The story of Dr (Colonel) Lakshmi Sahgal, the Left Front's nominee for the post of President, is one of true grit and determination.
Born on October 24, 1914 in Madras, Lakshmi as a young girl participated in the nationalist movement.
She later studied medicine and left for Singapore in 1940 to treat the poorest of poor, including migrant Indian labourers.
Following the surrender of Singapore by the British to the Japanese in 1942, she came into contact with many of India's prisoners of war, who were deliberating over the possibility of forming an Indian liberation army.
This later led to the formation of the Indian National Army under the leadership General Mohan Singh. The next year, when Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose arrived in Singapore to lead the INA, he raised the Rani Jhansi Regiment under Sahgal.
The Rani Jhansi Regiment saw active duty on the front and Sahgal, who was given the rank of colonel, was active both militarily and on the medical front.
She was captured and brought to India on March 4, 1946. The British authorities, however, realised that keeping her a prisoner would be counter-productive and she was released.
Lakshmi married Colonel Prem Kumar Sahgal in March 1947 in Lahore and settled down in Kanpur.
She plunged into her medical work almost immediately treating mostly refugees from across the border. She worked tirelessly and established a small maternity home in a hired premises where it continues even today.
After the 1971 war, Sahgal became very active in Left politics, first in trade union activities and then in women's movement.
She became the vice-president of the All India Democratic Women's Association in 1981.
She was awarded the Padma Vibhushan in 1998.
Even at the age of 87 today, Sahgal continues to work among the poor in the slums of Kanpur.
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