Patiala MP Dr Dharamvira Gandhi: Rebel ‘aam aadmi’ and ‘people’s doctor’
In 2014, Dr Dharamvira Gandhi defeated three-time MP and Union minister Preneet Kaur, the wife of chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh, and won the Patiala Lok Sabha seat.Updated: Mar 14, 2019 17:18 IST
“Preneet Kaur de nam te agge shrimati lao. Appa tehzeeb ate maryada nahi chadni (Use the Mrs prefix with Preneet Kaur’s name. Please don’t forget etiquettes),” Patiala member of Parliament Dr Dharamvira Gandhi says to his assistant while checking a press statement issued on his behalf against his Congress rival to highlight her failures as an MP earlier. Dr Gandhi takes on his opponents but does not cross the Lakshman rekha (limits) of maryada in politics.
A socialist at heart and cardiologist by profession, Dr Gandhi is the face of the common man, who has been a rebel without a pause. He took a stand against the Emergency in 1977, militancy in Punjab in the ’80s and against the leadership of the Aam Aadmi Party, which sent him to Parliament on his maiden outing.
In 2014, he shocked the Congress and its supporters when he defeated three-time MP and Union minister Preneet Kaur, the wife of chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh, from the royal citadel.
A freethinker and avid reader, Dr Gandhi says, “The common man’s agenda should be the priority of politicians. Only then can India grow. I’m trying to build such politics.”
An alumnus of Government Medical College, Amritsar, Dr Gandhi gives his patients and supporters a personal touch that has earned him the title of ‘people’s doctor’. But politics is a different game. His rise in politics was swift and so was the fall. Aam Aadmi Party convener Arvind Kejriwal was so impressed with his style and grip over issues that he appointed him leader of the party in the Lok Sabha. But when the AAP shunted out Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav, Dr Gandhi upped the ante and paid the price. He was suspended from the primary membership for anti-party activities.
Despite this, he was successful in raising issues concerning non-resident Indians and the electrification of a railway line project in Malwa. He resolved 50 cases of Indians stranded abroad and got a passport collection centre opened in Patiala. His MP local area development fund was spent on public welfare such as in building toilets, providing benches and other facilities in government schools. He strived to end the practice of caste-based cremation grounds and offered 15% to villages that put an end to such a practice.
“I rose above party lines because I was elected as the MP of Patiala not just for those who voted for me. Unlike my predecessors, I served the public, not individuals. As Union minister of state for external affairs in the Manmohan Singh government, Preneet Kaur could not even open a passport seva kendra here,” he says.
“Neither former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal nor the incumbent, captain Amarinder Singh, helped me in completing the Rajpura-Mohali rail link that would have connected Malwa with Chandigarh by train. Only Rs 78 crore was needed from the state, while the Centre earmarked Rs 250 crore for the project. This injustice will be my poll plank as successive state governments are not allowing this link to help a few influential families controlling the transport business,” says Dr Gandhi.
Ideology and challenges
Asked about his ties with the AAP, Dr Gandhi said, “I have not left them, they left me and the ideology with which I was attached. I am still following the original ideology of the AAP. I hope Kejriwal will support me, that is if he still believes in the original ideology. AAP workers in Patiala support me.”
On his challenges, he refers to his opponent who is the chief minister’s wife. “Preneet holds no position but since the Congress came to power in Punjab, she is distributing grants and is the chief guest at government functions and controls the bureaucracy. This is misuse of official machinery.”
He has challenged her to a debate on performance as an MP.
Dr Gandhi has joined hands with another AAP rebel Sukhpal Singh Khaira and will be the candidate of the People’s Democratic Front, comprising rebel AAP leaders, Taksali Akalis and Bahujan Samaj Party. So far, the AAP has not announced any candidate and talks are on for a rapprochement with Dr Gandhi. “I hope people will vote with their conscience,” he adds.
Shiromani Akali Dal district president Surjit Singh Rakhra, however, said, “Dr Gandhi failed to live up to people’s expectations. Most of the time, he was at war with his party, which failed to provide stability and vision.”
First Published: Feb 26, 2019 12:02 IST