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Democracy can become tyranny if there’s no criticism, says Hamid Ansari

In his farewell speech, vice president Hamid Ansari . The chair is just an umpire in cricket and its only source of reference is the Rule Book.

india Updated: Aug 10, 2017 17:29 IST
Saubhadra Chatterji
Saubhadra Chatterji
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Mohammad Hamid Ansari‬,‪Rajya Sabha‬,‪Narendra Modi‬
Outgoing vice president Hamid Ansari.(HT File Photo)

Vice president Hamid Ansari cautioned on Thursday that if opposition parties are not allowed to freely criticise the government’s policies a democracy runs the risk of turning into a tyranny on his last working day as the chairman of the Rajya Sabha.

In his farewell speech in the Rajya Sabha, which he presided for 10 years, Ansari quoted India’s first vice-president Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan to say, “Democracy can become a tyranny if opposition parties are not allowed to criticise government policies. The opposition also has no right to disrupt the House.”

Ansari’s speech assumes significance as he chaired the House that has been the battleground between the NDA and the opposition parties for the last three years leading to prolonged disruptions affecting debates.

Opposition leaders such as Sitaram Yechury earlier praised Ansari for not allowing the passage of bills amid the din, which would not have allowed the opposition to raise its voice and argue against government policies and proposed legislations.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, former PM Manmohan Singh, finance minister Arun Jaitley, and many others effusively praised Ansari for his role in handling the Upper House. Ansari also recalled that when he entered the House an eminent leader told him he will have to face a lot of troubles but he should keep smiling.

Ansari maintained the role of the Upper House is to be a calibrated restraint on hasty legislation. “It has upheld that discussion is an indispensable preliminary to wise action, deviation from this golden rule neither to diligent policy making nor to our claim to be a mature democracy,” Ansari said.

“I ventured to think that I succeeded in fair measures. The chair is just an umpire in cricket and its only source of reference is the Rule Book,” said Ansari in his parting shot as he recited Urdu couplets and bid adieu amid a standing ovation from all members.

Former Union minister Venkaiah Naidu will succeed Ansari.

First Published: Aug 10, 2017 14:19 IST