The Brahmo Samaj ballot box. Picture by Aranya Sen
The general body elections of Sadharan Brahmo Samaj, one of the oldest democratic institutions in India, ran into rough weather on Friday after two of the contestants found the lock of the ballot box open.
Elected representatives of the Samaj, a breakaway faction of Raja Rammohun Roy’s Brahmo Samaj, manage six schools, colleges like Amherst Street City and Heramba Chandra, a library and women’s and children’s homes in the city.
“Mina Mukherjee and I visited our Bidhan Sarani office to cast our votes and found the ballot box open. We alerted the other members,” said Utpal Bose on Friday. Both he and Mukherjee are contesting this year’s elections.
The annual poll is being held since 1878, when the Samaj was founded by Shibnath Shastri, Umesh Chandra Dutta and others.
Polling started on December 26 and was to end on January 11. “We sent ballot papers to our 1,002 members spread across the country. They either mail their ballots or visit our office and drop it in the box,” said Asim Ahmed, the assistant secretary who is contesting for the post of secretary.
The keys to the ballot box and the room where it is kept were with Sitala Prasad, the caretaker of the building for decades.
According to him, the ballot box was not locked. Secretary Samir Das insisted that the box was locked.
He also refuted Ahmed’s claim that the box should not only have been locked but the lock should also have been sealed.
“The lock might have been broken by those who want to hold on to their posts. Though no salary is paid, the honorary posts carry certain perks,” said Das.
“The financial strength of the Calcutta body is about Rs 88 lakh,” added the secretary.
A repoll, which has never happened in the organisation’s history, seems the only way out.
“The secretary will have to propose a repoll to the general committee, which will take the decision. It is the only way out for us now,” said president Ashish Kumar Pain.