The Future of the SG Constitution: Three Questions
Sankalp Dasmohapatra UG '24
(Note: The author is a member of the political party Leher, and the views expressed in this article are the author's own.)
As per the final results of the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) elections, seven of the fifteen seats in the CDC have gone to candidates belonging to Sattva. With this, we see the remaining eight seats (five nominated and three vacant that are to be nominated) open for other members of the student body. Sattva thus (unless its remaining three members become nominated) does not hold a majority within the CDC. This ensures that–despite Sattva’s promises of being the voice of the student body–it does not control the drafting process, something that is quite important. Further, the elected members from Sattva all belong to the UG24 cohort and (with the exception of former Election Commission member Ishaan Pandey) have no experience with Student Politics.
With this in mind, I believe that there are three important questions that need to be answered for the future of the CDC and by extension for the Constitution of the future SG.
The first of these is concerned with who the other eight members of the CDC will be. It is clear that in the process of drafting an entirely new Constitution there is an inherent need for both experience as well as inter-batch representation. A majority of the participation during the open meetings surrounding the CDC had come from senior batches, most of whom are former/present members of the SG. While said students may be unwilling to contest an election, the nomination route provides the perfect opportunity for such members to provide necessary inputs within the process. It also ensures that the criticism that Sattva has faced up until now from these students manifests itself during discussions to enable a better mutual understanding of what a new constitution should look like.
This brings me to my next point, what a new constitution should look like. Sattva’s six-page manifesto for reform has a laundry list of faults, including but not limited to: the two new proposed Rights, the futile changes to the preamble, the new ministerial mandate policies and the proposed advisory ministry. While I have expressed these points to Sattva members personally, they must be credited for their willingness to engage in dialogue regularly and saw the need to consult members of the SG while drafting their manifesto (something I had myself missed as a candidate in the previous elections). Despite the outcome of these dialogues being less than promising, this provides a good foundation for how Sattva should approach the CDC going forward. Sattva’s manifesto campaigns for the ability to vote across party lines–one would hope that, as the only party in the CDC, they uphold this ideology when helping draft the new constitution. Members of the CDC will be faced with a monumental task and any unnecessary divides within the body could have grave consequences for the future of student politics. There will be the need to bring in fresh perspectives (primarily those of UG ‘24) into the fold of student politics to address the existing inadequacies in the system. When assisted by more experienced members of the student body, the gaps between what is written on paper and what is implemented will be addressed, thus ensuring a stable political system for posterity.
The third and final question ultimately comes down to how the student body chooses to engage with both the new constitution and student politics at large. It is clear, given the dwindling levels of participation with the political process, the general neglect of national engagement on campus, and an overall distaste regarding student politics, that the future of student politics appears to be dismal at best. That being said, there are groups of active individuals choosing to take up important issues. With the student body preparing to go on a four-month long summer break, the amount of political involvement that students can and are willing to participate in will only reduce. It is then imperative that said groups are able to either put aside or use their differences to mobilise student participation through appropriately introducing them to student politics. Only with the presence of a willing and informed student body can we revitalise student politics and appropriately redefine it to better cater to a new collectively agreed upon vision.
It is clear that we are entering a crucial turning point for Ashokan politics at large and the decisions taken here will invariably shape the future of what is to come. As the Drafting Committee begins to take shape, only by addressing the key issues plaguing student politics, can we ensure that this endeavour is not doomed to failure.