Opposition parties call for a President with secular credentials

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Opposition parties call for a President with secular credentials

New Delhi, May 1 (IANS) Reeling under the BJP’s advance after the recent elections, opposition parties, including Congress, JD-U and CPI-M, on Monday came together on a single platform to stop “communal forces” and emphasised the need to elect a President with secular credentials in the upcoming presidential elections.

All the parties agreed that it was their “ideological challenge” to fight “communal and fascist forces” and the need was to unite all “progressive secular forces”.

The opposition parties, which also included the CPI, the NCP, the JD-S, the Samajwadi Janata Party, the Socialist Party, and Loktantrik Samajwadi Party had gathered to mark the 95th birth anniversary of socialist leader Madhu Limaye as ‘Unity of Progressive Forces’.

Congress leader Digvijaya Singh said: “If we have to save the country from fascist and communal forces, the only way forward is unity of progressive forces… They have to come together..

“If ideologies like communism, socialism and secularism come together, only then we can fight the fascist forces.

“Unfortunately, it has become a battle of personalities. Comparisons are not of ideologies but of individuals. If we have to fight these these forces, then we have to take the narrative of the debate towards ideology. This is an ideological fight, not of personalities.”

Communist Party of India-Marxist General Secretary Sitaram Yechury said: “There are a lot of questions on the presidential election. The question is whether the new President will be able to uphold the dignity of his office.

“The question is whether the supervision from the Rashtrapati Bhavan will be secular or communal.”

“Not just communists or socialists but every secular force sitting here should come together,” he said, appealing for everybody to come together to “choose a secular President”.

On prospects of a grand alliance in the 2019 general elections, Yechury said: “Let us first achieve this (presidential election) and then we’ll move forward.”

Noting “politics is not mathematics”, he said that “without common ideologies, no unity cannot happen…it is an ideological challenge in front of us. We have to face that”.

Yechury also stressed that the question is not about “Hindutva nationalism, but Indian nationalism”.

Janata Dal-United leader Sharad Yadav said that opposition unity should be strengthened outside Parliament too.

“Opposition parties are together in the Parliament despite some differences but today’s event is a step forward in the direction of an united opposition,” he said.

Accusing the BJP of just wanting to divide people in the name of religion, he said that they are doing everything except what they had promised to the people before elections.

“They are dictating what people should eat and wear, they are practising Love Jihad and Ghar Wapsi,” he said, for all of them to come together to fight and defeat these forces.

Noted historian Irfan Habib said bringing religion in politics was very dangerous, citing the case of Pakistan.

“If anybody is a patriot then he/she should fight against the RSS ideology,” he said, calling for socialist, secular and democratic forces to come together to fight the fascist and communal forces.

“When the grand alliance in Bihar took place, many which didn’t take part in that congratulated them after they won the elections. I want to ask them why didn’t become part of the alliance,” he said.

Earlier, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar called on Congress President Sonia Gandhi to discuss a joint opposition presidential candidate.

Bihar Chief Minister and JD-U President Nitish Kumar, Sharad Yadav, Communist Party of India (CPI) leader D. Raja and Yechury have also met Gandhi on the same matter.

This is published unedited from the IANS feed.