Gopalkrishna challenges Venkaiah to TV debate
Opposition's vice presidential nominee Gopalkrishna Gandhi on Friday pitched for a televised discussion with NDA candidate Venkaiah Naidu, and said he has approached the Rajya Sabha TV to arrange such a dialogue.
In an interview, Gandhi said such a discussion on issues of national importance would make people aware of their perspectives and allow the MPs to consider their suitability.
The 71-year-old former ambassador, who also served as the West Bengal governor between 2004-2009, said he believes that the vice presidential election is about the "safeguarding of our republican values", above and beyond party politics.
"I therefore welcome the opportunity to share the ballot paper with Naidu and I look forward to discuss important national issues from the constitutional perspective with him.
"I have requested the Rajya Sabha TV to arrange a joint discussion, not a debate, between us two on RS TV so that our perspectives can be shared not just with the electors but with the public at large in an atmosphere of cordiality and frankness," he said.
Asked why he chose to contest despite the numbers stacked against him, Gandhi said he did so as a "united opposition" made an "earnest request, overcoming their own regional and political differences for re-affirming the country's republican values and democratic ethos. Eighteen parties, including the JD(U) which has just entered into an alliance with the BJP in Bihar, had supported the candidature of the Mahatma's grandson.
"I would like to believe there is no change in the JD(U) decision to support my candidature," Gandhi said, when queried about the recent political churning that saw Nitish Kumar resigning and then taking oath as Bihar chief minister with the BJP's support.
Political experts believe Kumar's decision has exposed the fragility of unity among the non-BJP forces, but Gandhi feels the unity has already been projected to the masses, even during the presidential poll.
"And the fact that (opposition presidential candidate) Meira Kumar got the largest number of votes that any opposition candidate in presidential election has ever got, is a very welcome sign for democracy.
"That coming together is for me in itself a very welcome sign, a welcome initiative, for democracy and for the unity of secular, republican forces. And as a person who belongs to no party, as an independent candidate I look to all the MPs to consider my suitability and vote as autonomous electors," he said.
If elected, Gandhi said, his endeavour would be to follow the examples of Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, Zakir Husain, Justice Hidayatullah, R Venkataraman, K R Narayanan, Bhairon Singhji Shekhawat and the incumbent vice president Hamid Ansari in discharging his duties, including as the chairman of the Rajya Sabha.