Anwesh Pokkuluri (B.Tech/EP/2014) writes about his experiences while deciding to contest, and later withdraw his candidature for the post of Students’ General Secretary.
This year, I decided to contest for the position of Students’ General Secretary of IIT Madras. I was bothered by the fact that regional politics played a role in elections in our institute (read: supposedly one of the best in the country). I wanted to show everyone on campus that a fair election could be contested. By a fair election, I mean not playing the regional card or trading vote banks or bargaining for other positions of responsibility. I believed that Students’ General Secretary was the position through which I could bring a change if I won. So I filed my nomination.
A few days later, I found out that only one other person was contesting the SGS elections with me. Though I had not met Deepak Johnson personally then, I soon came to know that he too was standing for much the same ideals that I was. I would like to think that there developed a mutual understanding between us, that the other person was as deserving a candidate for the post. We met a couple of times, and after discussions, decided that the both of us would contest a fair election. We also agreed that no matter who won, we would work together for the betterment of the institute.
Thus, we were all set to contest a fair election, and let the best man win. Of course, there were many instances when I was ridiculed, and put under immense pressure from various quarters, for harbouring idealistic notions. But still, I decided to hang in there.
In this process, I gained support from many people in the institute. But later on I realized that for some of them their true intention was not to support me, but to defeat my opponent. They were ready to do anything to make this happen, and were playing regional politics (against my opponent).
One such incident took place just before the day of withdrawal of nominations. Interestingly, the move came from a different end. Some of the supporters of an unopposed candidate now wanted to make me step down so that they could repay Deepak and his supporters for their help in causing that election to be unopposed. The desperation went to the extent of offering me the position of SAC Speaker.
I then realized how deep-rooted regional politics, as I understood it, in the institute is. I realized that all this could, or would, happen undercover without my involvement and consent, even if I contested. So I decided to withdraw my nomination as I believed that my opponent too could make a good General Secretary if he won but the whole idea of a fair election would be lost if I remained in the fray.
So I withdrew my nomination on the last day after lot of thought. Though this may seem to be a calculated deal for getting another post in return, I would honestly say that I did what I did with my full consciousness. It was my own decision when I wanted to stand and it was again my own decision to step down. I stuck to my ideology of a fair election and a good secretary.
As for the SAC Speaker position – I did not say anything to them on that day with the thought that I might still have an opportunity to serve the campus residents. However, pondering over it later, I felt that I should not contest, for two reasons. The major one is that by standing, I would only give a chance to everyone to think that I had stepped down from the SGS election because I was offered something else, which defeated the aim of withdrawal. Secondly, it might only strengthen the already set precedent that a person who does not become SGS can become the SAC Speaker. I thought that the magnitude of change that can be brought by becoming Speaker was lesser than that of the message that those two reasons send to the students. Hence, I stayed away from the election.
At the end of the day, I would proudly say that I stood for a cause and withdrew for a greater cause.
(A version of this story was shared on Facebook by the author)
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