The Opposition's nominee for the presidential election, Meira Kumar today said projecting the poll for the top office as "Dalit vs Dalit" has exposed the real face of the society which still thinks through the caste prism.
Kumar today met Congress MLAs here, seeking their support for the July 17 presidential election.
Speaking to media later, she said the presidential election is being contested on the basis of ideology for the first time.
Asked about the contest being described as "Dalit versus Dalit" (as the NDA's candidate Ram Nath Kovind too is a Dalit), Kumar said, "I am both happy and pained over this.
"I am happy because it has exposed the real face of the society, that such a thinking is still prevalent...But I am pained because such issues are still being discussed; how do we progress (with this attitude)? If we keep ourselves under the clutches of the caste system, we will never progress," the former Lok Sabha Speaker said.
"I feel sad when the election is described as a Dalit vs Dalit contest.
"Presidential elections were held many times in the past and whenever two people from the so-called upper castes contested, the discussion would be about their (respective) achievements, their abilities, their qualities. Their caste was never discussed. But when I and Kovind-ji are contesting, nothing is being discussed beyond (both being) Dalit," Kumar said.
"The caste system should be abolished for the growth of the nation. We are living in the second decade of the 21st century. We wanted to make India a progressive and modern nation and take it to (new) heights. We can not do it with such narrow and orthodox thoughts," she said.
Stating that incidents of atrocities on Dalits and tribals have increased, she said, "We are fighting this election to raise their voice."
For the first time, 17 opposition parties have decided to contest the election jointly on the basis of "ideology, principles and values which we have inherited from our ancestors", and this is an important event in the history of Indian politics, Kumar said.
"This is a country where wenot only practise our own religion but we are also taught to respect others' religion and how to be secular. Today this ideology is being attacked and we will not allow it to happen," she said.
"I have requested MLAs and MPs to cast their votes keeping in view the nation's interest. Otherwise, future generation would ask them why they chose a path leading towards darkness, where people are divided in the name of religion and caste," she said.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)