By Sidhartha Dutta and Prashant Sood
The opposition's vice-presidential candidate Gopalkrishna Gandhi says that he is deeply disturbed over increase in bigotry and suppression of dissent under the Modi government.
Gandhi, 72, who faces the ruling National Democratic Alliance's candidate M. Venkaiah Naidu in the Aug 5 vice-presidential election, also feels that there is need to be vigilant against cow vigilantism.
"I am deeply disturbed over the increase in bigotry, intolerance and the direct and indirect suppression of dissent. This is not democratic. This is not republican," Gandhi said in an interview to IANS.
Answering a query on incidents of cow vigilantism, Gandhi said, "Be vigilant against vigilantism, our former President said. I believe that."
Gandhi said the objective of his contesting elections was to offer a choice to the electors worthy of their attention. "And to respond to the invitation from several parties to contest as an independent candidate standing for the values of our republican constitution."
Asked about his assessment of Venkaiah Naidu, who is seen to have a clear edge in the election in which MPs vote through secret ballot, Gandhi said: "He (Naidu) is a veteran political leader with vast experience of public affairs."
Gandhi, who is a former civil servant, diplomat and governor, said he had written to the NDA MPs saying that he was not asking for their votes but seeking their "kind attention" for his candidature.
"I have requested them to look upon me not as an adversary but a fellow citizen who believes in our country's diversity and pluralism and in the criticality of democratic rights," he said.
On his prospects in the vice-presidential election, Gandhi said: "Some contests are valuable in themselves, irrespective of winning or losing."
Asked about the role he sees for himself if does not win the election, Gandhi said: "Life is larger than elections."
Gandhi did not comment on his nephew Shrikrishna Kulkarni writing an open letter against his nomination as candidate of Congress and some other major opposition parties.
Asked about the prospects of the opposition in the 2019 general election, Gandhi said people will use the opportunity wisely and noted that every election conducted in freedom and with fairness is in itself a victory.
To a question about the possibility of Rahul Gandhi being the pivot of opposition unity in 2019 elections, Gandhi said the people were their own pivot.
Asked what "nationalism" meant to him, Gandhi said nationalism and patriotism were natural instincts and their manipulation was outrageous.
Gandhi also said he agreed with former President Pranab Mukherjee on his advice against taking the ordinance route repeatedly and against disruptions in the parliament.