Feature Elections 2014

An activist doctor joins the electoral fray in Rajasthan

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g2814 (Published 15 April 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g2814
  1. Patralekha Chatterjee, journalist, New Delhi
  1. patralekha.chatterjee{at}gmail.com

Why would a doctor want to plunge into the rough and tumble of Indian politics? Patralekha Chatterjee asked one. Narendra Gupta is hoping to win a seat in Rajasthan in the current general elections

“Conscientious doctors can raise many issues if they enter the political arena,” Narendra Gupta, a 61 year old medical doctor, told The BMJ. The prominent health and human rights activist is standing as the candidate of the Aam Aadmi (Common Man) Party, a new player in Indian politics, in the Chittorgarh parliamentary constituency in Rajasthan.

Dr Narendra Gupta talking to Patralekha Chatterjee

Gupta’s main rivals in the electoral battle are from the Indian National Congress, which leads the left of centre coalition United Progressive Alliance (UPA) central government, and the centre right Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which controls the Rajasthan state government and is tipped to lead the next coalition in central government, according to Indian pollsters.

Throughout his career, Gupta has campaigned for the welfare of tribal groups, the right to health, and access for all to essential drugs.

Health as a public good

While on the campaign trail, he has been campaigning on matters such as cashless healthcare, health as a public good, and the many social and cultural factors that affect health. No patients or their families should have to rummage around for money before seeking treatment, he told The BMJ. Most Indians have to pay for medical treatment themselves out of pocket; 70% of the cost is for drugs.

Gupta is best known for his work with Prayas, a non-governmental voluntary organisation that he set up with some friends in 1979 (http://prayaschittor.org). Prayas has worked in the district for the past 25 years on development issues, including the right to free treatment and universal access to healthcare.1

Gupta was born in 1953 in the town of Alwar in Rajasthan. He said …

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