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Indian poet Arvind Mehrotra back in race as Oxford Professor of Poetry

Ruth Padel, to whom he had lost the elections, has resigned  27 May 2009: Noted Indian poet Arvind Mehrotra may find himself in race again for the prestigious post of Professor of Poetry at the Oxford University.

Ruth Padel, to whom he had lost the elections, has resigned following allegation that she was involved in a smear campaign against a rival.

The first woman to become the Oxford Professor of Poetry, Padel is a great-great granddaughter of Charles Darwin. Padel insisted she had not engaged in smear tactics and had done "nothing intentional" to lead fellow contender Derek Walcott to pull out of the vote.

Walcott, 79, had withdrawn from the race following an anonymous letter campaign.

"I genuinely believe that I did nothing intentional that led to Derek Walcott’s withdrawal from the election. I wish he had not pulled out," the Telegraph quoted Professor Padel as saying in a statement.

"I did not engage in a smear campaign against him, but, as a result of student concern, I naively – and with hindsight unwisely – passed on to two journalists, whom I believed to be covering the whole election responsibly, information that was already in the public domain.

"I acted in complete good faith, and would have been happy to lose to Derek, but I can see that people might interpret my actions otherwise.

"I wish to do what is best for the University and I understand that opinion there is divided. "I therefore resign from the Chair of Poetry. I hope wounds will now heal and I wish the next professor all the best," she added.

Oxford University sources said a new election would now be held.

Mehrotra’s prospects had brightened by the withdrawal of Nobel Prize-winning poet Walcott. But, in the election, he polled 129 votes against Padel’s 297. Oxford graduates and staff are entitled to vote for the five-year post.

Mehrotra, was born in Lahore and educated at the universities of Allahabad and Bombay. The journal Fulcrum is reported to have said his poems are “coded messages from the unconscious, but there is an exceedingly conscious hand that crafts them.”

A History of Indian Literature in English, which he edited, was awarded the Choice magazine’s Outstanding Academic Title of the Year. He is also the translator from the Prakrit, and author of four collections of poems, including, most recently The Transfiguring Places

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