Student Unions demand open elections but Mumbai University is not ready

Feb 06, 2018, 14:31 IST | Pallavi Smart

After poor response to last week's council election, student unions demand an open election but MU officials say they are not ready

Omkar Bhopi (centre, with saffron scarf) was declared the winner of the Mumbai University student elections on February 2
Omkar Bhopi (centre, with saffron scarf) was declared the winner of the Mumbai University student elections on February 2

Mumbai University (MU) may never see the kind of open student elections as its counterparts in the capital like Delhi University (DU) and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). The regular elections held by MU last week saw almost no response from student unions. Due to such lukewarm response, a lone candidate was left in the race and was elected without any opposition.

Omkar Bhopi, a first-year Masters of Social Work (MSW) student at Rajiv Gandhi Institute has been elected as student secretary. Bhopi, a candidate from the Yuva Sena, the youth wing of the political party Shiv Sena, was elected by default after the registration form of the only other candidate in the race — Punam Shinde from Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad — was rejected on technical grounds.

This tepid response to the election process has raised concerns that MU might never be ready for open elections. "With just two candidates contesting, one can see that there was very poor response to the elections. It also raises the question on how student unions can stand in open elections when they cannot even have strong candidates for closed elections. Yet, there is pressing demand from everywhere to begin open elections," said a senior MU official.

Sainath Durge, core member of the Yuva Sena, said, "For three years, there was no student council. The state government kept stating that the new Maharashtra Public Universities Act was going to be implemented and a new form of election would also be enforced. But, now that elections have finally been held, the varsity has re-started the old process. This is a complete failure on the education minister's part."

Santosh Gangurde, vice-president of Maharashtra Navnirman Vidyarthi Sena, said, "This election does not adhere to the Act. So, instead of blaming student unions for poor response, the government should rather begin open elections."

Guide to elections
In other universities with an open election process, candidates are directly elected by students. At MU, the election formula is 70% selection and 30% election. The candidates are first selected by varsity officials. These candidates are then voted for by student bodies. The candidates are elected on the basis of their combined scores in the selection and voting process.

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