By Ashok Kumar
The Australian Hindi Indian Association (AHIA) held its Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Saturday, 1 September, 2018 where it elected new office bearers for the next four years. Amid the confusion , voting was conducted and a new AHIA team was elected that included, five women members, a first in an Indian association.
The new team members are: Mr. Yash Bhasin (President), Mr. Rajendra Channa (Vice-President), Mr. Kali Das Gupta (Secretary), Mr. Vipen Dogra (Treasurer). The Executive Members (All Women) : Ms. Sushma Ahluwalia, Ms. Sudha Ramdev, Ms. Sarita Sachdev, Ms. Meeta Sharma, Ms. Preeti Thadani. The winning team (Group B) polled 99 votes as against 49 for Group A. But, according to the Returning officer (R. O), Mr. Jagdish Dua, quoting attendance sheet, announced a total of 189 members attended. However, he announced that overall 212 people voted, a discrepancy of 23 votes.
While there was confusion about the conduct of voting and some felt that a correct procedure was not followed, Mr. Sukhdev Jaswal of the other camp (Group A) protested but his pleas were drowned in the melee.
The IST correspondent observed Mr. Dua announcing that the total votes counted was 212 while 189 members were present according to the attendance sheets. The Group A did not accept the result on this basis and asked the voting to be declared null and void. The ballot papers were not signed by the Returning Officer, Mr.Jagdish Dua, either.
The IST also observed that the unsigned ballot papers were just distributed instead of being given to members at the time of entry when the attendance was being marked. There seemed to be no control over who was being handed the ballot paper and how many.
Mr Dua put it to the audience whether they would like the voting to be null and void and another date be fixed for the vote. This procedure, according to the Fair Trading rules, is illegal. The supporters of Group B were more vocal and said no to that. Mr Dua based on hand counts declared the result in favour of Group B.
This correspondent also observed that to avoid votes becoming invalid, the R.O. should have demonstrated how to vote procedure as most members were very old or infirm. In its absence members voted as per their understanding. The invalid votes of 68 people (about 1/3 of the total) are far too many.
If the nominations were asked for individual positions and proposers and seconders were also individuals, as was the case for AHIA elections, then how come election was conducted between Group A and Group B? There is no such group election in AHIA constitution, observed many. AHIA constitution says it follows model constitution from Department of NSW Fair Trading, which talks about individual elections of individual positions, not group elections.
The election appeared a one-sided match. The IST sent a questionnaire to Mr. Dua through an email seeking clarifications and set a deadline till 7 Sept 2018 5.00 pm but instead of setting the matter straight for the members, he ignored the email.
Hence, it will be pertinent to ask the R.O. to set the matter straight by following the NSW Fair Trading rules and AHIA Constitution.
Meanwhile, after publication of the news item, Mr. Dua responded to the emails thus: Mr. Dua’s email is copied and pasted.