Meira Kumar is fighting an uphill battle against NDA candidate Ram Nath Kovind. But after filing her nomination for the presidential election on July 17, Meira Kumar spoke about the problems of having a ‘Dalit vs Dalit’ election for the post of president and why she’s no scapegoat. Edited excerpts:
Do you believe your nomination has nothing to do with caste?
It is based on ideology.
Ideology is the most important factor but do you think caste doesn’t matter?
I hope not. I hope that for the highest position in our land caste is not an issue.
You’ve asked MPs to vote on the basis of their conscience. Indira Gandhi used a similar campaign to make VV Giri the president. Here your battle is against another party but do you relate with that battle?
That was also a fight for ideology at the time of Mrs. Gandhi. For your information, I would like to tell you that for election of V V Giri, my father was in-charge. He was campaigning to ensure that conscience vote is cast in favour of VV Giri and it happened. That was also a battle based on ideology.
Many Congress leaders now say that it’s now a real fight for the post of President because you’re a Dalit leader. How do you react to that?
Caste considerations for the highest position in our land should not be there. I am glad, in fact, this talk of ‘Dalit vs Dalit’ has come up because all this while it was best that one’s prejudices were kept within and one’s mindset was not in the open. But now it has come out in the open for the whole world to see how India is conducting the election of its president as a ‘Dalit vs Dalit’ contest and I think that’s not a very complimentary situation. I am a proud Dalit. But then I also don’t want to be recognised only as a Dalit. I don’t want (people) to have any prejudice against me and to run me down, and only see me as a Dalit.
Especially now, I must point it out that most of the people are expressing anxiety because the post of the President is not reserved, and they find it very unusual that two Dalits are fighting for a post that is not reserved. So all these anxieties are coming out and I am really pained that in a country and society which is striving to be modern, we are so far behind.
Does it worry you that the NDA has a brute majority in this race?
I stand on a very firm ground, a very firm ideological position. I am not going to waver and I am not nervous about it. The election is not always a number game. If it is a number game and if you’re so sure of the number, then why are you having an election at all? Declare the result today, why don’t you?
Your father was an iconic leader from Bihar. You’ve contested elections from the same state. Does it hurt that the Bihar CM has decided to vote against you?
You know such things happen in politics. One should be able to take them in stride.
Nitish Kumar has said that you are a scapegoat given the opposition knows it is going to lose…
I am not a scapegoat. I’m a centre of very powerful forces which believe in the protection of the rights and dignity of the poorest and suppressed of this land. I am not a scapegoat. I want to remove this kind of wrong notion. I am representing forces which are speaking up and are standing for the freedom of the press. You should be supporting me more than anyone else. Your freedom is now in danger and I am supporting it. How am I a scapegoat when I am fighting for all those who are suppressed and whose freedom is now in danger? I have come forward to fight for them.
Are you confident you will win the election on July 17?
That is something I think you should wait and watch.