A frontrunner in the race for Rashtrapati Bhavan, vice-president Hamid Ansari almost did not make it to the Aligarh Muslim University vice-chancellor’s post in 2000 that helped catapult the career diplomat into public affairs.
The NDA government had rejected his name for the AMU vice-chancellor’s post but former president KR Narayanan put his foot down, according to an autobiography by then education secretary MK Kaw to be formally released this week.
In the book “An Outsider Everywhere – Revelations by an Insider”, Kaw wrote that he and education minister Murli Manohar Joshi wanted a second term for the incumbent Mehmud-ud-Rehman who had had a “very peaceful stint” at AMU.
“As he (Ansari) had just one year and four months of service left, I had dismissed him in one sentence that it would not be wise to appoint a lame duck vice-chancellor just for a short period,” the then education secretary MK Kaw wrote in his autobiography.
“I had also commented that he had merely diplomatic experience and had no pretensions to academic administration,” the 1961-batch retired IAS officer wrote. But Narayanan, who had to approve the appointment, sent the file back “with a strong note in Ansari’s favour”.
“He (Narayanan) had taken the trouble to counter my points with a one-page note signed by himself,” wrote Kaw, whose objections to deploy Air India aircrafts for presidential visits in 1997 were overruled at Narayanan’s instance.
Ansari did get the job (May 2000-March 2002) that comes with a larger-than-life expectation of not just running the university but as one commentator put it, also act “as an ex-officio leader of the muslim community”.
In 2006, he was appointed as chairman of the National Minorities Commission in 2006 and the vice-president the next year. If he does make it to Rashtrapati Bhawan, he will be the second AMU V-C to make this journey. The first was Zakir Hussain, India’s third president.