interview | National

Not Dalit inclusion but mere tokenism: Meira Kumar

Nitish Kumar’s breaking ranks with the Opposition will not damage our cause, says former LS Speaker

Fielded by the Opposition to take on the National Democratic Alliance’s presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind, former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar tells The Hindu that Mr. Kovind’s candidature is mere tokenism if it is viewed as Dalit inclusion.

You have called the Presidential election a contest of ideologies. What do you see as the core ideological strengths of the Opposition?

I would say it is belief in an inclusive society, social justice, freedom of the press and freedom of expression; a vision for ending poverty and upholding democracy.

The present government has faced much criticism over issues relating to minorities and Dalits. So, would you say that their fielding Mr. Kovind, a Dalit, is in fact an inclusive gesture?

If it is so, I would term it as mere tokenism. They must ensure zero atrocities on these sections of society. There should be no injustice and no humiliation of anyone on grounds of caste or religion. There should be justice for Dalits and minorities.

Are you saying they failed to deliver justice to Dalits?

They have such a majority in Parliament. They should be able to implement things effectively. With the kind of majority they have, they should not be found wanting in delivering justice.

Nitish Kumar, your ally in Bihar — the State you come from – decided to break ranks with the Opposition in a contest you call one of principles. Your comment on that? Also, does it partially damage the fight itself?

Such things do happen. It happens in politics. It does not damage the cause at all. There are 17 parties supporting us. Those who really believe in these principles will stay together.

Do you mean to say Mr. Nitish Kumar does not believe in these principles?

I would not want to comment on that.

You have said on record that the Presidential contest should not be seen as a Dalit vs Dalit contest when we are in the 21st century. Do you then differ from BSP chief Mayawati, who has said she would back a Dalit for the top post, thus seeing this as an issue of Dalit representation ?

I do not see it the way you are seeing it. The BSP is fully with us and with our cause.

In our system, the President acts on the advice of the Council of Ministers. So, cooperation between the President and the government is important. Does your candidature — claiming certain principles that you believe are threatened under this regime — not go against the grain of this relationship?

There is no friction between the post of President and Prime Minister. The President does act on the advice of the Prime Minister. Yet, he does enjoy power as the head of the state and keeps a keen eye on developments in the country. That does give ample opportunity to implement the ideology of our constitutional system.

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Printable version | Feb 28, 2020 6:50:02 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/not-dalit-inclusion-but-mere-tokenism-meira-kumar/article19180816.ece

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