Mos Ashwini Choubey. Image Courtesy : NDTV
“Baba, my brother’s condition is deteriorating… he will die…help us, please,” Bindhyachal Sah, 33, implored Ashwini Choubey in the Circuit House of Buxar on Sunday, September 1. “Ashwini Choubey ‘Baba’ directed me to his personal assistant (PA) Narayan Ojha,” says Bindhyachal, “and Narayan ji promised that my brother would be admitted to [S]PGI (Sanjay Gandhi Postgraduate Institute of Medical Science, Lucknow).” Little did Bindhyachal know what was about to happen to his brother Raju Sah.
Sah, a resident of Niyazipur village of Simri Block of Buxar District, is also a Panchayat Pramukh or block-level secretary of BJP or Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP). Sah hails from the Other Backward Class (OBC) and is one of the few Bahujan office-bearers in upper caste-dominated Buxar BJP unit.
Bindhyachal’s brother, Late Raju Sah, was also an active worker with BJP. But this political association did not come to Raju’s rescue even though Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare, Ashwini Choubey, was his constitutional representative.
“Raju had jaundice and it continued to worsen. As he developed hafni or serious breathing problems, he was rushed to a private hospital in Varanasi where the doctors suggested that he could only be saved if admitted to SPGI, otherwise there was no chance,” recounts Bindhyachal, while speaking to NewsClick.
Bindhaychal says the District Hospital is not equipped to handle cases of medical emergency. According to him, one of the main reasons behind the death of his brother was the dilapidated medical apparatus in Buxar. “If a patient goes to PHC or Sadar Hospital, one has to wait for hours to get a slip before the patient is admitted. In addition to this, there is no guarantee if patient will be saved. That is why, we thought of taking him to Banaras,” he says.
Bindhyachal adds, warily, “Ee district ya state me accha suvidha hoit ta bahar jae ke ka kam rahal… (We wouldn’t have to go outside of the state if our state or district had proper medical facility…)” “What will he [referring to Ashwini Choubey] do for the country if his own constituency doesn’t have proper medical infrastructure? Forgot his inaction toward AES outbreak?”
After learning that their last resort was a renowned government hospital in Lucknow, the family members were perplexed, as it would be more difficult for them to get the patient admitted there. Some suggested that they should shift Raju to a private hospital; many asked Bindhyachal to talk to Ashwini Choubey if he could be of some help. After all, Bindhyachal’s hard work during parliamentary elections purportedly led Ashwini Choubey to a landslide victory. Without wasting time, Bindhyachal went to meet MoS Choubey.
PA Narayan and Ashwini Choubey’s son, Aviral Shashwat, asked Bindhyachal to transport the patient to SPGI, assuring him that they would dial the hospital so that Raju could be admitted. Soon afterwards, Choubey reportedly went to Patna.
The assurance was verbal, and it allegedly faltered when the victim was lifted to SPGI. Family and friends with the patient were shocked to find that Raju’s name was not on the list nor had anyone made a call.
Bindhyachal asked, “Baba ka call aya tha? (Did Baba call you?)”
Bindhyachal remembers how he quickly called Choubey’s men to request the official at the counter to admit his brother.
“Koi phone leke chala ayega aur bolega Modi ne bola hai to hum admit kar denge? (Any random person will come here and say that he or she has a recommendation from PM Modi, and will we accept it?),” an official was quoted as saying by Bindhyachal.
The official suggested to Raju’s family members that they should ask Ashwini Choubey to make a direct call to senior medical officers at SGPI Hospital. Raju tells us that when he tried calling MoS and his men, he found that their numbers were unreachable or switched off. Many went unanswered, some responded merely with words of assurance.
Bindhyachal says that the Opposition party leaders came forward in personal capacity to support him. Sanjay Kumar Tiwari alias ‘Munna Tiwari’, MLA (representing Indian National Congress) of Buxar, provided Bindhyachal his ‘pad’ [an official notepad] and asked him to talk to politician Pramod Tiwari, who is based out of Lucknow. “Choubey, despite being a BJP leader and politically responsible to his party men, didn’t give us any treatment recommendation letter.”
It was 1 a.m on Monday, September 2. The stability of the patient critically declined, and he required an immediate medical support system. He was hurriedly taken to a local non-specialised hospital in Lucknow.
Bindhyachal then received a call from Akhilesh Mishra, an assistant to the MoS, who reportedly [informally] coordinates between the Ministry of Health and Choubey, assuring him that the patient could be admitted at 7 a.m the next day.
However, Raju, 23, succumbed to multiorgan failure before he could be admitted to SGPI.
Bindhyachal says, “It was 2:30 a.m when my brother left us with our misery. I can’t forget that moment of helplessness. If Choubey ji had made a single call, my brother wouldn’t have died. He died because of political apathy.”
“Baba is first our representative, then India’s health minister. He represents everyone belonging to Buxar constituency independent of their political ideology or affiliation. We have elected him; he is accountable to us. In contrast, he did not help even a party worker who had had significant contribution in his victory,” adds Bindhyachal.
Bindhyachal claims that Raju himself was at the forefront of BJP’s Sadasyata Parv, a membership drive, in his block. “Only because of our family, BJP could successfully counteract Rashtriya Janata Dal or RJD in this anti-BJP and Bahujan-dominated segment of Buxar parliamentary constituency.”
Multiple sources from the Simri Block told NewsClick that Bindhyachal and his family indeed played a key role in building the foundation of BJP in his block.
Bindhyachal feels that it is now difficult for him to segregate pride from prejudice. “After this tragedy, my relatives and acquaintances are ridiculing me. They had already warned me of such consequences… It was I who was adamant…,” continues Bindhaychal, “I have now detached myself from the party activities.”
Back in his village, on the evening of September 2, local party leaders of BJP visited Bindhyachal to console him. Sah says that he refused to talk to any BJP leader. He adds, “Akhilesh Mishra called, Ashwini Choubey’s PA called… I did not speak to any. Will they be able to fill this void in our life? After he is gone?”
Sources had told NewsClick that Vivek Thakur, former MLC also met Sah after having learnt about this incident. He is the son of former Union Health Minister CP Thakur. Bindhyachal hesitantly confirmed this. Vivek Thakur was also a contender in BJP to be a candidate for Buxar MP seat. He is seen as a political rival of Ashwini Choubey. While anti-Ashwini faction is indirectly supporting Bindhyachal, any party leader is yet to publicly hold Ashwini Choubey accountable.
Acquaintances of Bindhyachal have reportedly leaked a call recording related to this incident on social media. He is heard using cuss words for Chaubey in the clip, which has angered a section of local BJP unit that has labelled it as a conspiracy by RJD. Bindhyachal confirmed this incident, and explained: “I had just returned home after burning the pyre. I was extremely sad and angry. I could not control my emotions.”
NewsClick was told on the condition of anonymity that local leadership has blocked this news from coming out, with no local newspaper giving any space to this episode.
“I will not remain silent. If this has happened to us, then it is easy to imagine how vulnerable common public is under the leadership of Ashwini Choubey,” says Bindhyachal.
After the funeral rites of his brother concluded on September 15, Bindhyachal, without any fear of reprisal, plans to approach BJP Core Committee and national leaders demanding resignation of Ashwini Choubey. He is also ready to observe a fast in protest, if needed. However, Bindhyachal apprehends that ‘muscular politician’ Ashwini Choubey will emerge dirt-free even if a probe is ordered against him.
Ujjawal Krishnam is an independent journalist. He reports on social inequality and rights.