Editor: Sandeep Suman
Cameraperson: TK Smitha
We’d lost our way near Mandya’s main bus stand looking for Shankare Gowda, an independent candidate who will be contesting the Karnataka Assembly elections later this month. We’d been asking for Gowda’s residence, but nobody seemed to know who he was. However, the minute we changed tact and told people we were looking for the ‘five-rupees doctor’, everyone along the route was happy to guide us. ‘Five-rupees doctor’, that is the name the man has earned in the last 35 years.
Gowda is known far and wide for treating patients for a nominal fee of Rs 5. Now the doctor has decided to make a career in politics.
Not New to Politics
Speaking to The Quint, Gowda said he is not new to the world of politics. During the last term, he had represented Mandya Zilla Panchayat from the local constituency on a Janata Dal (Secular) (JD(S)) ticket.
Gowda is also an agriculturist and hence understands the problems faced by his district. He is well acquainted with the fact that the farmers need affordable healthcare. So, he makes sure to treat those in the villages for free.
He says that if he is elected to power, he would want to encourage more investment and build factories, thus bringing a lot of employment opportunities for the people of Mandya – who have been travelling to Bengaluru for jobs.
I want to revive the sugarcane factories, create a market for all the crops, and have a fixed selling price for each type of crop even before they are planted.Shankare Gowda, Candidate, Mandya
We saw patients lining up outside his house, and he listened to each one of them and prescribed the medicines. We met people from neighbouring districts who had traveled all the way to Mandya to consult him.
People come from all over the state to visit him. I came from Bengaluru to just meet the doctor. He is a very nice person. I found out that he is now contesting as an independent candidate. I wish him all the best to win the election.Mansoor Ahmed
Once he was done seeing patients for the day, Gowda casually hopped on to a scooter and rode off to meet and greet people.
Where Are the Funds Coming From?
Mandya is known for its extravagant poll campaign expenditure, and so, the question arises:
How can a doctor, who receives a mere Rs 5 as fee, be able to afford an election campaign?
When we spoke to the people who were on the scooters, roaming around in the streets, spreading the news that Gowda’s contesting the polls, we found out that this was primarily a crowd-sourced election campaign.
Relatives and well-wishers have put in their money and some have even volunteered to physically campaign for the doctor.
A close relative said they plan on spending more than Rs 10 lakh and have already set up a savings bank account to ensure it is a transparent process.
Doctor or Leader? A Very Difficult Choice to Make
As Gowda walked door-to-door, asking people to lend their support, they greeted him with a ‘Namaste Doctor’ and thanked him for the medicines he had prescribed the last time they had visited his clinic.
His popularity was obvious and many seemed confident that such a selfless man would do great for the people when elected to power.
But some fear that once he becomes a politician, they will lose their go-to ‘five-rupees doctor’ – a reason some people gave to not pledge their votes to him.