NEW DELHI: Opposition vice presidential candidate Gopalkrishna Gandhi today justified his efforts to save Mumbai blast convict Yakub Memon from the gallows, saying capital punishment was medieval and wrong.
Facing criticism from the Shiv Sena for backing Memon's mercy plea, he said he did so drawing inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi and Babasaheb Ambedkar, who were against death penalty and wanted it abolished.
"As a common, independent citizen, it is my duty to fulfil my principles. I believe in that," Gandhi said.
"In our country, we are living in times of division. A whole force which is dividing our country is in action mode and that spells danger," the former West Bengal governor told reporters after filing his papers for the vice presidential poll.
Top Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, former prime minister Manmohan Singh as well as party leaders like Ghulam Nabi Azad and Mallikarjun Kharge were present as Gandhi filed his nomination.
Also present were other opposition leaders, including JD (U)'s Sharad Yadav, CPI(M)'s Sitaram Yechury, CPI's D Raja, NCP's Tariq Anwar and Praful Patel, NC's Farooq Abdullah and DMK's Kanimozhi.
Gandhi, the unanimous pick of 18 opposition parties for the vice president's post, said he was representing the common citizen of the country and not any political party and would try and help bridge the gulf between the public and politics.
"People's faith in politics itself has diminished and has collapsed. I would like to see a revival of that faith."
"... if today so many parties have together proposed a common citizen, then it means that our politics have moved forward," he said.
Responding to the Shiv Sena's attack on him for petitioning the president to save Memon, Gandhi said, "Shiv Sena is doing its duty with dedication. What Shiv Sena has said, it had to. I feel that the death penalty and capital punishment belong to the medieval ages. Death penalty is wrong and this is my principle."
Gandhi said he wanted to place the facts about Memon's case before Pranab Mukherjee and wanted him to take a decision as his predecessors K R Narayanan and Abdul Kalam had.
"I do not think I need to defend myself on this issue. The death penalty is a death penalty."
He said he had also written a similar petition for Indian citizen Kulbhushan Jadhav, facing death sentence in Pakistan.
Responding to a question on whether the odds were against him, he said, "Arithmetic is about numbers, philosophy is about principles. There cannot be anything better than numbers and principle, but sometimes one has to take such steps for principles which are not linked to numbers."
Gandhi, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and C Rajagopalachari, will contest against the NDA candidate M Venkaiah Naidu in the vice presidential election scheduled to be held on August 5.