Meira Kumar, the opposition’s nominee for the presidential election, today deplored the “atmosphere of fear” prevailing in the country, and insisted she was fighting for “freedom of expression and freedom of press”. Terming the incidents of lynching of people over suspected cow slaughter or consumption of beef “extremely unfortunate”, she pitched for a consensus to end that atmosphere of fear. “There is so much of fear about what one should eat. There is fear about what one should say. I am also fighting for freedom of expression, freedom of press…,” Kumar, who was here to canvass support for her presidential bid, told journalists. The former Lok Sabha speaker said she is “not alone” in the fight and that she had the support of a number of parties and also a large number of countrymen. “It is extremely unfortunate. It pains me and pains all of us, these instances of lynching. We have to come to an understanding and reach a consensus. Because, this atmosphere cannot go on,” she said.
“Not just the parties, what we stand for, has the support of a maximum number of my countrymen and women… I think I stand on a very solid ground,” Kumar, whose defeat the presidential poll watchers have concluded is a foregone conclusion given the support the BJP-led NDA has in the electoral college, said. Kumar said she has written to all the electors asking them to vote for her as per their “conscience”. Kumar, who has been pitted against Ramnath Kovind, the NDA nominee and a fellow Dalit, said she is fighting an “ideological battle” and that it should not been misconstrued as a Dalit versus Dalit contest. She made a pitch for due respect to be shown to Dalits and the poor.
The country has achieved tremendous progress in various sectors, but the “fundamental issue” still remains…the concern showed for disadvantaged sections, she said. “No matter how much progress we make, but the fundamental issue is how much we respect the Dalits, the fundamental issue is how much we do for the rights of the poor…,” she said. “This is 2017, in which we live. For our supreme position, if we are still talking about Dalit versus Dalit, then we should look within ourselves and decide what kind of a mindset we have,” she said and wondered if that mindset was in sync with modern times.
“This Presidential election is going to be a powerful articulation of the value system which has been held close… which is now under threat,” she said. Telangana Congress president N Uttam Kumar Reddy said they have left a message at Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao’s office saying that Kumar would like to speak to him. The ruling TRS has already declared its support to the NDA’s nominee. As part of her campaign, Kumar met MLAs and MPs of Congress and the Left in Telangana, besides some intellectuals.