WBDF’s plainspeaking had shown the West Bengal government’s pandemic management in poor light
Eyebrows were raised in the medical fraternity with two founding members of the West Bengal Doctors’ Forum (WBDF) — which had been critical of the State Government’s handling of the COVID-19 situation before allying with it against the pandemic — joining the ruling Trinamool Congress.
The WBDF’s founding president, Dr. Rezaul Karim, and honorary secretary, Dr. Koushik Chaki, joined the party on Wednesday in the presence of its general secretary Partha Chatterjee. While Dr. Karim had already stepped down as the president when he contested the 2019 Lok Sabha election from Birbhum on a Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) ticket, Dr. Chaki joining a political party has come as a surprise to many.
With the outspoken Dr. Chaki at the helm, the WBDF had not shied away from calling a spade and spade, and the plainspeaking had shown the West Bengal government in poor light, giving ammunition to the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Later, when the forum was assigned a fact-finding role so that it could apprise the government on how the hospitals and isolation centres were faring, Dr. Chaki had repeatedly said that he would tell the government what it should know and not what it would like to hear.
Assembly elections are due in West Bengal in about six months from now. Dr. Chaki has already stepped down as WBDF’s honorary secretary but has been asked to continue as an executive committee member. He will also continue to function as the coordinator of the WBDF Protocol Monitoring team.
“WBDF has no reservations about any member joining any political party. WBDF as an organisation is non-partisan. This does not mean we can restrict the freedom of any member to have any political affiliation. We, who are actively involved in day to day activities of the organisation, know pretty well the role Dr. Chaki has played for WBDF and for the doctor community in general,” the WBDF said in a statement on Friday.
“With a heavy heart, we respect and accept his decision. Our conclave is long overdue. It is the highest decision-making body of WBDF. Until the COVID-19 situation settles, we are forming a 10-member interim committee, with Dr. Punyabrata Gun as the convener, to look after the day-to-day work,” it said.
Dr. Chaki, when contacted, said he would not like to comment on the matter at the moment.
The WBDF was formed in 2017 with the aim of protecting doctors from what it had called “the ill-effects” of the West Bengal Clinical Establishments Act, 2017.