Anita Joshua

NEW DELHI: Nineteen years after the Sahitya Akademi barred general council members from a second term in its highest decision-making body to allow infusion of fresh blood into the institution, a move is under way to revert to the old regime; purportedly with an eye on the forthcoming election for president and vice-president.


Despite opposition to the move within the power structure of the Sahitya Akademi, the proposal to amend the constitution of the National Academy of Letters is on the agenda of the general council meeting in Goa on Sunday.

However, the amendment does not allow two consecutive terms to anyone, including those who make it to this body under the category reserved for ‘persons of eminence in the field of letters’.

While the constitution now allows only members who come in through this category to have a second term, there was nothing to prevent their being in the general council for two terms running.

The proposed amendment states, “No one shall be a member of the general council [including the term of membership of eminent persons] for more than two terms, with the proviso that the other term shall not be consecutive.”

This, insiders say, is aimed at ensuring that Malayalam writer M.T. Vasudevan Nair does not contest for vice-president as he is a general council member now from the ‘persons of eminence in the field of letters’ category. A Kerala Sahitya Akademi nominee for ordinary membership of the general council, Mr. Nair has informed writers that he plans to run for vice-president.

Formidable combine

With the outgoing vice-president Sunil Gangopadhyay indicating a willingness to contest for president — citing precedent — and Mr. Nair being part of his team, the combination is billed as a formidable one should president Gopi Chand Narang go for a second term as is being indicated.

“Demand from northeast”

Prof. Narang, however, told The Hindu that he had not given thought to the elections, and the amendment was a demand from the northeastern States.

Among the leading opponents to the amendment is Mr. Gangopadhyay.

And, there are several others within the general council who hold the same view. Keki N. Daruwalla told The Hindu that he was in principle opposed to any move that would allow people to entrench themselves. “People at the top should not entrench themselves further.”

For health reasons he could not attend the meeting, he said.