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Ansari's seamless transformation from diplomacy to politics

delhi Updated: Aug 08, 2012 08:56 IST

PTI
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Exactly 50 years after late philosopher-statesman Dr S Radhakakrishnan's feat, Hamid Ansari on Tuesday emulated his footsteps by getting a second term as vice president, a position into which he had seamlessly transformed from diplomacy and education.

The 75-year-old former career diplomat, who had served as vice chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University, will once again be the chairman of Rajya Sabha by virtue of his election as vice president.

Luck eluded Ansari recently when he could not not make a shift to Rashtrapati Bhavan as Pranab Mukherjee pipped him to the post in the Presidential race and had to settle for a second term in his current office.

He was the second choice of Congress President Sonia Gandhi for the President's post and some brinkmanship by TMC leader Mamata Banerjee and SP leader Mulayam Singh Yadav clinched the issue in favour of Mukherjee.

In the 2007 election, Ansari's name came as a surprise when the Left parties, supporting the UPA-I from outside, proposed him and the Congress-led alliance accepted it.

The Left parties, which faced divisions on the Presidential poll, however, had no no problems in supporting Ansari for a second time.

Affable and well-read, Ansari had also held the post of chairman of National Commission for Minorities before he became the vice president.

In the last five years, he had carried himself well except for the controversial decision to abruptly adjourn the Upper House on the last day of the winter session last year when the House was expected to vote on the Lokpal bill.

BJP was critical of the adjournment decision alleging it was done to rescue the government from a possible embarrassing defeat. The main opposition party cited it as one of the reasons for putting up a candidate against him in the current election.

Ansari also tried to innovate in the House proceedings when he shifted the Question Hour to post-lunch session to avoid loss of opportunity for members to question the government on account of routine disruptions in the morning.

The move was given up after just a session when he found the members themselves being absent from the House when their questions were taken up and the government also not very enthusiastic about the move.

In the past, a suave and sober Ansari has served in many positions, including as Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations, Indian High Commissioner to Australia and Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia. He joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1961.

A Padma Shree awardee, Ansari became vice-chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University in May, 2000 and held the post till March, 2002.

Ansari is also known for his role in ensuring compensation to the victims of the Gujarat riots and pushing for a complete re-look into the relief and rehabilitation for riot victims since 1984. He is also known for his strong views on burning issues.

"The language used by the Pope sounds like that of his 12th-Century counterpart who ordered the crusades... It surprises me because the Vatican has a very comprehensive relationship with the Muslim world," Ansari had said in 2006 as chairman, Minorities Commission of India, in reaction to Pope Benedict XVI's comments on Islam.

As chairman of the Rajya Sabha, Ansari faced criticism when opposition parties expressed unhappiness over the manner in which he "abruptly" adjourned the Upper House on the night of December 29, 2011 during the Lokpal Bill debate. The bill was slated for voting.

He also dealt with barbs thrown at him for being non-political when he took over as vice-president in 2007 in his own inimitable way.

"No citizen is apolitical; as a citizen, by definition, has to take interest in public affairs," he had then said.

Ansari was born in Calcutta on April 1, 1937, while his family hailed from Ghazipur, Uttar Pradesh. He completed his schooling from St. Edwards High School in Shimla, attended the St. Xavier's College, University of Calcutta, and pursued MA in Political Science at the Aligarh Muslim University, where he also got his doctorate degree and worked as lecturer.

He is the grand-nephew of former Congress President Mukhtar Ahmad Ansari, a leader of the Indian independence movement.

Ansari is also a reputed West Asia scholar. He has authored a book-- Travelling Through Conflict.

He has written books on Palestine, Iraq and Iran. Some of his views have run contrary to India's official position. He had questioned India's vote at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Iran's nuclear programme where the country voted against Iran.

He also upheld a decision as NCM Chairperson when in 2007 he agreed with the position taken by St. Stephens College, Delhi, to earmark seats for Dalit Christians.

Ansari was chairman of a working group on "Confidence building measures across segments of society in the State," established by the Second round Table Conference of the Prime Minister on Jammu and Kashmir in 2006. The report of the working group was adopted by the Third round Table in April 2007.

The report advocates recognising the right of Kashmiri Pandits to return to "places of their original residence". He maintained that this right should be recognised without any ambiguity and made a part of state policy.