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Uniting BJP factions biggest challenge for Harsh Vardhan

October 23, 2013 15:47 IST

Known for his clean image, Harsh Vardhan will face a stiff challenge of uniting the faction-ridden Bharatiya Janata Party as his nomination to the chief ministerial post comes after a bitter internal squabble that had threatened to derail the party's campaign to wrest power after 15 years in the capital.

A Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh member since his childhood, Vardhan, who was Health Minister between 1993-98 in BJP government in Delhi, is known for his simplicity and the party's top brass believes he is capable of turning around its fortune in the December 4 polls after three successive defeats.

59-year-old Vardhan is known to share a very cordial relationship with RSS and people close to him say he still retains the Swayamsevak's tendency to downplay the "Swayam" (self) giving precedence to "Seva" (service).

Vardhan, a practicing ENT surgeon, had entered the political fray in 1993 when he successfully contested the assembly polls from Krishna Nagar constituency in East Delhi in 1993. He went on to retain the seat in the 1998, 2003 and 2008 assembly elections.

Fondly called "Doctor Saab" by supporters and opponents alike, Vardhan is known for his efforts in eradicating polio in Delhi when he was the Health Minister.

Senior Delhi BJP leaders said his anointment to the top post will help the party give a tough fight to both Aam Admi Party and Congress.

During his ministership in the Delhi government (1993-98), people had found him remarkably accessible and officials respected him for his hands-on style of functioning.

"He joined politics with the laudable objective of using his considerable medical knowledge and experience for serving the common man," former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had said once about Vardhan.

In late 2003, he was appointed as president pf Delhi BJP. He is credited with rebuilding the party at the grassroot level after the party's defeat in the assembly polls that year. In April 2007, the party recaptured power in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi and in 2008, the party emerged victorious in the Delhi Cantonment Board election under his leadership.

Vardhan, known for his simplicity and amiable leadership style, is admired by many leaders belonging to various political parties.

Recognising his leadership qualities, Vardhan was given presidentship of Delhi BJP for three terms between 2003 and 2008.

However, his leadership ability will face a stricter test now as he has the onerous task of ending the factional war in the Delhi unit of the party when elections are just six weeks away.

Vardhan will also have to bring back enthusiasm among grass root workers whose morale had taken a beating following party's image of a "divided house" when Goel openly staked his claim for the post.

Born on December 13, 1954, he had done his schooling from the Anglo-Sanskrit Victoria Jubilee Senior Secondary School in Daryaganj in central Delhi.

Later, he did his MBBS and specialisation in ENT from GSVM Medical College in Kanpur.

As a health minister, he had launched the polio eradication initiative in Delhi in October, 1994. Taking cue from the success of the programme, the Union Health Ministry adopted the same as a national programme later. He had also visited various states to persuade the health ministers to cooperate in making the country polio free.

He is also credited with bringing the Delhi Prohibition of smoking and non smokers health protection bill. Soon, many states followed Delhi's example, culminating in a central legislation banning smoking in public places in 2002.

The World Health Organisation, recognising his contribution, had awarded him the Director-General's Commendation Medal in May, 1998.

In December 2004, Vardhan had come out with his own account on how he conceived and implemented the Pulse Polio programme. The book, titled -- A Tale of Two Drops -- was released by Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Married to Nutan, a specialist in hospital administration who preferred to be a homemaker, Vardhan has two sons and a daughter.

Vardhan is also involved in promoting ideologies of Shyama Prasad Mookherjee, the founder of the Jan Sangh, and Deen Dayal Upadhyay.

As secretary of the Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Foundation, he has taken up projects to assemble the collected works of Mukerjee, to restore his house in Kolkata and to promote research in topics of national importance.

Image courtesy: Harsh Vardhan's Facebook page

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