Launching her campaign for the Presidential elections from Gujarat on Friday, Opposition’s Presidential nominee, Meira Kumar fondly remembered her father Babu Jagjivan Ram’s role in scripting a victory for Presidential candidate VV Giri in 1969. “I wish my father was around,” Kumar said after meeting Congress MLAs and MPs at the party’s headquarters in Ahmedabad.
“At the time of VV Giri’s election, Mrs Indira Gandhi was the Prime Minister. Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy was one candidate and VV Giri was the other candidate. My father was in charge of VV Giri’s election. VV Giri did not win in the first preference poll. He won in the second preference poll. But he won. I wish my father was around,” Kumar said while replying to a question if her recent appeal to collegium to listen to their “inner voice of conscience” was inspired from the 1969 Presidential polls. Massive defections in the Congress party had resulted in Giri winning the fifth presidential poll. Also Read: My fight is based on Gandhiji’s principles: Meira Kumar at Sabarmati Ashram
“Yes, it was popular then,” she said reiterating that she had written a letter to the collegium of MPs and MLAs where she stated, “As an honourable member of the collegium, you have unique privilege to make history. This is that moment when one should heed the inner voice of conscience and set the course of the nation.”
When quizzed if in her poll campaign, she would highlight the fact that Babu Jagjivan Ram as the defence minister (1970-74) had helped guide India to victory against Pakistan in the 1971 war, Kumar said, “The services that my father rendered, were for the country. I cannot even dream of trying to gain something or taking advantage of his achievements.” Also Read: Una has a query for next President: Why do Dalits always suffer?
Kumar began her poll campaign by visiting the Sabarmati Ashram in the morning. “The presidential election process has begun… 17 political parties have selected me as a consensual candidate… The unity of the opposition parties is inspired by an ideology. This is the same ideology that I have learnt from (Mahatma) Gandhiji. And so the first thing that I decided to do after my nomination and scrutiny was to visit the Sabarmati Ashram.” She spent more than 40 minutes at the Ashram on the banks of the river Sabarmati, where she even tried a hand at the “charkha”.
In her interaction with mediapersons, she emphasised that unlike her political opposition which represented “narrow-mindedness”, she stood for inclusiveness, openness, love and respect. “Democratic values, building an inclusive society, transparency, freedom of press, social justice, poverty alleviation, and the most important, rooting out casteism; these are the values we represent in this fight,” said Kumar who is pitted against NDA candidate Ram Nath Kovind.
Apart from her father and Gandhiji, she also remembered Sardar Patel who used to live next door in Delhi towards the end of 1940s. “I got his blessings in childhood,” she remarked. Talking about the references to caste during the ongoing Presidential campaign, Kumar asked, “When Kovindji and I are contesting, the first thing that is being talked about is our caste. The other achievements are overlooked. Why does it happen. If a similar election was happening in some other country, and if was being contested on basis of the candidate’s race, will we not condemn it ?”
When asked if the infighting in the Congress party, especially in Gujarat, will adversely impact the Presidential polls, Kumar simply choose to reiterate her appeal to the collegium to listen to the inner voice of conscience.