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Debate over caste of presidential nominees painful, says Meira Kumar

Amit Agnihotri | New Delhi Jun 28, 2017 02:40 AM IST
Meira Kumar, the opposition's presidential nominee, is pained that caste, more than achievements, was dominating the discourse around the high profile election this time.

Meira Kumar, a dalit, has been pitted against the ruling NDA nominee Ram Nath Kovind, who is also from the same community, for the July 17 contest to elect the next president of India. Kovind, who hails from Uttar Pradesh and was the Bihar governor till recently, is almost certain to win, as the ruling coalition has more than the requisite numbers in the electoral college that votes for the presidential poll.

Interestingly, both Kovind and Meira Kumar were chosen for the top job primarily due to their caste.

"We need to bury caste deep under earth and take the society forward. The talks about dalit vs dalit presidential contest reflects the mindset of society," Meira Kumar said lamenting that in the past when nominees belonging to upper castes were fielded for the presidential poll, their caste was never a point of public discussion.

Meira Kumar, a former diplomat and Speaker of the Lok Sabha, said she was in the fight for ideological reasons to protect values like inclusiveness and transparency. She has appealed to all the lawmakers in state assemblies and in parliament, who will vote in the presidential poll, to cast a conscience vote in her favour and create history.

Meira Kumar, the daughter of former deputy PM Babu Jagjivan Ram, will file her nomination on Wednesday and later launch her campaign from Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, Gujarat to invoke the ethos of Mahatma Gandhi.

"We get strength by visiting the Ashram," she said while deploring the recent instances of violence against dalits.

A galaxy of leaders from 17 Opposition parties are expected to accompany her during nomination in a show of strength.

Ducking a query if she would appeal to Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, a Congress ally, to support her instead of Kovind, Meira Kumar said such developments were not unusual in politics.

The five term Lok Sabha member refuted charges of illegally occupying a government bungalow which houses her father's memorial and not paying rent for another house allotted to her earlier as a campaign to malign her image. All these issues have been duly settled, she claimed.

Meira Kumar downplayed a recent tweet by external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, where the former Speaker is shown interrupting the BJP leader in the house, by saying that all opposition leaders had praised her style of functioning when her tenure in the previous Lok Sabha was coming to an end.


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