An unseemly controversy has broken out at the 185-year-old Oxford University, with the president-elect of the students union, Krishna Omkar, being disqualified soon after he had won the poll.
Omkar, 23, of Merton College, originally from Delhi, was removed following allegations that he had violated campaign rules. His chief opponent, 21-year-old Charlotte Fischer of Balliol, charged him with sexually harassing her, apart from engaging in electoral malpractices.
Fischer claimed that union office bearers, at the instance of Omkar, who was treasurer in last year's union, had sent her filthy SMSs. She also said Omkar had held a meeting of around 30 people, on the eve of the poll, to canvass for votes, which was against union rules.
Omkar was stripped of his position by a university tribunal which investigated Fischer's allegations. A fresh election has been ordered. Fischer, who was expecting to be named president by default after Omkar was removed, walked out of the tribunal's meeting room in a huff. She too has been criticised for bringing along a London barrister to represent her at the hearing - unheard of in Oxford elections earlier.
The matter is not over yet since Omkar has gone in appeal, which will be heard next month.
Campus gossip has it that Omkar and Fischer were till recently close friends. Fischer called Omkar 'my love', while he reciprocated with 'my gorgeous surfer girl' in exchanges on Facebook. But they fell out over an invitation sent out last November to Nick Griffin, leader of the right wing British National Party, and David Irving, a arch conservative historian to address the students. While Omkar believed these men had a right to be heard even at Oxford, Fischer, who is Jewish, wanted the invitations to them withdrawn. A huge fracas broke out when Griffin and Irving arrived on campus, and police had to be called. Fischer has been quoted as saying that she accused Omkar 'with a heavy heart' because she hated to see the union being brought into disrepute and 'weakened by perceived corruption'. She explained that she brought a barrister along "because of the viciousness of the attacks against me".
The Times quoted Omkar's defence: "I have been punished for doing something most other presidents have also done. I held a meeting of 30 people. It was not a party. There was no alcohol present. I had no idea Charlotte had been getting these text messages until I read her resignation letter."
"There is a lot of tension," said a union insider. "Krishna is considered by some of us as rather brash. But Charlotte’s decision to call a tribunal and bring in a barrister is seen as unsporting. But both are ambitious and there is a lot at stake."
Omkar is the second 'foreign origin student' to have been elected president, the first being Akash Maharaj in 1993.