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Meira Kumar: Fighting a losing battle in presidential election 2017?

Meira Kumar’s candidature for the president’s post is unlikely to swing the balance in Opposition’s favour in the July 17 election.

india Updated: Jul 17, 2017 10:02 IST
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
UPA presidential candidate Meira Kumar and vice-presidential candidate Gopal Krishna Gandhi after a UPA meeting in New Delhi on Sunday.
UPA presidential candidate Meira Kumar and vice-presidential candidate Gopal Krishna Gandhi after a UPA meeting in New Delhi on Sunday. (PTI)

For opposition candidate Meira Kumar, the presidential election is a war of ideologies that she hopes to win if legislators across the country listen to their “inner conscience”, but the battle of numbers seems tilted in favour of NDA nominee Ram Nath Kovind.

With the odds stacked against her, the ‘Bihar ki Beti’ (Bihar’s daughter) will need a miracle now to win the Dalit vs Dalit fight.

The 72-year-old former Lok Sabha Speaker is known for her soft demeanour and gentle persuasive skills with which she used to run the House. “Kripya baith jaiye. Shaant ho jaiye (Please sit down. Be quiet),” she would say softly and mellifluously many a times daily to calm down agitated MPs.

Her prowess did work, but not always. A Lok Sabha MP from Madhya Pradesh once requested her not to use ‘shaant’ (peace), claiming that it was used for dead people in his state. But Kumar wouldn’t give up.

On Monday, when the Presidential ballot opens, Kumar will have the support of the 17 opposition parties which nominated her. A keen contest could be in store if, as the opposition expects, some in the ruling side cross-vote due to the absence of a whip.

Daughter of former deputy prime minister Jagjivan Ram, Kumar shares many similarities with Kovind. Both are Dalits, studied law, were active politicians and describe reading as favourite pastime.

Kumar was schooled in prestigious institutions: Dehradun-based Welham Girls School, Indraprastha College and Miranda House in Delhi for her Masters’ and LLB.

She joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1973 and served 15 years before plunging into politics. Kumar got elected to the Lok Sabha five times – the first from Bijnor in 1985 when she defeated Mayawati and Ram Vilas Paswan.

She went on to become a Cabinet minister in Manmohan Singh government before occupying the Lok Sabha speaker’s post in 2009.

In her long illustrious career, Kumar had her share of controversies too. She had taken over a bungalow in Lutyen’s Delhi by getting her father’s erstwhile residence converted into a memorial even as she occupied another ministerial bungalow. A bill of Rs 1.98 crore due from her was waived off by the UPA government as she was not occupying the bungalow.

Like her father, Kumar too had a troubled relation with the Congress for a while. She quit the party in 2000 and returned two years later. There was no stopping her in Sasaram, her father’s constituency, in 2004, as she completed a five terms in Lok Sabha.

Kumar’s candidature for the president’s post is unlikely to swing the balance in Opposition’s favour in the July 17 election, but her presence will make it a contest between two Dalit Bihar leaders — one a former governor of the state and the other its ‘beti’ (daughter).

Read| Ram Nath Kovind or Meira Kumar: Presidential election 2017 live updates