The victory of Nandita Narain of the Left-affiliated Democratic Teacher’s Front (DTF) as president of the Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA) marks the decimation of right-wing politics in Delhi academics once again. The BJP-backed National Democratic Teachers’ Front (NDTF) won only one Executive Committee seat. The Congress may be having a rough time in national politics, but in the rarified atmosphere of university realpolitik, it came second as the Congress-promoted bodies, Indian National Teachers Congress (INTEC) won five and the Academics for Action and Development (AAD) won three seats respectively. The eclipse of right-wing politics in a Left-dominated teachers environment is not surprising. This is the second time DTF is winning.
“The NDTF hasn’t performed well in the past three elections,” says Surendra Kumar, the NDTF’s lone winner. “Surprisingly the party has won all seats in the past four elections of the academic council.”
However, this year, they lost one seat. A reason for its current dismal performace could be due to the fact that NDTF was muted in its criticism of the vice chancellor Dinesh Singh’s “imposing” the four-year undergraduate programme and semester system, though the BJP’s student wing ABVP has been extremely vocal in their criticism of Singh’s programme. INTEC has been supporting the VC.
With Narain’s victory, leftist ideology has gained credibility with the ‘neutral’ faculty base. “Our political ideologies might be different but the fact that she has been critical of VC’s ‘imposed’ policies has led me and many of my colleagues to vote for her,” said a professor from Sri Ram College of Commerce. Ever since DTF came into power in 2011, Singh has refused to speak with the body or recognize it as legal, calling it an “illegal welfare association,” on several occasions. When contacted by The Sunday Standard, Singh replied with a curt, “I do not speak to DUTA.” This is surprising since he appointed the current DUTA Chief Election Commissioner professor Anita Sharma.
Academicians say DTF’s win will not necessarily affect academics on campus. “There have been instances of political influence exerted on students in subjects such as political science and sociology but DUTA has been vigilant enough to stop that from happening,” Ajay Kumar Bhagi, General Secretary of NDTF said, adding the body is a vibrant academic council and influence of a particular ideology cannot exist. He dismisses fears that DU may be turning into a JNU. “DU’s culture is different. Although, sometimes the interest of teachers and students with respect to facilities intertwine, affecting the results of student union elections,” he said.
Narain, the head of mathematics department at St Stephen’s College who won with 2,705 votes defeating her closest competitor Ashwini Shankar from Deshbandhu College of the Congress affiliated AAD-INTECH by over 700 votes, has been a member of both the Academic Council and the Executive Council previously. She has been involved in a vocal spat with alleged VC favorite and controversial St. Stephen principal Valson Thampu over sexual harassment cases slapped against him. The DTF is standing firm on filing more appeals to the VC and if need be generate pressure on what they perceive as the VC’s “imposition” of programmes. This time, the right wing teachers association is unwilling to stay silent.
Surendra Kumar said, “We have a charter of demands including release of Contributory Pension Funds for retired professors, re-evaluation of the four-year undergraduate programme, elimination of pint system for appointment of ad-hoc teachers. These issues need to be discussed in unison and the new mandate must try to get the administration talking on them.” Ajay Kumar Bhagi, General Secretary of NDTF added, “Groups keep winning but teachers want DUTA to win. DUTA must devise a way so that Singh would engage in discussion as opposed to what is being said otherwise.” He said backdoor channel discussions with Singh will no longer help and DTF must also understand this. NDTF has been fighting the hasty implementation of FYUP, with BJP’s Member of Parliament and Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley supporting their cause. In a letter dated June 4, 2013, Jaitley urged the Minister of Human Resources and Development Dr MM Pallam Raju to differ the course and organize extensive discussions among academic community before final implementation.
“Our plan of action is to urge the administration to come forward for a dialogue with an open mind,” an upbeat Narain said after the results were announced. “DUTA has sent the VC over a hundred letters, but he has been unwilling to have a dialogue. We are also planning to engage the government including the Visitor, HRD ministry and the UGC in a dialogue to expose all flaws of the FYUP, semester system and the appointment of teachers using Academic Performance Indicator scores,” she said.
DUTA will have its office bearers in place by next week and will contact other faculty organizations to take this movement forward, she said. “The short-sighted assault on public-funded institutions to facilitate privatisation and commercialisation, specifically for US education business must be defeated,” she said.
The administration, however, is unmoved by Narain’s win. When contacted for comments, officials refused to acknowledge DUTA as a legal body. “DUTA as such has not been mentioned in the DU rules and regulations, acts or statutes,” said Alka Sharma, DU Registrar.