/Selection of Chief Election Officer : Was it fair?

Selection of Chief Election Officer : Was it fair?

This article raises question on the selection of Rohan Bansal as the Chief Election Officer, Student’s Gymkhana 2014-15. This is an anonymous opinion voiced by a concerned student. Comments of President Students’ Gymkhana and Chairperson, Students’ Senate follow up the opinion piece.

The involvement of students in campus administration is a distinctive feature of our campus. Hence its functioning is endowed with both- the priceless life experience of our faculty members in administering it as well as the vigor and new ideas brought in by young students. Students’ involvement is enacted by an apt division of power between the faculty members and the student body of the campus. Students exercise this power through their representatives. Hence its not only important for the student representatives to be approachable to their electorate, but each student must be given an equal chance to get elected as one of the representatives. This points to the importance of fair and free elections in the campus. If the election procedure is not glitch-free, it will not only harm the foundation of all constitutional provisions, but it will also engender the feeling of distrust among the students in the functioning of Students’ Gymkhana. The responsibility of conducting elections democratically is on the shoulders of Election Council, Students’ Gymkhana.

One of the agenda items for the second meeting of Students’ Senate was the ratification of the selected candidate, Rohan Bansal, for the post of Chief Election Officer(CEO hereafter) for Students’ Gymkhana 2014-15. The candidate to be ratified for the post was the same person whose nomination for UG Y11 Senator, 2014 was canceled by the Election Council last year. His nomination wasn’t canceled because he tried to find out loopholes into the system and tried to deceive the governing body. But, he was one of those few (perhaps the only one), who showed an exceptional confidence in himself that in spite of not abiding by the rules and regulations of the Election Council, EC would not be able to do any harm to his nomination. Contrary to his belief, Election Council rejected his nomination. He came up with a manifesto which was a word to word match to one of the other candidate’s (currently a senator, Y11) manifesto. When the code of conduct is in effect, constitution clearly describes that no two candidates can work in collaboration. To hold the position of responsibility of a senator, he was not only too lethargic to think of the ways in which he wanted to transform the campus for the betterment of the students, but he did not even take a second to interchange the position of words in someone else’s manifesto.

Objection was raised in the Students’ Senate by a few senators on his selection as CEO. There were two primary reasons in favor of Rohan. Firstly, his application was the best among all the candidates who applied for the post according to the selection committee, comprising of the Chairperson, Students’ Senate and the President, Students’ Gymkhana. Secondly, few senators were of the view that humans do commit mistakes, and everyone does deserves a second chance.

And as a consequence, his name was ratified by full consensus. And so here is the situation – An election defaulter is now leading the Election Commission, to ensure free and fair elections.

The situation engendered a need for challenging the selection and the ratification decision by the Students’ Gymkhana. A few students took the job. Some students went to DOSA under the impression that Constitution has vested in him such powers to overrule the decision. Unfortunately, they found out that DOSA was unwilling to interfere and wanted the students to handle the issue themselves.

I have no personal grudges against the concerned person. But I write this article to apprise you that we all are watchdogs this year. Each and every one of you who wants their true representatives to be elected for next year’s Gymkhana should keep an eye on the activities of EC and must report any malpractice. This will maintain pressure on EC to function appropriately according to the constitution. Moving forward, I think that the defaulters should be prohibited from holding any position of responsibility in the next year. In fact, even some faculty members support this. In absence of any such provision till date, this year we have to rely completely on scrutiny of EC’s functioning by the whole electorate. Also to avoid situations like this in future, such suggestions should be taken into consideration by Students’ Senate and constitution must be amended to include such provisions. This whole episode points to the need of an independent judicial body in the campus so that even the decisions of Students’ Senate can be challenged. Current DOSA feels that even if he sees some discrepancies in the working of Gymkhana, the students see his intervention as using a ‘whip’ over the body and a disturbance in the distribution of power granted by the constitution. Hence installation of such a body will reduce workload of DOSA office, grant him redemption from such blames and at the same time, will ensure democratic and transparent functioning of the Gymkhana.

To get the perspective of selection panel, Vox spoke to Abhimanyu Arora (President, Students’ Gymkhana) and Anurag Sahay (Chairperson, Students’ Senate). 

Abhimanyu says that in his opinion, the “offense” of Rohan in the past election was minor, and the EC was harsh by cancelling his nomination. “Rohan’s record as the President of HEC, Hall-2 is commendable, and I have no doubts in his leadership abilities. His candidature was way better than any other candidate.”, says Abhimanyu. He also conveyed that CEO doesn’t have dictatorial powers. EC team members are there to keep a check on CEO and making sure he is not misusing the vested powers.

Anurag, in contrast with the President, does not believe that copying an election manifesto is a minor offense. Quoting Anurag, “The first time we called for nominations and conducted interviews, we could not find an apt-candidate. Hence, re-nominations were called, and among the applicants, Rohan was the best candidate. Given his past record, we could have considered calling for renomination for the second time. But that would have resulted in delay in conduction of upcoming DUGC/DPGC and Senate by-elections, to be held in first week of September.”

Adding to that, the Chairperson says, “Any student (not just senators) has the right to come to a Senate meeting and object at any time – all of the students who went to the DOSA knew that the Senate meeting was happening and that the agenda including this ratification. If they truly believe the situation required interference, they should have come and aired their opinions in the Senate instead of approaching the Dean directly and compromising the integrity of the ratification process. Students’ Senate is the judicial body, and even now, if a student strongly feels that something wrong has taken place, all he/she need do is convince a Senator to file an agenda in the next Senate meeting to discuss this decision again, and the matter will be discussed again, despite their tardiness in objecting.”.