This is a story of two Muslim parliamentarians retiring from India’s coveted parliament. One is a man whose heart and soul visibly resides in India; a person who is a staunch advocate of patriotism, if not nationalism. The man is currently at loggerheads with his party’s top leadership. The other man has been honoured being one of the longest-serving Vice Presidents of the country. This man’s heart resides in the Middle East, and his mind is most definitely engraved in the medieval ages. This is the story of senior Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and former Vice President Hamid Ansari, and how both were seen-off in starkly different atmospheres from the country’s parliament.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a central figure in this non-fiction thriller. While on one hand, PM Modi teared up and visibly got tremendously emotional while bidding goodbye to Ghulam Nabi Azad from the Rajya Sabha, four years ago, he had taken to sarcastically obliterating Hamid Ansari, while his Vice Presidency, and consequently, chairmanship of the Rajya Sabha was coming to an end. The duration of the Prime Minister’s speech for Ghulam Nabi Azad, in contrast to his address to the Rajya Sabha, while bidding farewell to Ansari in itself speaks volumes about the value attached by him to the two individuals.
While PM Modi choked on his tears while speaking about Ghulam Nabi Azad in a speech spanning over 14 minutes, he was filled with joy, wit and sarcasm while bidding adieu to Hamid Ansari.
In 2017, PM Modi talked about Ansari’s Family legacy and elucidated how his family has been a family of “ardent Congress Workers” who also participated in the “Khilafat Movement”. PM Modi spoke about how Hamid Ansari had been a career diplomat, most of whose time was spent in the “Middle East”, his “सोच का दायरा” (Way of thinking) has been shaped by his experience there. PM Modi referred Hamid Ansari as a bright alumnus of the “Prestigious Aligarh Muslim University and Jamia Milia Islamia” which also “enhanced” his way of thinking.
PM Modi then said, “You must have felt some desperation…but after this day, even that won’t be a problem…there will be joy of freedom…and absolute independence to act or guide others according to your fundamental Beliefs”. The words in the double quotation were all sarcastic jibes taken by the Prime Minister on Ansari.
In contrast, the speeches and remarks of many BJP leaders, beginning with no less than Prime Minister Narendra Modi, left many political spectators and analysts surprised. The bonhomie between Azad and the Prime Minister was free-flowing, as both broke down while delivering their respective speeches on Tuesday. PM Modi, no less than took to saluting Azad, and recounting how the man was leaving a big void to fill in the upper house. The Prime Minister also stated that his doors would always remain open for Ghulam Nabi Azad.
Azad, meanwhile, said that he was proud that he is an “Indian Muslim”. “I am among those fortunate people who never went to Pakistan. When I read about circumstances in Pakistan, I feel proud to be a Hindustani Muslim.” The Indian Muslims believed in peaceful existence unlike strife and war in Muslim nations, he said. With such statements, Azad effectively put to rest the Congress’ relentless “intolerance is on the rise” bogey.
The remarks by Azad came in the backdrop of former Vice President Hamid Ansari declaring in his new book that Muslims felt insecure in India and that hyper-nationalism (of Hindus) was making India ‘intolerant’.
Hamid Ansari’s retirement from parliamentary politics brought tears to no eyes. As the Vice President, in contempt of the sanctity of the office he held, Ansari went on to say that there was a growing sense of insecurity among the Muslims in India. He asserted the fact that the “ambience of acceptance” was now under siege. Such ridiculous insinuations by Ansari did not go down well with the BJP, especially PM Modi, who took to tearing him apart when bidding him farewell from the parliament’s upper house.