Saturday’s elections at the Agri-Horticultural Society of India (AHSI) in Alipore sent three new faces to the executive council.
As there were no contestants for the posts of president, senior vice-president and vice-president, Sujit Chakraborty, H.P. Kanoria and Alka Bangur were selected “automatically” as the office-bearers, and the entire focus of the election drama revolved around the 12-member executive council.
Preceded by a month-long campaign, which saw Calcutta’s business barons levelling allegations against each other, this year’s election was shrouded with controversy. From financial irregularities to malpractice in the election process — charges and counter-charges flew thick and fast as some of the members took to firing open letters to fellow-members. The most significant of them was penned by S. G. Khaitan, one of the three patrons of the Society, where he talked of the “highhanded” and “inefficient” running of the Society. AHSI president M.K. Jalan and finance committee chairman B.P. Bajoria refuted the charges and reported their version of the story in another letter.
Things reached such a pass that heavyweights like R.P. Goenka and B.M. Khaitan, the other two patrons of the Society, had to intervene. In an open letter, they urged all AHSI members to stop “bickering” and work towards the “betterment” of the Society.
In a last-minute development, M.K. Jalan, immediate past president, pulled out of the race for executive council, citing “personal reasons”.
This year’s election recorded the highest number of proxy votes — over 600 — in the history of the 182-year-old Society. Only 250 members were physically present to cast their votes.
The new members of the council are Deoki Poddar, Govind Kejriwal and B.K. Nahata. The other nine are S. K. Birla, Gaurav Swarup, P.B. Ghosh, B.D. Bose, S.K. Pal, S. Guha Niyogi, N.G. Khaitan, P. Gupta and M.K. Saharia.