New Delhi: Noted Bengali poet and novelist Sunil Gangopadhyay was elected president of the Sahitya Akademi on Wednesday.

Renowned Punjabi poet and critic S.S. Noor was elected vice-president unopposed. The term of the president and vice-president is five years.

In all, 93 representatives from all over the country cast their votes for the president. While Gangopadhyay got 45 votes, his nearest rival M.T. Vasudevan Nair got 40. The other presidential candidate Satyavrat Shastri got seven.

Keenly fought election

Mr. Gangopadhyay admitted that it was a keenly fought election. “I could have lost also. But it does not matter, as it is not a life and death issue.”

About his priorities, he said there was a need to promote tribal and oral language.

“Though importance would be given to all languages, we will try to publish as many translation works as possible.”

The former Akademi president Gopi Chand Narang, was initially in the fray for a second term but later withdrew his candidature.

“Though a majority of the members had proposed my name, I decided to withdraw on my own respecting the convention and tradition of the Akademi,” he said. None of its presidents has sought a second term.

“At the age of 78, I need to wrap up some of my unfinished literary work,” Mr. Narang said. “The new team is very representative of the panorama of the Indian language.” — PTI

Festival of Letters

Staff Reporter writes:

The four-day “Festival of Letters-2008” organised by the Akademi started in the capital on Wednesday.

It started with the inauguration of an exhibition “Akademi-2007” and it was followed by the presentation of the Akademi awards for the year 2007 by the Akademi’s president Sunil Gangopadhyay.

The award winners are Purabi Bormudoi (Assamese), Samarendra Sengupta (Bengali), Janil Kumar Brahma (Bodo), Gian Singh Pagoch (Dogri), Malathi Rao (English), Rajendra Shukla (Gujarati), Amarkant (Hindi), Kum. Veerabhadrappa (Kannada), Rattan Lal Shant (Kashmiri), Devidas R. Kadam (Konkani), Pradip Bihari (Maithili), A. Sethumadhavan (Malayalam), B.M. Maisnamba (Manipuri), G.M. Pawar (Marathi), Lakshman Srimal (Nepali), Jaswant Deed (Punjabi), Kundan Mali (Rajasthani), Hari Dutt Sharma (Sanskrit), Kherwal Saren (Santhali), Vasudev `Nirmal’ (Sindhi), Neela Padmanabhan (Tamil) and Wahab Ashrafi (Urdu).

Gadiyaram Ramakrishna Sarma (Telugu) and Dipak Mishra (Oriya) were awarded posthumously.