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Why Hamid Ansari is a constant target for right-wing verbal attacks

Panini Anand | Updated on: 13 February 2017, 4:07 IST

The speech

  • Vice-President Hamid Ansari gave a speech pointing out the poor plight of Indian Muslims
  • Right-wing institutions and individuals promptly started attacking him, especially on social media

The pattern

  • This is not the first time Ansari is being targeted
  • He was maligned for not saluting the Tricolour on Republic Day, which he isn\'t supposed to do as per protocol
  • He was also panned for not attending Yoga Day at Rajpath, when he wasn\'t even invited by the govt

More in the story

  • The real reason why the right-wing is targeting him since the NDA came to power in the Lok Sabha

In reply to a discussion on the motion of thanks to the President's address to Parliament during the budget session in February, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said: "My government's only religion is India first, and the only religious book is the Constitution of India."

However, the stated determination to believe, protect and stand for the Constitution and constitutional positions seems to have lost its meaning. At least, that's the concern when one sees the repeated attacks made on the occupant of India's second most important constitutional position.

Vice-President Hamid Ansari has been under constant verbal fire from people belonging to the BJP, the RSS, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and their other sister organisations. It's ironic that he seems to have been left alone to defend himself.

JD(U) leader KC Tyagi says, "The government should have defended him. He is such a senior person and is in a senior constitutional position. Not a single attempt has been made the government to stop the false propaganda against him."

Speech about the state of Indian Muslims

The latest reason for an attack on Ansari is a speech made by him at the inauguration of the All India Majlis-e-Mushawarat Golden Jubilee in Delhi.

He said: "We (Muslims) have failed to walk in step with our fellow countrymen and women. We have, as a result, exhibited all the signs of social, educational and economic backwardness.

"The challenge is to overcome these within the framework of the law of the land and the constitutional rights of life and dignity, equality, and affirmative action in favour of the socially and educationally backward to ensure equality of opportunity. This is a matter of right, not of charity."

The VHP strongly attacked the statement made by the Vice-President. Its spokesperson, Surendra Jain, said: "The remarks by Ansari over the Muslim community are not becoming of a person occupying the Vice-President's chair, but those of a Muslim leader. He must apologise for his remarks. If not, he should resign from his post and enter politics."

Social media backlash

Even more than these reactions, social media websites like Twitter and Facebook have become platforms to malign Ansari's image and call him names.

For example, the Hindu Defense League Twitter handle, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi follows, reads:

Another Twitter handle, this one followed by the PM, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and many other BJP-inclined people, reads:

CPI(M) leader Brinda Karat told Catch: "Ansari made a very good speech, which reflected the reality already detailed by the Sachar Committee. He only spoke the truth, which the ignorant communal mindset of the Sangh Parivar cannot tolerate."

This intolerance of right-wing organisations and individual minds is not a new thing. Since the NDA government came to power last year, there have been repeated attempts to malign Ansari's image and embarrass him, says a senior official in the Vice-President's office.

"The things he said in his recent speech were also mentioned in his speech in 2009, 2012 and 2013. Some people are unnecessarily connecting it to NDA rule," the official added.

Repeated instances

Earlier this year, the Vice-President was targeted by BJP and RSS leaders and their followers for not saluting the national flag at the Republic Day celebrations. It was later found that according to the protocol, he was not supposed to salute the flag. Only the President of India is supposed to salute the flag.

But by then, the damage was done. The photos and messages hitting out at him had already gone viral on social media.

This was followed by allegations of corruption in Rajya Sabha TV, a news channel run by the Rajya Sabha Secretariat, which comes under the direct control of the Vice-President. Allegations of misuse of money and misconduct were used to attack Ansari and his office. They were all false and baseless.

The latest reason for attack is a speech made by Ansari in Delhi about the plight of Muslims in modern India

It didn't stop there. He was once again attacked for not broadcasting Yoga Day celebrations live on Rajya Sabha TV. People also blamed him for not attending the Yoga Day event at Rajpath, along with PM Narendra Modi.

Later, it was found that the channel had broadcasted the entire event live. As to the issue of non-attendance, the concerned ministry hadn't even invited him for the event, because there were protocol issues.

The latest attack has come after a speech were he actually said what has already been said in Sachar Committee report.

Reasons for smear campaign

But why is Ansari being targeted, repeatedly?

"He is a diplomat, and a known scholar on foreign affairs issues. Even former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee took him on foreign tours. The problem is that the RSS and BJP believe in dictatorship. They were never supporters of the Constitution, constitutional positions and values. They want to degrade, demolish and damage the office," JD(U)'s Tyagi says.

Other reasons cited by senior parliamentarians allude to a deeper political meaning. "The BJP has a majority in the Lok Sabha, but it is still in a minority in the Rajya Sabha. It is unable to get a clear passage in the Upper House. This frustration keeps it uneasy, so it keeps attacking the Vice-President, who is the chairman of the Upper House," says a senior Rajya Sabha member.

"They want to control the chair and the house. They are desperate. Hamid Ansari is a Muslim and this also goes against him; the RSS and sister organisations don't want him to be in office," the MP adds.

Among the many news channels, most are controlled by the corporate world, while some are controlled by the government. They voice what the government likes to hear. RSTV has, so far, shown itself to be a neutral platform, which carries serious debates about national and socio-political issues. "The government has little say in the content, and that also keeps it unhappy. It wants to control things editorially," says the MP.

The denial

However, the BJP, as expected, denied the existence of any criticism of Ansari on its part. Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, vice-president of the BJP and the Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs, told Catch: "Whatever he has said in his speech didn't happen during NDA rule. But we take his advice in a positive way. The allegations of him being victimised are wrong."

First published: 3 September 2015, 12:13 IST
Panini Anand @paninianand

Senior Assistant Editor at Catch, Panini is a poet, singer, cook, painter, commentator, traveller and photographer who has worked as reporter, producer and editor for organizations including BBC, Outlook and Rajya Sabha TV. An IIMC-New Delhi alumni who comes from Rae Bareli of UP, Panini is fond of the Ghats of Varanasi, Hindustani classical music, Awadhi biryani, Bob Marley and Pink Floyd, political talks and heritage walks. He has closely observed the mainstream national political parties, the Hindi belt politics along with many mass movements and campaigns in last two decades. He has experimented with many mass mediums: theatre, street plays and slum-based tabloids, wallpapers to online, TV, radio, photography and print.