Congress President Sonia Gandhi with presidential candidate Meira Kumar and vice-presidential candidate Gopal Krishna Gandhi after the UPA meeting in New Delhi on July 16. Photograph: (PTI)
Describing the presidential elections as the opposition's fight against a "narrow-minded, divisive and communal vision", Congress president Sonia Gandhi Sunday said the polls election tomorrow demand a "vote of conscience".
The Congress president was addressing a gathering of opposition parties in the Indian capital New Delhi where its presidential and vice presidential nominees, Meira Kumar and Gopal Krishna Gandhi were formally introduced.
"We know Meira Kumar as the former speaker. But many had not met Gopal Gandhi. It was a sort of formal introduction with them," said CPI-M's Sitaram Yechury.
The vice presidential poll will be held on August 5.
"We must have confidence in the values we believe in. This election represents a clash of ideas, a conflict of disparate values. The election demands a vote of conscience to preserve the India that the Mahatma and the illustrious generation of freedom fighters, joined by thousands upon the numbers of ordinary men and women, fought for," she said.
"We cannot and must not let India be hostage to those who wish to impose upon it a narrow-minded, divisive and communal vision," Sonia Gandhi said.
The UPA chairperson said the numbers may be stacked against them, but "the battle must be fought and fought hard".
She said that the presence of representatives from various political parties to support Meira Kumar and Gopal Gandhi's candidature showed that the fight for "an inclusive, tolerant and pluralistic India is being truly waged".
"We must stand more aware than ever of who we are, what we fought for in our Independence struggle and what future we want for ourselves." She said the presence of representatives from different parties to support Kumar and Gopal Gandhi confirms that "the fight for an inclusive, tolerant and pluralistic India is being truly waged," said the Congress president.
Sonia Gandhi said Meira Kumar and Gopal Gandhi had distinguished themselves throughout their long careers with tremendous dignity and commitment.
"Through their work and their lives they have also advocated those very values and principles that have defined and guided India for the last 70 years," she told the gathering.
Bihar's ruling Janata Dal-United (JD-U), which has broken ranks with its ally Congress and is supporting the BJP-led NDA candidate Ram Nath Kovind, stayed away from the Opposition meeting.
"I don't think it is correct for our party to attend the meeting. I myself met Gopal Krishna Gandhi, the Opposition's vice-Presidential candidate and conveyed to him that, in the wake of the current situation it won't be good for us to attend a meeting called by Opposition. Our relation with Meira Kumar is very old and she will also be there. It won`t look good on our part to go there," JD(U) leader Sharad Kumar said.