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Posted at: Aug 12, 2017, 12:28 AM; last updated: Aug 12, 2017, 12:28 AM (IST)

Lacking in grace

Intolerance validates Ansari’s concerns
Lacking in grace
Towards the end of his term as President, Pranab Mukherjee had on many occasions spoken about erosion of India's core values and the growing divisiveness and intolerance in the country without a word of disapproval or rebuttal from the Prime Minister or anyone high in government hierarchy. Even the saffron brigade on social media spared him. An outgoing Head of State is entitled to some leeway and civility. However, basic courtesies were missing when the time came to say farewell to M. Hamid Ansari. The former Vice-President’s parting remark that there is unease among minorities and the “ambience of acceptance” is now under threat has evoked a kind of reaction inappropriate on such occasions and unworthy of persons making them.  

Speaking in the Rajya Sabha at the farewell function organised for Dr Ansari on his last day in office, Prime Minister Modi did not try to address Ansari’s concerns or allay fears of Muslims arising from incidents of communal violence and vigilantism. Instead, he seemed to question Ansari’s secularism. The PM recalled Hamid Ansari’s days as a diplomat in Muslim countries and as Vice-Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University and said that now being free from the constraints of a constitutional office, he could pursue “his core beliefs”. The Prime Minister’s insinuation of Ansari being less than secular was not lost upon the BJP’s belligerent crowd on social media. 

Of all those who made uncharitable remarks about Ansari, the most surprising came from the incoming Vice-President. Venkaiah Naidu may have just disowned his political loyalty to the BJP, he could not resist a chance to speak out his mind as a former Sangh Parivar loyalist. It is another matter that what he said, given the office he was going to hold, was not in keeping with his changed stature.  “Some people are saying minorities are insecure. It is a political propaganda,” he said. The tone and tenor of his comment is in sharp contrast to the scholarly take Dr Ansari has on issues. No two incumbents occupying the same office could be so different. Not just the political landscape of the country, the quality of politics itself has changed in the Modi era.

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