The joint opposition candidate in the presidential polls, Yashwant Sinha, dared his NDA opponent Droupadi Murmu on Monday to take a pledge that she will not be a rubber stamp to the government and will speak out against attempts at the communal polarization of the country.
Sinha took a pledge to serve as an impartial custodian of the Constitution and not be a "rubber stamp" to the government, as also to uphold the country's plural nature, and said he will protect the rights of people, including the right to freedom of speech and expression. He also pledged that he will work for the repeal of the sedition law.
"To ensure a better future for all Indians, the Rashtrapati must work conscientiously. I pledge that, upon being elected as President, I'll serve as an impartial custodian of the Constitution; not a rubber stamp for the government. I urge the BJP's candidate to make the same pledge," Sinha wrote on Twitter.
Posting the pledge to the people of the country, he said, "I hereby affirm that India needs a Rashtrapati who serves as the impartial custodian of the Constitution and not a silent or a rubber-stamp Rashtrapati. Will the BJP's candidate make the same pledge?"
Alleging that the ruling dispensation has unleashed "a poisonous communal propaganda to divide India's multi-religious society", the opposition presidential nominee also said, "I promise to all Indians that if elected as President, I shall uphold India's plural nature and the Constitution. I urge the BJP's candidate to make the same pledge."
In his pledge, he said, "My pledge to the people of India. I shall speak out against any attempts aimed at the communal polarization of India. Will the BJP's candidate make the same pledge?... I pledge to the people of India that, upon being elected as President, I will safeguard the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution to each and every Indian," Sinha said, urging Murmu to take the same pledge.
Sinha, a former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member who was a minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA government, also condemned an incident in which a tribal woman was allegedly set ablaze in the Guna district of Madhya Pradesh, a state ruled by the saffron party. "Shows how shallow its commitment is to tribal welfare," he said. Incidentally, Murmu is a tribal who hails from Odisha and the BJP has touted her tribal background.
The presidential polls to elect incumbent Ram Nath Kovind's successor will be held on July 18. Only Sinha and Murmu are in the fray for the contest for the country's top constitutional post. Hitting back at Sinha for his "rubber stamp Rashtrapati" remark, BJP national general secretary C T Ravi said harboring a feeling that an Adivasi woman is not suitable for the position depicts one's "nasty mindset".
"Certainly the country doesn't need a rubber stamp Rashtrapati, but also, in the same way, the mindset of indulging in false propaganda against a self-made Adivasi woman, who has proved her capability, is dangerous. The state of mind that feels oneself alone to be worthy is dangerous," Ravi said.
Talking to reporters here, he said, "Murmu, an Adivasi woman, has already proved her capabilities as the governor of Jharkhand, as a minister and an MLA in Odisha, and as a lecturer in a college. A feeling that an Adivasi woman is not capable of the position itself depicts one's nasty mindset."