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Bose bowled out on Presi pitch

- Absolute majority: ‘Yes, he should resign’

Yes, he should resign: 1,208

No, he should not: 316

Presidency University students write the results of the campus referendum on whether Sugata Bose should resign as chairman of the institution’s mentor group after being fielded by Trinamul from the Jadavpur Lok Sabha seat. The Harvard professor has lost the students’ mandate to continue as mentor

More than half the students at Presidency University feel Harvard professor Sugata Bose should resign from the mentor group and the institution’s highest decision-making body after choosing to contest a Lok Sabha seat on a Trinamul ticket.

Of the 1,541 students who participated in the referendum organised by the students’ union, 78 per cent said Bose should resign. Seventeen votes were cancelled.

The number doesn’t carry official significance — education minister Bratya Basu questioned the constitutionality of the referendum — but can’t be ignored either. Bose, Gardiner professor of oceanic history at Harvard, will only be too aware now that he doesn’t enjoy the support of the majority of students in his mission to restore Presidency to its former glory.

Bose was unavailable for comment on Friday. He is abroad, his family said.

“He should resign. The next time he comes to the campus, he will face questions from us,” a student said.

Most students Metro spoke to lauded Bose’s efforts as a mentor but said his acceptance of Trinamul’s ticket for the Jadavpur Lok Sabha seat had made his position as an apolitical guide untenable.

The outcome of the referendum was put up on a board in front of the main entrance.

Ballot boxes being readied for counting of votes outside the students’ union room at Presidency University on Friday afternoon

Minister Basu doggedly batted for mentor Bose. “There is no constitutional basis to the students’ referendum at Presidency. A question can then arise how the prime minister of the country becomes the chancellor or the acharya of a central university because, after all, he is also a political personality. Conducting a poll on this issue is a challenge to the Constitution, which is extremely unfortunate and contrary to the law,” Basu texted Metro.

Asked about the referendum on Monday, professor Bose had said: “I am seeking counsel from appropriate quarters and will make my stand clear before filing the nomination on April 24.”

After the outcome of the referendum became public on Friday, vice-chancellor Malabika Sarkar said: “Sugata would take an appropriate decision at the right time considering all aspects. I don’t have the authority to decide whether he should remain mentor or not.”

If Bose decides to stay on, the Opposition could make it an election issue in Jadavpur. “He is a learned person and we expect democratic sense to prevail,” said Sujan Chakraborty, the CPM candidate who is Bose’s rival in Jadavpur.

If not anything else, the result of the referendum has established that students of Presidency do not want political interference in their institution and, by extension, Bose the politician. That he had shared the dais with controversial Trinamul leader Arabul Islam just the other day possibly makes their case stronger. “If Bose, who had earlier voiced his opposition to political interference in higher education, continues as mentor, he will be accused of a volte-face,” said a member of the Presidency faculty.

Bose losing the referendum could have other repercussions too. “Even if he resigns now, he will treated as someone who has lost a poll,” a party functionary said.

Nuclear scientist Bikash Sinha spied “the entry of active politics into the university’s administration” through Bose’s nomination as Trinamul’s candidate for Jadavpur. “He should quit immediately, respecting the opinion of the referendum,” said Sinha, an alumnus and former member of the Presidency council.

“He (Bose) is now a part of active politics. How can he deny that he is now part of the party that had allegedly ransacked the campus last year. If I were him, I would have quit,” Sinha added.

Bose had told Metro this week that he knew how to “compartmentalise my roles”.

IIM Calcutta professor Anup Sinha, a Presidency alumnus, saw “a strong message” in the verdict but put the onus on Bose to decide what to make of it. “He can look at the outcome of the referendum and make up his mind on remaining the mentor.”

The votes were counted under the shade of a mango tree outside the union room on Friday. Seven sealed ballot boxes were opened around 1.10pm and it took about two hours to complete the counting over three rounds.

The ballot papers being segregated on the basis of each student’s vote. Pictures by Bishwarup Dutta

Leaders of the Independents’ Consolidation, which runs the students’ union, held up each ballot and announced the option that had been ticked: “Yes, he should resign” or “No, he should not”.

The yays went into one box and the nays into another.

Another group of students tallied the numbers and provided updates after each round. Bose had been trailing 114 to 377 after the first round of counting.

The impending outcome triggered a debate among the students who had milled around the mango tree. “Why should we assume that he will bring politics into the campus. If a Harvard professor becomes an MP, Presidency could benefit from the association,” said Ankita Pal, a PG student of biosciences.

An undergraduate student of the same department contested it. “When Presidency was attacked (on April 10 last year), the mentor group had the guts to condemn the incident because none of the mentors represented a party. I wonder whether Bose can do that as a Trinamul MP,” she said.

Sumallya Mukhopadhyay, president of the union, said: “Professor Bose is always welcome on the campus. But on entering the campus, he has to explain his continuation in the mentor group and the council. Otherwise, we will agitate.”