The Congress-backed National Students' Union of India on Wednesday made a comeback in the Delhi University Students Union, wresting the crucial posts of president and vice president from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-affiliated Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, and dubbed it as a victory of liberal values.
The ABVP, which has held sway in the DUSU since 2013, was dealt a blow as it won only the posts of secretary and joint-secretary, in an election dominated by debate on nationalism and free speech.
The Congress promptly hailed the victory as a triumph of 'liberal values' and a 'wake up call' for the prime minister.
Its students' wing, the NSUI, also contested the result for the joint-secretary post and said it would move the court.
Party vice president Rahul Gandhi thanked the students of Delhi University for reposing faith in the 'Congress ideology'.
Rocky Tusheed of the NSUI bagged the president's post defeating ABVP's Rajat Choudhary by a margin of 1,590 votes. The NSUI had held the president's post last in 2012.
'Congratulations @nsui on an outstanding performance in #DUSUelection2017. A triumph for liberal values on campus. #NSUIwinsDU Proud of you!,' senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor tweeted.
Interestingly, the university poll panel had cancelled Tusheed's candidature over records of certain 'disciplinary action' against him. The NSUI moved the Delhi high court which granted him an interim relief.
The vice-president's post went to NSUI's Kunal Sehrawat who defeated Paarth Rana of the ABVP by a slender margin of 175 votes.
Nearly 43 per cent of the 1.2 lakh-strong electorate voted yesterday in the polls, where the Ramjas College violence and the subsequent debate on nationalism and free speech had dominated the campaign.
ABVP's Mahamedha Nagar, who was allegedly involved in the Ramjas College violence of February 21, and Uma Shankar won the posts of secretary and joint-secretary by margins of 2,624 and 342 votes respectively.
The result had its share of drama with NSUI supporters protesting outside the counting centre demanding the votes for the joint secretary's post be recounted. No recounting took place, however.
All India Congress Committee's NSUI in-charge Ruchi Gupta said a complaint has been filed with the university's grievances committee on the issue.
"We will also be approaching the court," Gupta said.
DU elections, unlike polls in the Jawaharlal Nehru University, has never been ideologically polarised and is more known for the rampant abuse of money and muscle power. The recently concluded JNUSU polls was swept by the left.
However, the circumstances were a little unusual this year. On February 21, ABVP supporters had disrupted a seminar on 'Culture of Protests' in Ramjas College protesting against invites to JNU student activists Shehla Rashid and Umar Khalid.
The next day, North Campus had turned into a battle ground with activists of ABVP targeting a protest march led by students from left-affiliated AISA, and the NSUI, leaving several, including teachers, journalists and policemen, injured.
Later, Gurmehar Kaur, a student of Lady Shri Ram College, had emerged as the pivot of the swirling debate after she made a series of posts on social media against campus vigilantism, attracting a vicious onslaught by right-wing trolls.
'Congratulations to every DU student, you've reclaimed your university back. You've proved violence and hooliganism will not be tolerated!,' she tweeted on Thursday.
Another highlight of today's verdict was the inclination of the students towards NOTA (None of the Above) option.
Overall, over 29,000 students pressed the None of the Above option. With 9,028 votes, the NOTA was the third most-voted option for the polling for the joint secretary's post.
In the presidential panel, AISA's candidate Parul Chauhan secured fourth place with 4,895 votes, even short of 5,162 votes polled for NOTA. The left body came third in the posts of vice president and secretary.
Last year, the ABVP had bagged three posts while the NSUI had won the post of joint secretary, with which it had registered its presence in the DUSU after a gap of two years when the right-wing body enjoyed undisputed dominance.
The last time NSUI was in a leadership position in the DU was in 2012, when the Congress-led UPA government was in power. In 2013, a year before the BJP swept to power, the ABVP decimated the Congress-backed body by clinching three seats.
The Delhi University students' union has given rise to a number of prominent politicians belonging to parties across the spectrum, including Bharatiya Janata Party's Arun Jaitley, Vijay Goel, Nupur Sharma; Congress' Ajay Maken. Alka Lamba, an Aam Aadmi Party MLA, had also won the president's post contesting as an NSUI candidate.
The Congress today hailed the victory of its student wing, saying it is a reflection of the changing atmosphere in the country as the youth have taught the saffron brigade a lesson after being 'misled'.
A festive atmosphere prevailed at the party headquarters which was abuzz with activity after NSUI members swarmed the office and burst crackers and danced outside Congress president Sonia Gandhi's residence.
The NSUI leaders also met Gandhi, who congratulated them on the victory.
Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari accused the ABVP of indulging in malpractices in the election and said the party's student body has all its options open if the DU authorities 'do not mend their ways'.
"This is not the only instance (where NSUI won in student elections). The atmosphere in the country is changing. Those who misled the youth, The youth are today teaching them a lesson. The NSUI won the Panjab University election and prior to that in Rajasthan University the NSUI sounded the victory bugle. It is a reflection of the changed atmosphere in the country," Tewari said.
In the past there has never been an incident where nominations have been cancelled in students' polls and one has to move the court to get them restored. This is the manifestation of subversion of varsities by the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government, he claimed.