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Kerala By-election: 'Pulse in Favour of Development', Says Cardiologist Turned Left Candidate

Hours before the end of the open campaign on Sunday, NewsClick spoke with the LDF candidate regarding the key issues and the response from the voters. 

Dr Jo Joseph speaking to voters. 

Kochi: In May 2020, it was his hands that carried the heart of a 50-year-old brain dead patient from Thiruvananthapuram to Kochi, saving the life of Leena Shibu, a patient from Kothamangalam. It was a historic advent assisted by the state government to ferry the life-giving heart by a helicopter. Come May 2022, the same doctor has been entrusted with another historic mission by the ruling Left Democratic Front. Jo Joseph, the doctor who has international acclaim for his professional excellence, is the Left’s candidate for the Thrikkakara by-election. A hard worker by nature, the comrade doctor is determined to score a ‘hundred’ for the LDF in the Assembly. 

Jo Joseph

Born to lower-middle-class parents K V Joseph and M T Elikkutty, in Poonjar, a small town in the Kottayam district, on the valley of the western ghats, hard work was Jo Joseph’s best companion on his way to becoming a noted cardiac surgeon in the country. Dr Joseph, who passed MBBS from Kottayam Medical College, completed post-graduation in General Medicine from SCB Medical College, Cuttack, Odisha, and earned a DM in cardiology from AIIMS, Delhi. He has been working as a cardiac specialist at Lissy Hospitals, Ernakulam from 2012.    

Dr Jo Joseph who was a surprise candidate for the LDF in Thrikkakara, a UDF fortress since its formation, has emerged as a frontrunner in the battle of ideas. Jo Joseph’s campaign focused on peculiar issues of the constituency with an inclusive vision for development. In addition to the conventional door-to-door campaigns and roadshows, the campaign also used modern technologies like augmented reality to discuss the development aspirations of the urban constituency through social media. Hours before the end of the open campaign on Sunday, NewsClick spoke with the LDF candidate regarding the key issues and the response from the voters. 

Dr Jo Joseph is seen as confident about the response from his voters. “The pulse is in favour of development, in favour of the LDF,” the ‘heart-doctor’ told NewsClick. Dr Joseph said, as a professional living in Kochi, he knows the development needs of the city. “Thrikkakara constituency is a completely urban Assembly segment. People here favour solutions for better transportation, good roads, bridges, and industrial development – particularly in the IT sector. The welfare measures of the LDF government that won a historic second term are well acclaimed. Now, we need to focus on infrastructure development too,” he added.    

K-rail has been a hot topic for the campaign in Thrikkakara. Dr Jospeh said the debate would help the LDF. “This constituency has a wide number of employees and professionals, who have migrated from other parts of the state. They travel for both personal and professional reasons. It is important for them to have an accessible, faster means of transportation, which is exactly the idea behind K-rail,” the LDF candidate said. 

The labour participation rate of women, especially in high-qualified jobs has been an area to improve for Kerala. “The number of highly-educated unemployed women has been a major worry. Many times, women are bound to stay unemployed to take responsibility of the kids and family. Faster transportation facilities like K-rail can help improve this scenario. This gendered aspect of K-rail hasn’t been discussed much,” Dr Joseph told NewsClick.    

Asked about his ideas on Kerala’s much-praised public health system, the doctor said the state’s health model is number one in the country, and on par with world standards; it was proven yet again during the Covid outbreak. “It is cost-effective, affordable, and equitable. And there is a scope for further transformation as well. A large share of medical research in the country takes place in Kerala. But, the state should focus more on formulating a strategy to tap into all the resources, including funding from the Indian Council of Medical Research and others, to further boost medical research in the state,” Dr Joseph explained his vision.  

“Secondly, as the state moves towards a knowledge-based economy,  medical tourism has greater viability as value addition. Kerala’s climate, professionally trained workforce in nursing and paramedical fields, rich tradition of Ayurveda, etc. are favourable factors for growth in this area. Women from Kerala constitute a significant share of the healthcare workforce in many European countries, Canada, the US and Australia. Their dedication and service of Malayali nurses have received international acclaim, especially during the Covid pandemic. Medical tourism can also create better employment opportunities for trained professionals within the state,” he added.  

Another major issue related to public health is increasing non-communicable diseases or lifestyle diseases. To an extent, such diseases are overburdening the public health system, according to Dr Jo Jospeh. “To tackle this challenge, we should strengthen awareness about a healthy lifestyle. In this regard, our campaign also focused on the lack of public playgrounds in the constituency. An urban constituency like Thrikkakara needs more playgrounds and open gyms. The young voters and professionals who do not engage in physical labour need facilities to work out, to live a healthy. These could also become places to socialise,” he said. 

A football match under the title ‘Goal for Playgrounds’ was organised as part of the LDF campaign. Dr Jo Joseph scored the winning goal for the legislators’ team against the youth team. Minister M V Govindan Master kicked off the match. A A Rahim, Member of Rajyasabha and All India President, DYFI, C K Vineeth, professional football player, actor Irshad, other young MLAs and youth leaders of the Left played in the match.      

Jo Joseph

To many voters who have been enquiring whether Dr Joseph’s services as a medical practitioner would be affected if he gets elected to the Assembly, the LDF candidates assured that he will be a legislator as well as a medico. “I have a plan to organise free monthly medical camps at the MLA office in the constituency. Free check-ups for cardiac patients would be conducted, we will also arrange services from other doctors of multi-specialities, based on their availability,” said the doctor. 

Dr Jo Joseph ended the brief conversation brimming with hope, as he moved on to meet more voters in housing apartments, with full energy even after a long day of the campaign. 

The open campaign came to a halt in Thrikkakara at 5 pm on Sunday, with a high-voltage display of strength between the LDF, UDF and the BJP. The workers of all parties flooded the streets with their flags in hand to mark the closing hustle. After a day of the silent campaign on Monday, Thrikkakara will go to the polls on Tuesday. 

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