President Pranab Mukherjee, who once represented Gujarat for six years in Rajya Sabha, on Sunday said he feels that he is a “Gujarati at heart”, though he may not speak the local language.
“They (political leaders) helped me to get elected from Gujarat to Rajya Sabha for full six years (from 1981-1987)… in that way I can claim to be a Gujarati, but unfortunately I cannot speak (the language)… I am not claiming it, but still at heart I am a Gujarati,” the President said during a function after inaugurating two hospitals across river Narmada in Bharuch and Ankleshwar.
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He hoped that the two hospitals — a renovated Sevashram Hospital in Bharuch and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Hospital and Heart Institute(SPHHI) in Ankleshwar — would provide much needed medical services to the poor and tribal people in rural pockets around the two towns.
Mukherjee further said: “I am happy to be associated with an institution that carries the name of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, who united 570 principalities into the Indian Union with 1,800 dialects and seven major religions of the world.” While Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was as a trustee of Sevashram Hospital (set up in 1920), the other hospital in Ankleshwar has been named after him only.
In his extempore speech, the President said while Ankleshwar emerged as hub of chemical industries, it did not have proper healthcare facilities and people living in the area had to go to other places to avail better medical services. “The 100-bed Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Hospital and Heart Institute will fulfill the medical requirement of the people of the area,” he said.
Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel is associated with both the hospitals and his 28-year-old son Faisal Patel is chairman of the advisory board of SPHHI. Faisal Patel gave a presentation on the hospital to the President and other dignitaries after the inauguration of SPHHI.
Mukherjee said Bharuch has been strategic importance since pre-Independence era due to its port, but the town lacked health facilities. He said the renovated Sevashram Hospital would now take care of the health facilities in the region.
Sevashram was set up by Dr Chandnulal Desai in 1920 at the insistence of Mahatma Gandhi. When the hospital was renovated in 1952, it was inaugurated by Rajendra Prasad, the first President of India. Mukherjee is the second President to inaugurate a refurbished Sevashram Hospital.
He is also the second President to visit Bharuch and the first to visit Ankleshwar.
Besides scores of Congress leaders, noted industrialists such as Gautam Adani of Adani group and Pankaj Patel of Cadilla Healthcare attended the event.
Later in the evening, the President met former Gujarat CM Madhavsinh Solanki at his residence in Gandhinagar. The two share a 30-year-old relationship. During the 30-minute meeting, Mukherjee enquired about health of Madhavsinh (89) and also met his family members, said Madhavsingh’s son and Congress leader Bharatsinh Solanki.