3 controversies vice-president Hamid Ansari will be remembered for
His second term ends on August 10.
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While campaigning for the July 17 presidential elections is in full swing, the names for the August 5 vice-presidential polls have still not been announced. However, in most likelihood, incumbent vice-president Hamid Ansari will not be nominated for another term.
Ansari is serving his second term. He was first elected to the post in 2007 by defeating BJP’s Najma Heptulla. In 2012, the UPA again nominated him. On this occasion, BJP fielded Jaswant Singh. Ansari defeated Singh too to get the second term. His term ends on August 10.
Ansari, who was also considered for the President’s post by the UPA government in 2012, would be remembered for at least three controversies.
1) Abrupt adjournment of Rajya Sabha
It was December 30, 2011, the last day of Parliament’s winter session. The Rajya Sabha was witnessing animated discussion on the Jan Lokpal Bill in the wake of the Anna Hazare movement. Voting was supposed to take place after the discussion.
Around midnight, Ansari, as ex-officio chairperson of the Upper House, came on his seat. At the stroke of midnight, he abruptly adjourned the House even though the debate was underway. Besides BJP, several other opposition parties were against the government. The treasury benches were in a likely position to lose.
BJP criticised Ansari for the abrupt adjournment of the House. It alleged that the vice-president came to the government’s rescue. This was also one of the reasons why BJP fielded Jaswant Singh against Ansari in the 2012 vice-presidential election.
2) Skipping Yoga Day functions
On Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s initiative, the UN declared June 21 as International Yoga Day. More than 190 countries celebrated the first Yoga Day in 2015, which was observed with much fanfare and vigour in India too.
Modi took part in the event at Rajpath. President Pranab Mukherjee held the function at Rashtrapati Bhavan. All ministers took part in it.
However, Ansari was perhaps the only senior constitutional office-bearer not to take part in Yoga Day. He did not even hold any function in the vice-president’s house.
Protocol demanded only the President to salute the flag.
BJP general secretary Ram Madhav even questioned Ansari's absence at the International Yoga Day. Later, he not only apologised for his remark but also deleted his tweets, saying he was informed that the vice-president was unwell.
However, in the evening the vice-president’s office clarified that Ansari was not sick but was never invited for the yoga programme. It further stated that the vice-president attends only those programmes in which the minister concerned invites him as per protocol.
But Ansari’s reluctance in taking part in Yoga Day celebrations gets highlighted when his stand is compared with that of the President who, despite not being invited to the event, still took part in it. Instead of taking the initiative like Mukherjee, Ansari chose to skip it altogether.
Surprisingly, while the whole country has been observing Yoga Day for the past three years, Ansari has been skipping it every time. Not once has the vice-president’s office held it in the last three years.
3) Saluting the national flag
On Republic Day 2015, Ansari courted controversy for not saluting the national flag when it was hoisted, and the national anthem was being sung at Rajpath this Republic Day. Alongside Mukherjee, Modi, then visiting US president Barack Obama (who was the chief guest at the parade), US First Lady Michelle Obama and then defence minister Manohar Parrikar, Ansari was seen standing at attention.
Though protocol demanded only the President to salute the flag, both Modi and Parrikar were seen doing that.
According to Section VI of the Flag Code of India, “During the ceremony of hoisting or lowering the flag, or when the flag is passing in a parade or in a review, all persons present should face the Flag and stand at attention. Those present in uniform should render the appropriate salute… A dignitary may take the salute without the head dress.”
Hence, except for the President, who is the supreme commander, no one is required to salute. Modi, Ansari, Obama and Parrikar were not in uniform and, therefore, they were not required to salute the flag.
Ansari could have avoided landing himself in controversy had he just saluted the flag. It would not have been an anti-national act to do so. But he surely was trolled for not following the prime minister and the defence minister.