Bid for Presidency: Meira Kumar works charkha, revives Indira's 'vote of conscience'

Virendra Pandit Ahmedabad | Updated on January 12, 2018 Published on June 30, 2017

Opposition’s Presidential candidate Meira Kumar (file photo)

The venue and the time were the same. Only the leaders were different.

A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi worked charkha at Sabarmati Ashram here, and appealed for peace on the cow issue, it was the turn of the Opposition’s Presidential hopeful Meira Kumar to do likewise. She, too, spun the wheel and revived Indira Gandhi’s 48-year-old appeal to the electoral college to “listen to the voice of their conscience when they vote” for the next President of India.

She said she is going to meet the Presidential voters across the states. “I am also writing to them “not to miss this opportunity to make history and vote for conscience.” She exuded confidence that they would pay attention to her appeal.

Like Modi, she also found the Ashram a ‘holy place’. “I am overwhelmed. My struggle is for maintaining the Congress ideology. We derive strength from this Ashram.” Without naming anyone, she said, “They all have forgotten these values.”

In 1969, the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s appeal for ‘conscience vote’ had led to the defeat of her own party’s Presidential candidate Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy, and election of VV Giri, the only Independent candidate elected to the highest office in the history of Independent India. Indira was the only PM who got her own Congress Party’s Presidential candidate defeated following differences with the intra-party “Syndicate” led by Morarji Desai and his supporters. Interestingly, Indira wanted Babu Jagjivan Ram, Meira Kumar's father, to be the President in place of Reddy!

In the 2017 Presidential election, former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, fielded by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and supported by 17 Opposition parties, on Friday, paid a visit to the Ashram to launch her election campaign. She was accompanied by Congress leaders, including Shankarsinh Vaghela who still has a foot in the Grand Old Party.

In the 1940s, she told reporters, she had been blessed by Deputy Prime Minister Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel, a neighbour of her father, Babu Jagjivan Ram, in New Delhi. “Before returning to New Delhi, I will garland the statue of Patel.”

Kumar said her struggle was against casteism, poverty and to usher in social justice for all. She reiterated that it was not a Dalit versus Dalit election between her and the NDA nominee Ram Nath Kovind. “But I am happy that this talk (Dalit v/s Dalit) has exposed them.” She regretted that “some people” still believed in casteism, which she said was a matter of anguish.

The Opposition candidate also met Congress MLAs at Gujarat Pradesh Congress headquarters at Rajiv Gandhi Bhavan here to canvass support.

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Published on June 30, 2017
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