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Docs, djinns and sting

Dr Bhumidhar Barman, Assam's health minister, believes he has supernatural powers to fall back upon.

india Updated: Apr 05, 2006 18:24 IST

Others of his ilk may swear by Hippocrates, but Dr Bhumidhar Barman, Assam's health minister, believes in djinns — supernatural spirits that have admittedly saved him from four Ulfa attacks in his political career spanning almost 40 years.

The 73-year-old is seeking his sixth term, the second from Barkhetri constituency in western Assam.

Having been a fill-in chief minister after Hiteswar Saikia's demise in 1996, Barman's tenure as health minister in the Tarun Gogoi government has been full of barbs, from Vitamin A deaths to the polio vaccination fiasco, malaria and gastro deaths.

His opponents this time are also formidable —Pulakesh Barua of the AGP backed Trinamool Gana Parishad, Sonabar Ali of Assam United Democratic Front (AUDF) that is catering to a large Muslim population in the constituency and Pradip Rajbangshi of BJP besides two others.

But he has his djinns to fall back upon. "I do believe in occult, and I carry some biras (djinns in local parlance) along," is his pet quote. Two ojhas or exorcists often accompany him.

The fate of another doctor and fellow Congress veteran Ardhendu Dey has al ready been sealed at Hojai, one of the 65 seats where polling was completed successfully in Phase I on Monday.

Dey, who quit the United Minorities Front to join the Congress two decades ago, dismisses occult, but dabbles in poetic surrealism.

He admits his reputation as a doctor made him a popular representative of this Bengali-dominated sensitive seat that had often witnessed communal tension in the past.

One of Dey's opponents is Aditya Langthasa, a political greenhorn but no less a popular doctor in Nagaon and Karbi Anglong, the worst malaria belt in India.

Aditya Langthasa served 12 years in Hojai's landmark —Haji Abdul Majid Memorial Hospital, run by his party Assam United Democratic Front chief and perfume baron Badruddin Ajmal.