body understands the student government better, it will make it easier for them to interact with it.” For him, the aim of the present exercise is to design an easily comprehensible political system.
The candidates were then questioned on what ideology, if any, their party followed. The candidates stressed on the point that their party was not organized along ideological lines and that their ultimate aim was simply “[to do] the best for Ashoka and its students.” Anandita stated that it would be naïve to pick a particular ideological stance and stick to it, while Ishaan said that the party’s ideology “would show in the way we work.” However, he did specify that their potential ideological leanings lay in the centre of the political spectrum. Further, he made it a point to emphasize the party’s focus on “negotiating and talking.”
During a discussion on the House of Representatives, the party representatives remained hopeful that a House will exist following the potential adoption of a new Constitution, and that the party would consider contesting the elections to the House should voters be satisfied with their ideas and the work they do in the Drafting Committee. Further, they expressed their objective to reform the House to make it “better incorporated into the current culture.” In principle, however, they were happy with the existence of a representative House.
On being questioned on their organizing principle of “minimum hierarchy” (as expressed in article 3(1) of the Sattva Constitution), Ishaan stated that the party was built on the values of negotiation and discussion. As per him, differentiation among members would be done solely on the basis of the nature of their duties and there would be virtually no hierarchy of any kind. Their party structure has no president, vice-president, or any such authoritative posts, only individuals appointed as tenured Points of Contact for various functions. Rutupurna expressed their belief that vesting authority in a single position was likely to lead to dissent and that the party favored collective decision-making. Anandita emphasized the importance of promoting “individual agency.”
Upon further questioning on the Sattva Constitution’s provisions, the party representatives explained that this was to be treated as a working document, where a number of nuances were yet to be added. As per Ishaan, formal party inductions are likely to happen only post CDC elections and it is only after these inductions that various details—such as the composition of the Grievance Redressal Committee, a formal voting procedure for approving candidates and so on—will be worked out and finalized. Existing candidates of the party have been selected through “negotiation” and approved by a “simple vote.”
Finally, on the two members of the erstwhile Progressive Alliance now being members of Sattva, the representatives clarified that this was not to be seen as a merger. The two members—Karan Chawla (now a part of Sattva’s Grievance Redressal Committee) and Kritika Shanker (now a Sattva candidate for the upcoming elections)—were said to have joined the party after the Progressive Alliance’s disbanding.
Likely to have a majority of members in the Drafting Committee, Sattva are set to play a large part in defining the future of Ashokan politics. They are faced with a unique situation - with little to no opposition, they have the opportunity to win the popular mandate twice without contesting a single House election (the elections to the CDC, and the referendum on the new Constitution). But, questions still remain. On multiple issues, especially regarding intra-party structure and policy, candidates said that they would set up formal policies only in the future, after holding public inductions. It remains to be seen however, if their efficiency-first messaging has percolated into student consciousness. The elections on the 13th and 14th will be the first of many tests for this new party. In these elections the student body will make an important decision - to entrust Sattva with the responsibility of writing a potentially new Constitution, or to once again express their disapproval by voting NOTA and continue to keep Student Government in suspended animation.