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The flavour of Opposition unity percolates to DU teachers polls

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By Sidharth Mishra

Opposition unity and catchy acronyms seems to have become the flavour of the season. First it was at the national level that major political parties came together to form an alliance and named it Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance that is I.N.D.I.A, creating quite a stir by the name itself.

The model has now been replicated by the teachers groups aligned to political parties which are part of the aforementioned alliance, for the upcoming polls of Delhi University Teachers Association (DUTA). The elections are due in end-September, however, with the announcement of candidates, campaign for all the practical purposes have begun.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-affiliated National Democratic Teachers front (NDTF) was first of the block announcing its panel, repeating the sitting DUTA president A K Bhagi as it presidential candidate. The scattered teachers’ groups opposed ideologically to the BJP have now sprung a surprise by launching Democratic United Teachers Alliance (D.U.TA). They have fielded a veteran of many battles and a popular face on the campus Aditya Narayan Misra as their candidate.

Misra’s supporters have given an interesting argument in their favour saying that D.U.T.A has been formed “to reclaim the DUTA as a teachers’ collective that works in defence of public funded education and rights of teachers.” This conglomeration is interesting as Misra, a former functionary of the Vichar Vibhag of the Congress is now with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and heads a body called AADTA.

So like at the Centre, this alliance too would witness coming together of the Congress and the AAP in Delhi politics. Will this mature into an alliance for the Delhi University Students Union (DUSU) polls too is something to watch for? Despite being in power for almost 10 years, AAP has not been able to make any inroads into the teachers and students politics of Delhi University, which is keenly followed in the national Capital.      

However, more than the coming together of the AAP and the Congress, it’s the prominent left group Democratic Teachers Front (DTF), aligned to the CPI (M) and the assemblage of smaller left groups, which would provide both the sinews and teeth to D.U.T.A. While professing the short comings of the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 would be part of the campaign material, displacement of adhoc teachers would be the major bone of contention. 

 

In the last polls, which was won by NDTF after nearly two decades in wilderness, unpaid salaries in Delhi government-funded colleges and unstated ban on the appointment of permanent teachers was the major factor. NDTF’s presidential candidate AK Bhagi had got 52 per cent of the valid votes. Abha Dev Habib, the presidential candidate of the CPM-backed Democratic Teachers Front (DTF) came a distant second polling just 32 per cent of the valid votes. Then Congress-aligned Academics for Action and Development (AAD) managed just 12 per cent of the valid votes.

This time around the opposition is united, salary issue of the Delhi government colleges has almost been come over and there are allegations of a large number of ad hoc teachers being displaced in the course of making permanent appointment. There are also cases of salary being delayed in the colleges funded by the University Grants Commission (UGC).

Having recounted minus side, for the NDTF the plus are that a large number of posts of permanent teachers have been filled and it’s for these new appointees to pay back to the existing office bearers by voting for them. A large number of teachers have also benefitted from promotions in the colleges by introduction of professorship.

Going by simple analysis and calculations, it should be a close battle at least on the paper. However, calculations on the paper and mobilising voter opinion in one’s own favour at two different things. 

 

(First Published in The Morning Standard)

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