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In last leg, DU election campaign moves online

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Previous university elections may have been dominated by colourful rallies, mass sloganeering and college-to-college campaigning, but there is something different about the Delhi University Students’ Union (DUSU) elections this year.

By Shikha Kumar

With barely three days left for campaigning and in a race against time, political parties are making a conscious effort to actively use social media to garner support to reach out to a lakh-plus students spread across the university’s 70-odd colleges.

“Engaging with voters through social media is the new reality. Most students are active on Facebook and Twitter, so it was natural for us to take campaigning online,” Saket Bahuguna, general secretary, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), said.

“Right from posting the party’s manifesto online to connecting with students, and even recruiting new volunteers, social networking sites have turned out to be the best platform to reach out to students. Leaders are directly getting in touch with students through Facebook pages and Twitter handles, and addressing students’ queries. In fact, one of our leaders was forced to create two accounts after she acquired 5,000 friends on her first account in the first few days,” Roji John from the National Students’ Union of India (NSUI) said.
While ABVP is actively using Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp to apprise students of the latest events and happenings, NSUI is sharing candidates’ profile videos through WhatsApp, besides using Facebook, Twitter and bulk messaging.

“For us, DU elections are about issue-based politics. We may not have created new election pages, but through various campaigns the party is already running online (Our DU our right our fight, DU updates, Project FYUP reclaim DU), we are using social media to generate awareness about issues faced by the university,” Sunny Kumar from AISA said.

Even new entrants, like Chanakya Parishad, foraying into DUSU elections this year, are actively engaging with voters through the medium. “The party may not have much money, but it is aggressively using social media to get across its vision and mission to university students. Through Facebook, we have been inviting people to volunteer for us. We have also created a new website to establish an online presence,” a member of the party told Newsline.

But the popularity of social media campaigning hasn’t had any effect on the poster-and-flyer campaigning. The Lyngdoh committee guidelines strongly discourage defacement of public property with posters.
“Social media can, at best, be complimentary to the real campaigning undertaken on the ground. We haven’t yet reached that stage where sole online campaigning can suffice,” Kumar said.

…Meanwhile, at JNU

Women’s safety, action against those accused in sexual harassment cases and better hostel facilities are among the key issues for candidates of various students’ organisations contesting the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union elections on September 12.

Seven contestants, vying for the post of president, have underlined the need to improve facilities continued for women’s safety on the campus. This comes against the backdrop of two JNUSU officebearers stepping down from their posts following a sexual harassment complaint against them with the university’s gender sensitisation wing last month.

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