Indian Express

AAP’s ophthalmologist candidate eyes niche support base

"There are thousands of people in Amritsar who have come to my hospital and whom I have treated," said Daljit. Tweet This
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The likes of Arun Jaitley and Amarinder Singh may have made the fight in Amritsar look like a Goliath versus Goliath affair but Aam Aadmi Party’s candidate, a noted ophthalmologist, is eyeing to tap the “under-current” with his niche support base.

Eighty-year-old Dr Daljit Singh, who has helped thousands of people regain vision in this region, operates with the quiet precision of a surgeon.

Dr Singh has a strong connect with the people of Amristar and is contesting without any hype or hoopla.

“There are thousands of people in this constituency who have come to my hospital and whom I have treated,” he says, adding that people are excited he is contesting from Amritsar.

Asked about his chances of victory, he replies, “I am a strong candidate which they (other parties) may not realise. If I can tap the under-current properly, then we can win.”

“I had no intention of getting into politics. Then one day I listened to Arvind Kejriwal on TV. I thought if I don’t jump into politics, my life will be wasted,” he says.

“I may be able to perform another 50,000-1,00,000 surgeries in the coming years, but that won’t change society,” he added.

He says he has a close rapport with the locals. “All I have to do is just go and meet them.”

While his popularity as a surgeon may not give sleepless nights to Jaitley or Amarinder, there is another facet to Dr Singh which they can ignore at their own peril: his father Sahib Singh was a well-known translator of the Guru Granth Sahib whose commentaries on the Sikh scripture are so popular that his books can be found in almost every Sikh home.

In this holy city of the Sikhs, that can be a big plus for the surgeon.

“We have got only continuous deceit with one party being replaced by the other. Cost of living is going up while quality of life is going down,” Dr Singh says.

But unlike most other AAP candidates, he refuses to comment on his two rivals.

“I have nothing against the other candidates. Capt Amarinder Singh knows me. I don’t know Mr Jaitley…apparently he is a nice man. But then these are big parties. We are just beginners. We only know one thing that we should reach out to people,” he said.

His party office is located just opposite to his residence where a few people are working without any buzz. In the corner, there is arrangement for puri-sabzi and tea.

Dr Singh’s campaign involves no big cavalcades or processions. He says it is “direct people-to-people contact”.

He starts his campaign at 5.45 a.m. by meeting morning walkers.

“I am running close to my 80th year. But this contest has electrified me, and I feel like 40 years old,” he says.

Dr Singh fondly remembers how he had operated upon former President Giani Zail Singh in 1986. He has to his credit several firsts.

He was the first to introduce lens implantation in cataract surgeries in India in 1976. He developed artificial cornea called Singh-Worst keratoprosthesis in 1979. He was the first in the world to use plasma energy in eye surgery in 1999.

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