Yashwant Sinha, the Opposition's joint candidate for the upcoming Presidential elections, on Wednesday said that he had "high regard" for Droupadi Murmu, the other contender in the race for the Rashtrapati Bhavan, while stating that the contest was not between two people but between "opposing ideologies".
In a statement shared by the Congress on Twitter, Sinha, who quit the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and joined Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress (TMC) in March last year, also wished Murmu "well in the election".
The 64-year-old Murmu has been nominated by the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) as its candidate for the forthcoming presidential polls. If she does get elected, Murmu will be the first tribal woman candidate to take the highest constitutional role in India since the country's independence 75 years ago.
Explaining his take on "opposing ideologies", Sinha, a former bureaucrat, said that one is "hellbent in throttling the Constitution" and believes the country's President should not have his/her own mind to function but "serve as a rubber stamp to do the government's bidding".
Sinha's statement read, "I am proud to belong to the other ideology that is determined to save the Constitution and the Republic."
He further said that being chosen unanimously by all opposition parties and their leaders for the presidential polls has left him "overwhelmed". Sinha thanked the leaders for reposing "faith and confidence" in him.
"I assure them - and the people of India - that, if elected, I shall conscientiously uphold, without fear or favour, the basic values and guiding ideas of the Indian Constitution. In particular, as the custodian of the Constitution, I shall not allow the light of democracy and secularism to be dimmed by the executive," Sinha's statement added.
The Opposition's nominee said that if elected as the next President of India, he will not allow the "independence and integrity of the democratic institutions to be weaponised, as is happening now".
Sinha said he will not allow the ongoing attacks on the federal structure of the Constitution in which attempts are being made to "rob the state governments of their legitimate rights and powers." He added that India is currently going through a difficult time, and if elected as the President, he will raise his voice for all common people, including farmers, women, unemployed youth, workers, and all "marginalised sections of society".
Sinha said that he will file his nomination for the presidential election on June 27-three days after Murmu is scheduled to file hers-and has plans to begin campaigning in "as many state capitals" as he possibly can.
He added that he hopes to meet and speak to MPs and MLAs of all political parties to seek their support in the presidential polls. "Above all, I also seek the support and guidance of ‘Janata Janardan’, the people of this great nation," Sinha's statement read.
Born in Patna in November 1937, Sinha joined the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) in 1960 and held several vital posts during his tenure. He resigned from service in 1984 and began his political career with the Janata Party in the same year. He was a member of the BJP between 1992 and 2018 before exiting the saffron camp and making his entry into the TMC last year. Soon after, he was appointed as the TMC's national vice president.
Sinha has always been a vocal critic of the current BJP-led Centre under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and it was his differences with the regime that led to his departure from the party.
Despite the opposition showering praise on Sinha and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) deciding to support him in the presidential polls, chances favour Murmu in the race. Naveen Patnaik, Odisha chief minister and Biju Janata Dal (BJD) boss, has repeatedly sided with Murmu, a fellow Odiya.
Moreover, Bihar's ruling Janata Dal (United), or JD (U), and Hindustani Awam Morcha-Secular, or HAM-S, have also extended their support to Murmu for the Presidential elections.
The polls will take place on July 18, and nominations for the same can be filed till June 29. The results of the presidential election will be declared on July 21.