Presidential election: It is a fight for ideology… very sorry it has been reduced to Dalit vs Dalit, says Meira Kumar

Presidential election: Why call us only Dalits, nothing beyond Dalits? If two people of the so-called upper castes fight or have fought for that supreme position, you will talk about their achievements, their abilities, their experience, their capacity, said Meira Kumar.

Written by Anand Mishra | New Delhi | Updated: June 29, 2017 2:22 am
Meira Kumar, Presidential election, Presidential elections 2017, Meira Kumar interview, Ram nath Kovind, Meira Kumar said, “I have a special place in my heart for Bihar because it is my native state. But I am contesting an election for the post of President of India. One gets either casteist or parochial.” (File photo)

Three years after she ended her tenure as Lok Sabha Speaker, Meira Kumar is back in public focus after being nominated as the Opposition candidate for President. The veteran Congress leader, a five-time MP, discussed what the presidential poll means to her in an interview at 1029, New Friends Colony, Delhi.

You have been a diplomat, an MP, a Union minister and the Lok Sabha Speaker. Which of these roles did you find the most challenging?

The most challenging role was when I was not holding any of these posts. It was also very fulfilling because I was working for the organisation then in various capacities – a member in the Congress Working Committee and AICC general secretary.

So what prompted you to contest the presidential poll now?

It was not my decision per se. It was the decision of 17 parties and my party’s leaders. I am honoured that they have selected me, have this kind of faith in me, and now it has become my decision.

Why did you agree to contest an apparently losing election when the NDA has a clear majority in the electoral college?

There is an ideology behind it. An election is an election. Everybody is eager to know the reason why I am contesting. So this gives me an opportunity to tell them what my ideology is; I will articulate my ideology. This is not a fight for a position. It is a fight for an ideology.

Why did you choose Gujarat to start your campaign from?

Mainly I am going to Sabarmati… I am going with the simple reason that I have great respect for these personalities.

What is the ideology for which you are fighting this election?

Democratic values, social justice, inclusiveness, freedom of the press, freedom of expression, transparency, end of poverty, destruction of the caste structure and so many things.

Did you see any threat to these things in recent years?

There is a threat to all of them. A lot of people feel that. We have this historical prejudice against a large number of people in society. We have tried to include them to remove the prejudices. Now I find that we are going back to starting those prejudices. That’s not good for the fabric of the society.

Recently a tweet by Sushma Swaraj questioned your attitude towards the Opposition when you were the Speaker…

I don’t think I was ever partisan. On the last day of the 15th Lok Sabha, all the leaders in the House made a farewell speech and all of them appreciated my work as Speaker. Not one of them, including the person you are referring to, said I was partisan. Then why this? All this to malign the image.

Does this upset you?

Such things keep happening in politics.

Your contest against Ram Nath Kovind has been projected as Dalit versus Dalit.

Why call us only Dalits, nothing beyond Dalits? If two people of the so-called upper castes fight or have fought for that supreme position, you will talk about their achievements, their abilities, their experience, their capacity. I do not think their caste is ever discussed. But when I come or my father or my illustrious opponent, the first thing that comes to everybody’s mind is that they are Dalits. How can they have come for this highest post, that is not even a reserved post? They should confine themselves to a reserved post… Then it is discussed in every discourse. Everyone’s mind… This is the reality of society, I am very sorry for that. In 2017, to reduce the presidential election to Dalilt versus Dalit — I think it is how generally people think about it — but from the more educated, more aware and more informed people and modern in their views, I am surprised they think like this.

BJP talked about Kovind’s Dalit identity.

That was very wrong. There is something he has achieved, he has other qualities.

The Opposition has projected you as “Bihar ki beti”. When you campaign in Bihar, will you reach out to the JD(U)?

I have a special place in my heart for Bihar because it is my native state. But I am contesting an election for the post of President of India. One gets either casteist or parochial.

On what ground are you seeking votes?

I think ideology is a great factor. There is nothing greater than that. Democracy runs on ideology… the only guiding force in an election is the ideology. It is the fighting force and the driving force. Other things are not of any consequence.

How important is it for any President to be seen not aligning to any party?

Yes, the President has to be totally apolitical while in office.

As a contestant, what is your assurance to all parties?

I have told them this is what I stand for and on the basis of this you please judge me and vote for me. Whoever has to be President has to take all sections along whether they vote for him or not.

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  1. P
    Jun 29, 2017 at 12:47 pm
    Mera Kumar has no moral standing to contest on dalit claims. firstly she is married to a member of higher caste ,she has aproperty and bank balance worth 200 crores, she in actual sense never lived and served dalits of Bihar,she was born and brought up in Congress Maharaja style. she owes 2 crore rent to GOvt.Converted a Govt House into her father's memorial who had betrayed Mrs Gandhi during emergency,she herself had quit Congress Party.And now she is a nominee of combined front of notorious gangs-Italian ,Lalu,Akilesh,Mayawati,Sardha Ghotala,Yachuri,Owasis,terrorists protectors Abdullahs.etc.
    1. Y
      Jun 29, 2017 at 12:19 pm
      True. You are not a Dalit at all. Your father was a life long minister and you have been a lifelong MP and have grabbed two government houses in Chanakya puri. This is not a fight between Dalit and Dalit but between those who exploit Dalit birth to get their cake and deny it to other have nots.
      1. M
        Jun 29, 2017 at 12:00 pm
        If it is really a fight on idealogy ,congress could have gone for a different candidate like Mr.Gandhi,it is the veiled choice of Mrs.Kumar that gives rise to this impression.Another surprise ,the opp. parties never wanted a congress nominee as per reports.Now they are playing second fiddle to congress.Every body stands exposed.
        1. C
          Chandan Bhowmick
          Jun 29, 2017 at 11:54 am
          Maya could be candidate of UPA.
          1. R
            Jun 29, 2017 at 11:20 am
            The contest is not Dalit vs. Dalit. It is between a dalit and a congress parrot! An opportunistic parrot that tries to fool the people by speaking like a baby!
            1. S
              shiravanthe sridhar
              Jun 29, 2017 at 10:43 am
              What ideology, you were born with a platinum ( not even asiver or golden)spoon the NDA candidate was a real downtrodden,overcame all the hardships with single-minded devotion hard work.
              1. R
                Jun 29, 2017 at 10:38 am
                This chor lady is talking about idology...idology of making record world trips like pratibha patil on public money? idology of travelling record times to switzerland with family and friends at the cost of public money? how many swiss accounts u have? It would be a disgust to the post of president, again after pratibha patil, if this kind of lady becomes prez.
                1. M
                  Jun 29, 2017 at 10:34 am
                  Madam if it is ideology why Congress has to put same caste person????
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