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Harsh Vardhan, the Unifying Force of Delhi BJP

Harsh Vardhan, anointed BJP's Chief Ministerial nominee less than a month before the Delhi Assembly polls after a bitter internal squabble, steadfastly united various factions to bring enthusiasm among workers to keep the party on course to regain power from Congress after 15 years.

An RSS member since his younger days, 59-year-old Vardhan, a practicing ENT surgeon known for his disarming simplicity, successfully connected with the voters while leading a high-voltage campaign from the front despite undercurrents of friction in the Delhi party unit.

People close to him said Vardhan's easy-going attitude and disarming smile were his greatest assets because of which the party drew support from various quarters, some of them unexpected.

Vardhan 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.

He 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).

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

In the campaigning, Vardhan attacked the Congress on range of issues including price rise, corruption, rising power tariff, scarcity of water, unemployment and promised to offer a clean government besides promising to slash by 30 per cent the power tariff, an emotive issue for Delhiites.

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.

Apart from being an effective minister, he also proved his organisational capabilities by rebuilding the BJP's operations in Delhi, virtually from scratch, after the party's defeat in the 2003 Assembly Election.

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, who hails from Baniya community, was given presidentship of Delhi BJP for three terms between 2003 and 2008.

Vardhan managed to bring 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.

Emerging story. Watch this space for updates as more details come in
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