By Jacob Thamarappally and Pragyna Divakar The Edict speaks to Shashank Mattoo, the Chief Election Officer
by Clinton Manoti and Jacob Thamarappally
As Ashoka University rolls into another year of hotly contested elections, the various
political parties partaking- Dhamma, Prakrit and Moksh, as well as Esther Larisa David, an
independent candidate have all unveiled their manifestos for the coming year. Unlike
traditional political party manifestos which generally act as an ideological roadmap to a
particular party, the manifestos provided by the Ashokan parties are more of an assortment of
programs and policies that the respective parties want to implement, with no real overarching
ideological identity. However, this is somewhat to be expected when you take into account
the fairly limited power of the student government, combined with the restrictive nature of politics at Ashoka.
As is the case every year, there is quite a lot of overlap in the manifestos of the major
parties. The usual promises of better mess food, longer hot water timings, and a revamped
shuttle system all manage to make their way, yet again on all three manifestos. Other
mainstays like an improved LMS and a more efficient infirmary are still major talking points.
Environment is also still a tent pole in each one of the manifestos. With proposals ranging from acquiring air purifying filters for the entire air conditioning system to certifying future buildings as LEED, there is no shortage of ideas when it comes to making the campus more
environmentally friendly. However, when it comes to suggesting concrete solutions to some of the university’s biggest environmental issues, namely the gross wastage of food and electricity, the various manifestos leave a lot to be desired.
While it is still a problem, the various manifestos are not entirely homogenous. Dhamma for instance has dedicated quite a large chunk of their manifesto to workers’ issues. With numerous proposals to improve the working conditions of Ashoka staff- from bringing down their working hours within legal limits to encouraging equal access of campus resources. Dhamma have made these issues one of the centrepieces of their manifesto. Whether or not devoting such a large chunk of real estate to problems that do not directly
affect voters, will pay dividends, remains to be seen.
Moksh, who will be contesting in just their second election have presented a
considerably larger 37 page manifesto that is chock full with a variety of topics. With heavy importance being given to sports, cultural affairs and campus life it is definitely the flashiest of the three. However, this was somewhat to be expected as the two incumbent house members for Moksh were the heads of the Sports and Cultural Ministries.
Prakrit on the other hand, were the first party to release their final manifesto, a succinct 20 page document that in their own words “focuses on collective action, accessibility and awareness, and an empathetic approach to problem-solving”. Being the ruling party Prakit have also provided a checklist of their last year’s manifesto. The checklist contains a list of all the completed projects done by the party, as well as work done by non-Prakrit members.
Unlike the 3 political parties, with their comprehensive, sometimes long drawn out manifestos, this year’s sole independent candidate, Esther Larisa David’s manifesto is focuses on just 5 issues- the ACWB, Gender Neutral Bathrooms, Support Staff, Cultural Inclusivity and revisiting the CASH guidelines. While all these issues are pertinent, it will be interesting to see if they have differentiated their position well enough from the major parties in
order to steal the necessary votes from them.
There are however lingering questions that might affect the voting process. The major question that the parties must have asked themselves is; what do Ashokans need most? As already outlined, different party manifestos answered this question differently by dedicating a large portion to a specific task. But did the parties really ask and answer this question or did
they just reiterate what falls in their domain? Did having a Sports and Cultural minister, in the case of Moksh, drive the party to feel safe making promises in these domains. Did Prakrit, as the ruling party, have an advantage of focusing more on budgetary allocations, since they were involved in the allotment of funds to various ministries? After going missing in action
for almost an entire year, did Dhamma feel the need to come back stronger and address something more pressing, more pertinent (according to them) as in worker’s issues and Academic Outreach? The independent candidate took a much more difficult task in dealing with the larger entities and much can be said about their motivation towards this.
There was an observable trend in the manifestos as well. The thin binary between the ‘majority’ problems and the ‘minority’ problems. Across the spectrum, parties talked about stuffing the tuck shop for more edibles, having cool music while eating in the mess and so on. On the other hand, the manifestos also covered problems that affect minority group like
International students, prayer rooms for the religious minorities and so forth. It was rather clear that all the manifestos were really desperate, rightfully so, to cover both the majority and minority groups on campus. But was it just a campaign strategy or a genuine concern as evidenced from past experiences especially from the minority groups?
One question that arose from the manifesto was; is this an age of ‘cool’ stuff? An age where Ashokans must be impressed with having music in the mess and other such promises? Is it simply an Ashokan thing now? The manifestos seemed to think so and covered the cool things thoroughly. But the real question is- how much do Ashokans really care about the manifestos and how much importance does it hold in terms of swinging the votes? Do Ashokans even care about the manifestos at all? Or is it just a formality forced onto the throats of political parties by AUEC and the need to match another party’s? These questions will certainly be answered this coming Thursday.