ASS Proposes Reforms With Eyes on the Elections

by Divya Ravindranath

The Ashokan Socialist Syndicate is currently the largest student political party contesting for the upcoming HoR elections, and manages to boast of a number of bold reforms and plans. In an open meeting held on 14th January 2021, the party presented their manifesto by first explaining the problems that they find the current HoR to be riddled with, and later expanding on their proposed solutions to the said problems. The first big reform they plan to make is that of increasing the number of seats in the legislature from the current 15 to 30 – with the hopes of facilitating a better student body to political representative ratio. This expansion of seats, however, is only a tiny nook in their ambitious plan of parliamentary reforms. Apart from being constituted as a 30 member body, their version of Ashokan Student Parliament will also be divided into two broad branches. The first branch being the House of Representatives – for which out of 21 seats being reserved, 2 will be further reserved for Independent Candidates, and the second branch being the Senate – for which a total of 9 seats will be reserved. 

ASS’s pièce de résistance seems to be this very Senate system – a system where party-based elections will be held every monsoon semester, following which the AUEC will allocate the 9 seats amongst all the contesting parties based on vote share, who will then nominate members. The most important feature, however, is that these 9 seats will then be shuffled among the party members every two months. The Syndicate hopes to address several problems with this one reform. Problems including but not limited to lack of party-based accountability, underrepresentation of freshers in the HoR, general inactivity of political parties for the entire year barring election season, and the disinterest of Ashokan students with respect to running for elections. Senate seat holders enjoy rights such as partaking and voting in legislative meetings, but cannot nominate themselves to permanent positions such as the Presidency or the Leader of Opposition. 

ASS hopes that this alleviation of responsibility, along with the somewhat temporary nature of the Senate position, will incentivise parties to consistently recruit new members, hold themselves accountable, and encourage on-the-fence political spectators to instead be a more active part of Ashokan politics. Another proposed reform is electoral- the abandonment of the list-vote system. Intending to level the playing field for independent candidates, this reform would require parties to go through the process of winning individual seats where each candidate will be voted for separately. This gives the student body just one uniform way of casting votes, which the Syndicate believes would take away the collective advantage and dominance of parties when compared to independent candidates. This reform could have a ripple effect of restricting the appearance of parties on a whole, but ASS intends to counterbalance this by using their feature of Senate elections – where only parties can contest. 

The party also intends on creating a 10th ministry – the Ministry of Grievances, Outreach and Cooperation. The main aim of this ministry is to streamline the process of grievance redressal to a singular body, and to act as a communication facilitator between the student government and the student body. Further reforms involving reorganization of HoR committees, formation of new departments and introduction of policies within different ministries can be found in their manifesto. 

A lot of student politics is based on trust, and dependence. Lasting for about 90 minutes, the Syndicate’s open meeting was met with questions and concerns about matters that challenged these notions of trust and dependence. The attendees raised their concerns about the shuffling of the senate seats, and how it could result in House members spending most of their time disproportionately invested in getting the new members up to speed. Another concern raised was with respect to the Student Government’s work rhythm, and how it could get disrupted with constant re-shuffling and the entrance of new members through the Senate system. Furthermore, the non-consecutive nature of the Senate membership hinges on the assumption that parties will be able to find and recruit new members almost perennially. However, given the general disengagement of Ashokans with politics, attendees at the open meeting were struck with a possibility of this assumption falling flat. Concerns about the Syndicate’s proposed grievance redressal system – with respect to its exact working, and questions on individual accountability within the party were also raised. 

Note: The above article is an updated version. The original article contained two errors which have since been rectified.

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