With PM in the lead, BJP and parivar declare war against former Vice-President: Plainspeak ke side effects

Written by Javed Anand | Published on: August 11, 2017
In his “farewell” to Hamid Ansari in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday, Modi obliquely suggested that because of the former’s limited Muslim mahual and dayara, Ansari was ill-suited to occupy the Constitutional high office

Hamid Ansari and Modi

As anticipated in the P.S. to a column published yesterday, the outgoing Vice-President Hamid Ansari’s plainspeak on the growing intolerance and violence in the country and the resulting feeling of insecurity among Muslims, Dalits and Christians is being attributed to the fact that he is a Muslim with a narrow world view. And in response the sangh parivar has virtually declared an open war against him.

Leading the charge against Ansari is none less than Prime Minister Narendra Modi whose diatribe came wrapped up as a “farewell”, ostensible best wishes message to the V-P in the Rajya Sabha.

Modi did not use the M word once yet he left little to the imagination. He suggested that Ansari’s entire worldview was tainted by his life-long association with a limited mahaul (environment) and dayara (circle). Read Muslim in both cases.

Ansari’s life journey, as Modi recounted it, was circumscribed by his family’s nearly century-old association with the Congress and active participation in the Khilafat movement, his professional life as a diplomat being largely spent in West Asia, his stints post retirement with the Aligarh Muslim University and the National Commission for Minorities (of which he was Chairperson). Read Muslim, Muslim, Muslim…

Thus spake Modi in the Rajya Sabha: “Aapke karyakaal ka bahut saara hissa West Asia se juda raha hai. Usi dayere mein zindagi ke bahut varsh aapke gaye, usi mahaul mein, usi soch mein, aise logon ke beech mein rahe. Wahan se retire hone ke baad bhi jyadatar kaam wohi raha aapka; Minorities Commission ho yah Aligarh Muslim University ho, zyadatar dayara aapka wohi raha”.

(As a diplomat, you spent most of your time in West Asia. You spent most of your life in that circle, that environment, that way of thinking, among those people. Post-retirement, your work was mostly similar, be it in the National Minorities Commission or Aligarh Muslim University. More or less, your circle remained the same).

Not for the first time, in order to make a political point, Modi had no qualm taking a few liberties with facts. The fact that Ansari also served as India’s envoy to Australia and was India’s Permanent Representative at the United Nations was conveniently ignored because that did not fit the Muslim mahaul and dayara into which the prime minister attempted to pigeonhole the outgoing vice-president.

Modi never said it in as many words. But his carefully crafted words could well be read to mean that because of his entire upbringing and background Ansari was ill-suited to the post of vice-president of India. 

“Lekin yeh 10 saal puri tarah ek alag zimma aapka sar mein aaya. Puri tarah ek ek pal samvidhan samvidhan samvidhan ke hi dayere mein chalana. Aur aapne usko bakhubi nibhaane ka bharpur prayaas kiya. Ho sakta hai kuch chatpatahat rahi hogi bhitar aapke andar bhi. Magar aaj ke baad shayad woh sankat bhi nahin rahega. Mukti ka anand bhi rahega aur apni mulbhut jo soch rahi hogi uske anusaar aapko karya karne ka, sochne ka, baat batane ka awsar bhi milega.

(But in the last 10 years, you were entrusted with an altogether different responsibility. Constitution, constitution, constitution! Its constraints dictated your approach all the time. But you worked to the best of your abilities. It is likely there was restlessness within you during this period. But after today perhaps you will no longer face such a dilemma. You will enjoy freedom, be able to work, speak, and think according to what you really feel.)

What else was the prime minister suggesting except that, because of his Muslim background, upbringing, mahaul and dayara, the values and principles enshrined in the Indian Constitution are foreign to Ansari? And by extension to most if not all Muslims?

Lest we forget, there was back-handed compliment too for the “career diplomat”.

“Aapka apna jivan bhi ek career diplomat ka raha. Ab career diplomat kya hota hai woh mujhe pradhan mantri banne ke baad hi samajh mein aaya. Kyonki unke hansne ka arth kya hota hai, unke haath milane ke tarike ka arth kya hota hai, woh toh turant samajh nahin aata hai. Unki training wohi hoti hai. Aur lekin us kaushalya ka upyog yeh 10 saal zaroor hua hoga aapko. Ki sabko sambhalne mein us kaushalya ne kis prakaar se laabh is sadan ko pahunchaya hoga.”

(Your professional life was that of a career diplomat. I understood what being a career diplomat means only after becoming the prime minister because the real meaning in the way they smile, the way they shake hands is not immediately apparent. Diplomats are trained to be that way. And that skill must have been useful for you in the last 10 years. Your skill must have helped managing divergent voices and thus benefited the House.)

If Modi’s barely-veiled barbs against the outgoing V-P could still be said to have stayed within the limits of parliamentary decorum, the same cannot be said of others in his party who are equally incensed by Ansari’s speech in Bangalore last Sunday and his parting interview to Rajya Sabha TV.

Vice-president elect, Venkaiah Naidu went so far as to accuse his predecessor of “defaming India”. In an interview to ANI he said, “People try to use minority issues for political purposes…India is the most tolerant country…Unfortunately, some people are trying to blow it out of proportion and trying to defame India, raising it to national forum.”

Meanwhile, BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya called Ansari a “petty” man even before he had vacated the V-P’s chair. He accused him of being an opportunist seeking “political shelter” post-retirement.

“I condemn his comments. He has made political comments as he is retiring. He is still a vice-president and such comments do not suit his office’s dignity. It seems he is making such comments to find political shelter after retirement…Nobody expects such petty comments from a person holding such a high post,” said Vijayvargiya.

The VHP, of course, has damned Ansari describing him as a modern Jinnah trying “to push the country towards another partition”.

Meanwhile, unruffled by all the jibes and salvos aimed at him in and outside Parliament, Ansari began his farewell speech in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday with an Urdu couplet: “Mujhpe ilzaam itne lagaye gaye, begunaahi ke andaaz jate rahe (So much was I accused that ways to prove my innocence deserted me).

In his speech in Bangalore last Sunday Ansari had quoted Swami Vivekananda (the sangh parivar swears by him) as saying that people of different religions must learn not just to tolerate but to accept each other.

As his parting message to the nation, he relied on a quote from India’s second president, S Radhakrishnan: “A democracy is distinguished by the protection it gives to minorities. A democracy is likely to degenerate into a tyranny if it does not allow the opposition groups to criticise freely and frankly the policies of the government.” What will the BJP and the sangh parivar say to Radhakrishnan).