In light of #MeToo and the controversy from the previous election cycle regarding the position of
By Aarushi Aggarwal (moderator for the recent candidate’s debate)
I consider it a bit of tradition between the Edict and I that every year after the candidates’ debate I write a critique of the candidates and parties contesting elections. This year, of course, for me to take a public stand on the debates or the positions put forth will not be ethical in any way whatsoever. Therefore, I shall adopt an alternative strain to my piece. I shall address the nature of politics in Ashoka and the existing political atmosphere.
Rather early in my political career at Ashoka, I had publicly addressed the fruitlessness of the party system. I had criticised the system for not adding anything beneficial to the political culture. Instead, it was contributing to factionalism and driving wedges between the student body. In my opinion, the party culture endorses a divided student body that can otherwise converge on various issues that affect everyone equally and attain productive solutions for them. Unfortunately, this system has only strengthened from one political cycle to the next. This being the fifth, the system is now rather ingrained. If we follow the party system then we ought to accept that it comes with an obvious flip side that cannot be ignored. Candidates contesting from a certain party will constantly be held responsible for the actions, achievements and mistakes of party members who preceded them, even if they were personally not associated with those people or events. The party’s mandate extends not only to one’s ticket to contest but it also comes with certain baggage that party members will have to carry.
Independent candidates on the other hand, are responsible only for themselves and their past actions. I have publicly stated that I believe it to be easier to contest as an independent candidate than an individual who represents a party simply because independents do not carry the baggage that party members have to. Given that our political system is mature enough to allow not voting along party lines within the House, the existence of parties is actually a burden rather than a support system. One is held morally accountable to other member’s actions, despite not necessarily being ideologically aligned. Independent candidates, on the other hand, represent themselves, their morals, their ethics and their politics and once they are elected to the House, of those who voted for them.
In politics, unfortunately, we often succumb to the charm of a personality, losing sight of the ideas that that personality represents. “No speech is ever considered, but only the speaker” said a controversial but brilliant writer. This writer also observes that “It’s so much easier to pass judgment on a man than on an idea.” This trend is more commonplace on a campus like ours because we know each other personally and often an individual’s reputation precedes them. For obvious reasons, this gives birth to pre-conceived notions which leads to us not voting for ideas and agendas, but for personalities without so much as a thought to what they represent. Sometimes this extends to other individuals as well, who are executing functions that have been accorded to them via a democratic process. The lack of ability to recognise someone for their work, focusing instead on their personalities, gives rise to what I believe is a self-congratulating society, one that is heading nowhere but feeding off of each other’s perceived achievements.
The bottom line is that politics in Ashoka is not regarded with the seriousness that is due to it. Each election witnesses complex rhetoric that is over-churned and reproduced in different words (courtesy perhaps the mandatory CTS) and facetious agendas and entities. There is a need to weed out elements to whom this political platform is a rite of passage to a stronger grad-school application or those who see an involvement of this nature as a joke to be laughed at over a bottle of cheap rum. This takes asking difficult questions, questions that ought to have been considered and answered in those numerous party meetings. The lack of specific answers is natural but a complete absence of an ideological basis which can be used to answer them is not excusable. It is difficult to contest elections, and the term of the House is not any easier than that. It requires rigour of mind, body and morals. It demands courage of conviction and pursuit of truth even when it does not reveal itself. It is easy to write off elections and campus politics as unimportant in the larger run-something of little or no significance outside of Ashoka. This may be true, therefore, I point out that being a part of Ashoka’s politics is a choice. If one commits oneself to this, one must take it in all its seriousness and with all its challenges.
That being said, I believe this year’s elections to be more promising. In a mere teaser of what awaits them on the other side of elections, candidates have shown that when pressed, they can and will take a stand on issues. Elections are the 100 metre race that politically active Ashoka students run before they enter the gruelling marathon that is the House of Representatives, but how they conduct themselves through this race is reflective of how they will conduct themselves through the marathon.
With that said, I wish every contesting individual the very best.