The race for Punjab University Teachers Association (PUTA) seats took a twist on Friday, after all 19 members of the association, including five office-bearers, were elected unopposed. Friday was the last day to withdraw nominations. The unopposed elections came 11 days before the scheduled PUTA polls.
While Rajat Sandhir was elected president, Ashok Sabharwal became vice-president, Anju Rao was chosen secretary, Madhuri Rishi became joint secretary while Yajvender P Verma was elected the treasurer.
By 5pm on Friday, several candidates had withdrawn their candidature, paving way for the new committee. PUTA polls were scheduled to be held on August 12.
Behind-the-scene parleys between the two leading groups is learnt to have led to the outcome, although several faculty members from the Khaled-Akshaya group are learnt to have not been in favour of unopposed elections. President designate Rajat Sandhir, from the Khaled-Akshaya group, and current president Devinder Singh, who was the presidential candidate from the K Tankeshwar group, are learnt to have played a key role in Friday's turn of events.
Besides the presidents' post, those of joint secretary and treasurer also went to Mohammed Khaled-Akshaya Kumar group, while two seats-those of the vice-president and secretary-went to the K Tankeshwar group.
In the five executive groups, Khaled-Akshaya group made a clean sweep in three groups-humanities, sciences and department of evening studies-besides getting one seat in the professional group category.
K Tankeshwar group got three seats in the professional group category. The lone seat of University of Open Learning is learnt to have gone to an independent candidate. In the five executive groups, humanities, sciences and professional group have four seats each, while both department of evening studies and University School of Open Learning have one seat each.
This year's executive committee stands in stark contrast with the 2013-14 panel: last year, the K Tankeshwar group had swept the polls, while the Khaled-Akshaya group drubbed, having secured only the post of secretary and one seat in the executive groups.
When contacted, PUTA president designate Rajat Sandhir, listed raising the age of retirement for faculty members at PU to 65 years as his top priority.
“I will strive hard to uphold the dignity of teachers. All the pending issues related will be taken up with authorities on priority. I would also held PU in accelerating the pace of research work,” he said.
When his contender and current president was contacted over the withdrawal of several candidates from the race, including those from his own group, he said what happened on Friday would “only strengthen PUTA”.
“I welcome the maturity shown by candidates. Friday's decision will go a long way in strengthening the teachers' body,” Singh said.