MEIRA KUMAR, the joint Presidential candidate of opposition parties against the NDA’s Ram Nath Kovind, filed her nomination papers for the July 17 election Wednesday and said this marks the beginning of “our ideological fight”.
While former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, party president Sonia Gandhi, Congress chief ministers and several top leaders of opposition parties accompanied her, TMC chief and West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, BSP chief Mayawati, Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav and RJD supremo Lalu Prasad were not present.
But the leader whose absence was most noted was Rahul Gandhi, the Congress vice-president, who is abroad.
While party leaders were at pains to explain Rahul’s absence, ‘Office of RG’, the official Twitter handle of the Congress vice-president, posted, “Against the ideology of divisiveness she represents the values that bind us as a nation and people. Proud to have Meira Kumar ji as our candidate.”
Asked about Rahul’s absence, Himachal Pradesh CM Virbhadra Singh said, “I am sure he realises. He is abroad nowadays… May be there is some compulsion because of which he could not come. Otherwise, he would have been here on such on occasion.”
After Meira Kumar filed her nomination, Sonia said, “For us, it is a battle of ideologies, principles and truth. And we will fight it.”
Kumar, who has been at pains to contend that this is not a Dalit versus Dalit contest, said, “It is a very important time, (as) the country is at crossroads. One path leads us to narrow mindedness and narrow views and where there is no thought for the poor, the downtrodden, the Dalits, and women. The other path is where we talk about Dalits, the poor, the weak, women and people of all faiths, as well as their dignity, rights and development.”
Appealing to legislators from across the political divide, she said, “My appeal to all is to listen to their conscience and extend their support to me for taking the country forward.”
“From today, our ideological fight has started. This ideology is based on democratic values, inclusiveness in society, freedom of the press, freedom of expression, end of poverty, transparency and destruction of caste structure,” Kumar said.