New Delhi: Opposition presidential candidate Meira Kumar on Tuesday said that the election for the country's highest office should not be fought on the basis of caste and vowed to contest the polls on the plank of democratic values, inclusiveness, social justice and destruction of caste structure. Kumar, the daughter of iconic Dalit leader Jagjivan Ram, rued that the polls were being seen as a "Dalit versus Dalit" contest. The caste system, she told reporters, should be "buried deep down" in the earth.
Asked about alleged attacks on Dalits in the recent past, she said, "It is quite shameful."
"Many time in history, two high caste leaders have competed for the post of the President but there haven't been any discussions on their caste. This time, when two Dalits are competing against each other, there is a lot of noise about it everywhere. I feel that caste should be buried in the deepest part of the earth and completely forgotten," she said.
"Democratic values, social justice, transparency, freedom of speech, inclusiveness, destruction of caste system, end of poverty... these are part of the ideology which is close to my heart. For this very reason, on the plank of this ideology I will compete," Kumar added.
The former Lok Sabha speaker, has been chosen as the opposition's candidate to contest against BJP's nominee Ram Nath Kovind in the presidential election next month.
Meira Kumar to launch poll campaign from Sabarmati Ashram
Kumar said she will start her election campaign from Sabarmati Ashram in Gujarat on June 30.
"I feel I should start my election campaign from Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad. I will start from there," said Kumar briefing media here, a day ahead of filing her nomination papers.
Asked why Sabarmati, Kumar said: "Everybody knows the significance of Sabarmati in our country. The 'sant' of Sabarmati (Mahatma Gandhi) played an important role in the freedom movement of our country. That's why I am going there."
No one accused me of being biased as Lok Sabha speaker, says Meira Kumar
Kumar rejected claim made by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj that she was biased against BJP leader during her stint as Lok Sabha speaker.
"All MPs appreciated my style of functioning when I was Lok Sabha speaker... None alleged I was biased," she said.
Hinting at bias, Swaraj had posted a video of her Lok Sabha speech in 2013 in which then speaker Kumar is seemingly not extending "protection" against disruptions in the house.
'Haven't decided on seeking support from Nitish'
Meira Kumar said she had not decided whether or not to appeal to JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar to support her nomination.
"Such things happen in politics. It is not a new thing. What I need to do about it, I will decide at the right time," she said.
Expressing her gratitude to the 17 political parties for selecting her as their presidential candidate, Kumar said she has requested all the members of the Electoral College to support her candidature in a letter she wrote two days back.
Kumar will visit all the states and meet the MLAs there as part of her campaign.