Attacks on democratic freedoms: Gopal Krishna Gandhi ahead of vice presidential polls
Gopal Krishna Gandhi said the thoughts he has expressed were not addressed merely to his electorate but to the people at largeUpdated: Aug 03, 2017, 17:34 IST
The election to choose India’s vice-president is taking place at a time when there are attempts to create a “psychological divide”, 70 years after the country’s partition, the opposition candidate for the post Gopal Krishna Gandhi said in a statement on Thursday.
The “integrated will” of the people of India is expressed in the preamble to the Constitution and represented through freedom, justice, equality, and fraternity, Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson wrote note emailed to a select group of journalists for publication ahead of the election on Saturday.
“In this year, the 70th year of independent India, those great ideals have acquired a compelling urgency. They are facing challenges,” he wrote.
“Direct and indirect attacks are being made on democratic freedoms of belief, thought and speech. And institutions serving public causes feel a palpable pressure on them to conform where they wish to dissent, to be silent where they wish to speak up,” Gandhi said in what his email described as “a few words stating my thoughts on the larger scene within which this election is being held.”
He said the thoughts he has expressed were not addressed merely to the electorate but to the people at large.
Gandhi had sought a televised debate with National Democratic Alliance’s (NDA) candidate Venkaiah Naidu but that did not happen.
“Had I had the chance of sharing a televised discussion with the Hon’ble Shri Venkaiah Naidugaru, I would only have said in that discussion what I have put down in this text,” he said in his email.
Gandhi said we need to celebrate our freedom.
“But we have to also ask ourselves: In the larger arena of free choices, how free are we? Are we free of fear? Are we free to choose our way of life, our forms of thought and expression? Are we free to tell the bully and the bull-dozer in high office or the on the street corner off? Are we free and able to tell giant industries to not pollute our rivers, our air, to not dump their toxic waste in our environment?”
Quoting philosopher Ramchandra Gandhi on the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, the former West Bengal governor wrote, “The Mahatma, on his way to prayer, was not stopped by three bullets of hate. Rather, he stopped with his heart full of prayer, those three bullets in their track. We must stop the projectiles of communalism in their tracks.”
Gandhi, a former bureaucrat and diplomat, will contest against Naidu. With numbers favouring the NDA, Naidu is considered a favourite to win the August 5 election against opposition nominee Gandhi.
The vice-president is selected by an electoral college of 790 parliamentarians from both houses, where the National Democratic Alliance — the BJP and its partners — form a majority with 410 members.
Outgoing vice-president Hamid Ansari completes his term on August 10.