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The Vice is cast

india Updated: Aug 12, 2007 23:34 IST

After the hurly-burly of the presidential elections, the relative calm that accompanied the election of India’s new Vice-President was heartening — if not a bit anti-climactic for the political animals among us. The UPA-Left-BSP candidate Hamid Ansari won comfortably, obtaining 455 votes of the total 762 polled. The rumblings of a contest, earlier slated between the BJP’s candidate Najma Heptullah and Mr Ansari, did not take place, with the dark horse and UNPA candidate, Rashid Masood, remaining just that: a dark horse.

There are two reasons why the proceedings were business as usual. One, Mr Ansari’s candidature was not seriously challenged by the others in the fray. His credentials are impeccable and he has not only shown his mettle as a diplomat but also as the chairman of the National Commission for Minorities, both seen as apolitical positions that require a certain degree of deftness. In other words, the 70-year-old is non-controversial and was seen as one during the run-up to the polls. Unlike the Left-UPA-BSP presidential candidate, Pratibha Patil, Mr Ansari’s vice-presidentship was not about the waging of a proxy war between political parties. Mr Ansari, even to those parties that had not backed him, was never anything but a good choice. The need to engage in some politics, however, saw that there were three contenders in the ring. But that was just for the sake of keeping political form. The second reason why the vice-presidential elections did not burn up much rubber was because the energy required to even put up a show had been expended in the earlier battle. The fact that all three contenders were Muslims, for instance, did not elicit a murmur even in the circle of the usual suspects who leave no stone unturned to talk about ‘Muslim appeasement’.

Mr Ansari is exactly what India needs as the country’s Vice-President: a decent man who has spoken his mind in the past — thereby showing that he has a mind of his own. In his first interaction with the media after becoming Vice-President, he condemned Thursday’s attack on Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen. That shows that our new Vice-President has a voice as well.