From across the state, 49 doctors will be contesting against each other for nine seats in the Maharashtra Medical Council (MMC), the elections for which are scheduled on December 18 this year. The number of nominations has risen from 36 in 2009, when last elections for the quasi-judicial body were held.
In a first, though, the interest and awareness in the medical council elections have not only peaked, but also got aggressive with doctors forming groups to contest elections on the lines of a political party. The doctors, campaigning using social media, have prepared manifesto and brochures and are requesting for votes in workshops and conferences to win voters’ attention.
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Maharashtra has over 85,000 registered allopathic doctors who will be eligible to cast their vote for the MMC representatives.
The MMC is a state autonomous body that regulates the ethical practices of doctors along with registration and cancellation of medical licences. Of the 18 members in MMC, nine are elected by doctors, four are ex-officio members and five are nominated by the state government.
In 2009, all nine MMC members were attached with Indian Medical Association — the largest body of allopathic doctors in the state. This time, other groups — Parivartan, Pragati Panel and Maharashtra Medical Association — have sprung up.
On Tuesday, Pragati Panel, which has nominated nine doctors from Mumbai, Nagpur, Nashik, Sangli, Latur, Aurangabad and Pune, conducted an informal meet at Nair Hospital to interact with the hospital doctors.
In last few days, similar meetings at city’s private and government hospitals had been held. “In our manifesto, our priority is to protect doctors’ rights. Council’s role should be disciplinary, not amountable to harassment,” said Dr Sudhir Naik, gynaecologist, who is contesting MMC elections from Mumbai under Pragati Panel.
According to him, the Mumbai doctors constitute 20 per cent of entire vote share. “People in other districts don’t know me. Forming an alliance helps spread the message wide,” he added.
The IMA has 208 branches in the state and has been campaigning for two months now. Funds have been spent on 80,000 brochures, over 1,000 banners and on social media campaigns across Maharashtra. The association’s doctors are also advertising in local medical journals.
“We have nominated nine doctors from IMA. The main aim is to prevent cross-pathy in medicine. There is a lot of political interference in MMC and we have promised we will work against politicising allopathic council,” said Dr Jayesh Lele, president of IMA, Maharashtra.
In Nashik, candidate and general surgeon Nilesh Nikam is conducting small meetings every day with the doctors. “I discuss their issues to understand what are their expectations from MMC. Local level meetings helps win confidence,” said Nikam.
Dr Niranjan Agarwal, a general surgeon in Mumbai, said he is starting discussions over WhatsApp medical groups, Facebook and Twitter to generate attention for votes. “I am also urging doctors to come out and vote. Since polling booths are very few, it gets difficult for voters to travel long distances,” Agarwal said.
In 2009, the voter turn out for MMC election was only 12 per cent. This time, the state has allotted 39 polling booths for doctors to cast their votes in each district. An estimate shows at least 30 per cent voters will turn up this time.
Several independent candidates are also attempting to get a share from the pie. Dr Avinash Deshpande, from Aurangabad, has been creating tiny banners and circulating them over WhatsApp to draw attention towards generic medical problems. “The previous council was full of IMA members. The process needs to be more democratic,” he said.
With mounting awareness over the MMC elections, the resident doctors are also making extra effort to cast their votes. The Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors — that has over 4,000 doctors — had written to the state government to allow them to vote from a city they are working in so that they do not have to travel to their registered addresses to vote.
“We have allowed residents to change their address online and present a dean’s letter to confirm their services. This kind of interest is seen for the first time,” said Dr Abhay Chowdhary, interim administrator of MMC.
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