While the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) rose to national prominence riding on the hopes of a young India determined to fight against corruption, its core constituency seems to have lost faith in it. The party's student union, the Chhatra Yuva Sangharsh Samiti (CYSS) has been routed yet again in the recently-concluded Delhi University Students' Union (DUSU) elections.

AAP, the party that came to power in Delhi registering a historical victory by bagging 67 out of 70 seats in the 2015 Assembly election, is finding it difficult to find favour with students. Born out of the ‘India Against Corruption’ (IAC) movement, the AAP virtually revolutionised the political scenario in Delhi and succeeded in coming to power by defeating the BJP and the Congress. It was then expected that its students’ wing CYSS, which had participated in the DUSU election for the first time in 2015, would again create history by winning the students’ union election.

However, this did not happen. In fact, it was routed in its debut election and secured third and fourth positions. The CYSS remained in hibernation for two years and contested this year by allying with the All India Students’ Association (AISA) – the students’ wing of the CPI (M-L). It again failed to make any dent in the Opposition camp.

Why did CYSS fail?

Eyeing the 2015 DUSU election, the AAP had launched its students’ wing in a big way on 27 September, 2014.

Several volunteers and youth who had been associated with the IAC movement and later with the AAP, feel that a gradual depletion of values and principles in the AAP has had a cascading effect on CYSS.

“When the AAP got a historical victory in 2015, the party represented hope and a national alternative. Today, the party or its students’ wing – CYSS — is merely one of the many options available like NSUI, ABVP, etc, because of a serious lack of basic moral values and principles. The DUSU elections show that when CYSS too starts depending on money, muscle and machinery to win elections, it can’t beat the traditional opponents at their own game,” Swaraj India’s Delhi president, Anupam told Firstpost.

Anupam had been a part of AAP from its initial days and moved out along with Yogendra Yadav to form the Swaraj Abhiyan. Later, he became a part of the newly-made political party Swaraj India.

Following are some of the factors behind the failure of the CYSS —
-Neglect of youth power.
-Failure to strengthen youth and students’ wing.
-Failure in strategy to fight DUSU election.
-AAP’s changed priorities after coming to power.
-Unlike the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), CYSS lacks a strong organisational structure.
-Dent in the image of AAP and its supremo Arvind Kejriwal.
-Fading of AAP’s "revolutionary" image.
-AAP’s shift from its core vote bank — youth — to others.
-Frustration among youth and students.
-Joining hands with AISA.

According to an AAP functionary, the CYSS jumped into the fray quite late and joined hands with the AISA towards the end of August. This reflects poor strategy on the part of AAP.

“Initially, Arvind Kejriwal’s personality evoked idealism and attracted youth. But his image was dented when he and AAP indulged in power politics. Students and youth are more attracted to idealism and think of bringing change. Unfortunately, AAP failed to build upon on this factor. Therefore, students in campuses are unable to connect with CYSS today,” said Karan Singh, former head of AAP volunteers.

“Youth have been the core strength of AAP, but after the party came to power, they were neglected. We raised this issue a couple of times during our meetings, but it remained unheard. Unlike the ABVP, CYSS lacks a strong organisational structure. It was only after dabbling with power politics and money that the AAP realised that it needs to strengthen its students’ wing. But it was too late,” alleged Singh.

The CYSS performed well in Rajasthan in 2017, when it had won 28 posts in students’ union elections, out of which 12 posts were those of presidents. However, Delhi’s story is different, with heavyweights like ABVP and NSUI as strong opponents.

“Delhi University and JNU represent the entire country and not just a state. The CYSS has no influence on college and university campuses in Delhi. The root cause is the AAP, as youth are unable to associate with the party any more,” Singh added.

Many students and members of CYSS feel that the alliance with AISA was an important reason for the failure.

“Instead of joining hands with AISA, we should have strengthened ourselves independently. If AAP got the historic mandate by not joining hands with any other party, why couldn't CYSS do it? This alliance left a large number of students confused, as they did not want to be a part of any Left-backed union. The CYSS should have been developed into a strong independent students’ union,” a CYSS member and DU student said on the condition of anonymity.