UP election cartoon by Abhimanyu.
Lalchand Patel is a quack and has many takers, more so in poll season when candidates queue up because they know he has the prescription for victory.
Patel wields influence from his ‘clinic’ at Gopalpur village of Jaunpur district in eastern Uttar Pradesh.
Polling for the district’s nine seats will be held Wednesday in the third phase.
Villagers swear by Patel’s treatment, and usually vote for candidates he supports.
Acknowledging Patel’s influence, SP supporter Phul Singh Yadav said, “His blessings can tilt the scales.”
According to Patel, “All parties have got in touch. All the candidates are friends.”
Patel has for company many equally powerful colleagues in nearby Macchlishahar, Badlapur, Shahganj and Zafrabad towns, and in rural areas of the district. A majority of their patients are farmers and landless labourers.
Locals say the poor condition of state-run health services is to blame for the proliferation of quacks.
“A majority of the government doctors are engaged in private practice,” said Avinash Chaubey, owner of a medicine shop at Madiyahon, 10 km from Gopalpur.
In 2006, the state health department identified 32,245 quacks. Their number rose to 54,656 in 2010.
Targeting the ruling BSP, the SP, BJP and Congress cite corruption in the national rural health mission (NRHM) as the reason why quacks rule the roost in UP.
Jaunpur district was allocated nearly R200 crore in the financial years 2009-10 and 2010-11 under NRHM. Though buildings of health centres are up in rural areas, many lack facilities.
The CBI, which is probing the multi-crore NRHM scam, recently raided the office of the Jaunpur chief medical officer.
Jaunpur MP Dhananjay Singh — expelled from the BSP by CM Mayawati — is also under the CBI scanner.
His wife Jagriti is contesting as independent from Malhani.