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Election won, time for exam

- Doctors get no time to celebrate

Mumbai, May 21: Young doctors Heena Gavit and Shrikant Shinde have just become Maharashtra MPs but they can hardly prescribe themselves a long party.

Heena was not with her jubilant peers at the BJP parliamentary committee meeting in Parliament’s Central Hall yesterday when Narendra Modi was addressing them. The 26-year-old was taking the last paper of her final MD (medicine) exam in Mumbai.

Shrikant Shinde, a Shiv Sena MP, was there in Parliament but the 27-year-old could not spend more time in Delhi as he has to take an MS test at home this week.

Heena, a first-time BJP MP from Nandurbar, said: “I had informed Modiji about my academic commitments. He understood and gave permission to stay away from the parliamentary committee meeting.”

Heena had to rush to Mumbai on May 14 because she had to write her first paper on May 15 — a day before the election results. “I guess I was the only candidate not present in the constituency when the votes were counted. But I was not worried about the results. I had done my job, the voters had cast their ballot and I had shifted my focus to books,” she said.

Heena trounced Manikrao Gavit, 80 — the Congress’s longest-serving MP and veteran tribal leader who had won Nandurbar nine consecutive times.

Daughter of senior NCP leader and former state minister Vijaykumar Gavit, Heena had been a youth leader of the party. But when it became clear that the NCP would go into the elections with the Congress and that she would not get a ticket, Heena jumped ship.

Heena’s candidature had the approval of top BJP leaders like Modi, Rajnath Singh and Arun Jaitley, but her last-minute switch led her father to be expelled from the NCP and dropped as the horticulture and medical education minister in March.

Nestled in the dust bowl of north Maharashtra and home mostly to tribals, Nandurbar is one of India’s most backward districts, with nearly 72 per cent of its people below the poverty line. But it has rarely been low on prominence — it was the launch pad for Indira Gandhi’s campaign in 1967 and, more recently, for the UPA’s flagship schemes like Aadhaar.

Heena knew she was up against a veteran but backed by the legacy of her family — her grandfather and uncle had been MLAs from the area — she campaigned hard, often with textbooks by her side.

The young MP is pursuing her postgraduate medical course at Mumbai’s government-run Grant Medical College, having done her MBBS from Navi Mumbai’s Terna Medical College, a private institute.

As an MD student — she had to assist in teaching and perform other duties at Mumbai’s state-run J.J. Hospital — she was paid a monthly stipend of Rs 4,000. The allowance ignited a controversy during the campaign when some of her rivals claimed it amounted to an office of profit and that she could not contest.

But the objections were rejected. “The stipend given to Heena was not part of government remuneration which allows or gives pecuniary benefits to the receiver. Besides, her appointment as a resident doctor was part of her higher studies and such a stipend is given to all junior and senior doctors,” Pradip. P, the returning officer for Nandurbar, had said on behalf of the poll panel in April.

Heena now hopes to combine both careers. “I hope to be part of the medical profession while staying in politics. When I was with the NCP, I was known for organising medical camps in the area. I will continue doing so as they are of immense help to the people.”

Heena can look up to Shrikant, the Sena MP who, like her, balanced academics and politics in this election.

Elected from Kalyan, near Mumbai, Shrikant is the son of senior Sena leader Eknath Shinde and a practising orthopaedic. He returned to Mumbai today from Delhi and is immersed in his books ahead of his MS (orthopaedics) exams later this week.