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Rigging, sex jibes turn Oxford Union poll nasty

ibnlive.com
Jan 29, 2008 at 12:34am IST

London: Controversies continue to dog the 185-year-old Oxford Union. First, the newly elected Indian president was stripped off the post for alleged electoral malpractices, and then, the next potential candidate for the post, Charlotte Fischer, walked out of the race, alleging sex jibes from union officers.

23-year-old Krishna Omkar from New Delhi had won the election in November to be president of the union for the summer term.

But he was stripped off the post for alleged electoral malpractices after his main opponent Fischer complained that he had held an eve-of-poll meeting for 30 people in a hired room contrary to union rules that prevent electioneering.

CAMPUS ROW: Indian student Krishna Omkar had won the November election to be the president of the union.

At a series of lengthy tribunal hearings, Omkar claimed that his meeting was simply a party — but the tribunal report noted that "no alcohol was present. This was not a party".

Krishna Omkar, who was the union's treasurer, had beaten Fischer, 21, a student of modern history and politics at Balliol College, by 959 votes to 658. An appeal against the disqualification of the Indian student will come up for hearing next month.

But Omkar, who is studying for a PhD in sociology at Merton College, has already been disqualified and banned from standing again by a university tribunal.

After Omkar's disqualification, Charlotte Fischer expected to be named president by default. But a fresh election was ordered instead. And then, to everyone's surprise, Fischer walked out of the contest and left the university, claiming that union officers sent her sex jibes on her mobile.

Such communications are expressly barred by union's lengthy code of conduct, which 'prohibits the use of any swearword or slang of a sexual nature'. "I resigned because I was so fed up with personal attacks," Fischer told the Daily Mail newspaper, from her home in Orpington, Kent.

Meanwhile, Omkar's supporters have claimed that Fischer herself played dirty in the polls by bringing in a London barrister to represent her. Omkar has, however, refused to put his side of the story on record, waiting the outcome of his appeal. The Oxford tribunal has, however, condemned him as 'arrogant' and a 'brash newcomer'.

This is not the first time, the union has been overtaken by such political scandal. In 2002, Union president Ruzwana Bashir, 20 — the first British-born Asian woman to hold the post — had been removed from the post over allegations of unfairly canvassing support. After a long battle to get her reinstated, an appeal later found that she had been the victim of dirty tricks.

The union is famous as the launchpad for many political careers, including five British prime ministers and former Pakistan leader Benazir Bhutto.

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