His parents died young and for years he battled poverty. But his sheer determination to make it good saw a zealous transformation in Pradeep Eshwar who defeated Karnataka’s influential minister Dr K Sudhakar in Assembly elections.
Residents of Chikkaballapur, some 60 km from glitzy Bengaluru, are excited to see their new Congress MLA who only years ago struggled to pay his house rent.
True to his earthy character, Eshwar immediately began his work, even before a government takes office in Karnataka. He is visiting villages in his constituency, listening to people’s problems and promising to solve them.
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The 38-year-old stunned political pundits when he scored a 10,000-vote victory over the influential Sudhakar, who had ditched the Congress to join the BJP and become the Health and Medical Education minister.
Both Congress veterans Siddaramaiah and DK Shivakumar wanted Eshwar to take on Sudhakar and defeat him – and he did that.
After his parents died when he was young, Eshwar from Peresandra village was sheltered by the Siddaganga Math of Tumkur, which runs several educational institutes.
After finishing school, Eshwar settled down in Chikkaballapur, a sleepy town. He taught children at home and worked as a teacher in several places for some time. He also hosted a programme, ‘Life is Beautiful’, on a local channel. It was meant to inspire others and improve their lives.
Eshwar may have lacked money but he had enough of courage and eloquence.
When his name was announced as the Congress candidate, many were surprised. He was known largely only to students and their parents due to the Parishrama Academy that trains medical students for the NEET exam.
Eshwar had a punchy dialogue during the election campaign. “Sudhakar is a Medical Minister, but I am a Medical Master (teacher).” But he faithfully recorded in his affidavit to the Election Commission that he was only school educated.
Dr Sudhakar had won by around 35,000 votes in 2018. This time he lost to ‘Medical Master’ Eshwar by some 10,000 votes.
Eshwar’s personality development classes attract lots of students. He normally books a community hall or a godown and gathers 500 to 1,000 students.
For someone who just had school education, Eshwar quotes from the Bhagavad Gita, belts out ethical stories and speaks about Mahatma Gandhi – all in one go.
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He also relates the difficulties he has faced in his personal life, and defines the real meaning of education and life.
He is known to charge a whopping Rs 3 lakh per student for NEET Long Term Coaching. At present, about 2,000 students are undergoing training in his coaching centre.
His annual earnings are around Rs 60 crores, and he makes no effort to hide what he gets. He claims that in six years he will own a medical college.
Eshwar says his father and mother died prematurely after trying to commit suicide and they did not get proper treatment in a government hospital. That is why he dreams of building a medical college.
In the 2018 assembly elections, he became a star campaigner for an independent candidate, KV Naveen Kiran. The questions raised by Eshwar on social media against Dr Sudhakar caused a stir.
By the end of the election, more than 20 cases were registered against him. He was also physically attacked.
When Eshwar protested in front of a police station, around 50 policemen were assigned to guard him. When he went to jail and came out on bail, he was paraded through the main roads of the town with fireworks bursting.
It was after the 2018 election which Sudhakar won that Eshwar left Chikkaballapur and wandered in various states, including Tamil Nadu, for some time.
When he returned, he felt he had to achieve something. It was then the Parishrama Academy was born. There was no stopping him after that. So much so that the Congress approached him, not the other way around, now.
Eashwar is from the backward Balija community, which boasts maximum adherents after Vokkaligas in Chikkaballapur. They all backed him along with the minorities and other less privileged communities.
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Eshwar used to tell his students during the election campaign that once he becomes an MLA, he will return to the constituency as Karnataka’s education minister.
Is he still aspiring to be the education minister?
Eshwar told The Federal: “I will become one after getting good experience in the field. Now I have to learn more things about how an MLA has to work in his constituency. This is my first focus.”