The preparations for the battle royal to capture the ‘fort’ (7, Lok Kalyan Marg, New Delhi, Prime Minister’s official residence) in 2019 is getting intense. While BJP is trying to strengthen its position in new areas and to find new allies, opposition parties are desperate to forge an effective alliance.
Whether the opposition parties will be able to form one alliance or will be split into two or more is in the realm of speculation. In all probability, there will be no unanimity on the choice of a leader before the election.
The Congress has announced its leader and expects other political parties to accept that. Yesterday (July 22, 2018, the Congress Working Committee declared that it would work for a broad coalition of like-minded parties led by Rahul Gandhi.
Unfortunately for the Congress, Mamata Banerjee has already given enough hint that Rahul’s leadership would not be acceptable to her. She is going her own way. Last week, she gave a call to start working for a big rally to be held in Kolkata six months hence, on January 19 for which “Leaders of the Federal front will come down to Kolkata.”
Rahul Gandhi’s stock has gone down so much that today (July 23) even Lalu’s son Tejashwi Yadav has said that Sharad Pawar, Mayawati, Mamata etc. are also candidates. Perhaps, he did not include his own name or his mother Rabri devi’s name out of ‘modesty’!
The million dollar question is, in the (unlikely) event of the non-NDA parties outnumbering the NDA, ‘who is most likely to emerge as the consensus leader post-election?’
If the grand alliance defeats the NDA, the Congress is likely to have the largest number, though it may not reach three digit number. No other party is likely to get more than 30-35. Most of the parties’ strength will be in single digit. With the largest number, it is bound to insist on making Raul Gandhi Prime Minister. Whatever others may think of Rahul, for the dynasty and its loyal supporters he is the most suitable candidate for the post.
If there is no consensus on Raul Gandhi, who has the best chance? Mamata Banerjee has no chance. Thanks to her mercurial temperament, no party other than her own are likely to accept her as Prime Minister. Who knows when she will lose her temper and decide to slap a Minister! The Mulayam clan or Mayawati may not get enough number. Nor will Chandrababu Naidu.
I will bet on Mohammad Hamid Ansari. In my opinion, it is Ansari who may emerge as the consensus leader and derail Rahul Gandhi’s ambition in 2019. Readers may ask, ‘Why Hamid Ansari? Why not somebody else?’
I am betting on Hamid Ansari because he has several advantages over all others including Rahul Gandhi.
One, he is a Muslim. The self-styled secularists and opponents of Narendra Modi will find it difficult to say ‘NO’. There is no other Muslim leader in any political party who is taller than him. There is an acute shortage of Muslim political leaders at the national level. The Maulanas and members of various Muslim outfits who appear on TV channels are not leaders. Ghulam Nabi Azad, the most visible Muslim face the Congress, is not the prime ministerial material, though there are instances of non-prime ministerial materials – HD Devegowda and I. K. Gujral – occupying the post. Salman Khurshid is a spent force. The most aggressive Muslim politician Asaduddin Owaisi has a very small political base. By posing to be aggressive and using his lung power to the best of his capacity, he tries to make up for the small political base.
Two, he is an educated person with a rich experience. He served in the Indian Foreign Service for about years. After retirement, he served as Visiting Professor of the West Asian and African Studies Department of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (1999-2000), Vice-Chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University (2000-2002), Visiting Professor of the Academy for Third World Studies Department of the Jamila Milia (2003-05) and Chairman of the Minorities Commission (2006 to June 2007). He was Vice President (VP) of the country for 10 years(11 August 2007 – 11 August 2017).
Three, he is anti-BJP and anti-Modi, a necessary condition to be the leader of the grand alliance. Ever since his second term as VP ended, he is not missing any opportunity to send a clear and loud message that he wants to be known as a political leader who is not only anti-BJP and anti-Modi but also fees that injustice has been done to his community persons and he stands by all their demands. To get an idea of the image he is building of himself, one should through his two interviews, one just before the end of his term as VP and the other a couple of weeks ago and also through some of his speeches and utterances.
Interview on August 9, 2017
Just two days before the end of the term, in an interview to Karan Thapar on Rajya Sabha TV channel, Hamid Ansari said many things that must have pleased politicians like Asaduddin Owaisi and Digvijay Singh, orthodox Muslims of all hues and terrorists.
- On intolerance in the country: In reply to a question whether he was also fearing for himself, he said, “Yes, because I interact with fellow citizens and there are great many people from different walks of life who come and talk about it.
(It is shocking that a person who has been an IFS officer for 34 years and VP of India 10 years should say that because of “intolerance” in the country, he was fearing that for himself! He did not show any such fear in the past. Had he said so if he had been made President of India? Definitely not. In other words, there was no problem as long as he was enjoying the powers and privileges of high offices and there would have been no problem had he continued to do so. To put it differently, he is more worried about his position than about the position of his community members. He feels for them only when his feeling for himself. Now he is a speaking in the language of Owaisi and other communal politicians and religious leaders. There were loud protests when some most popular Muslim actors who have made several hundred crores of rupees through their films said that that they were feeling insecure in India. Later, they had to say that they were misunderstood. There was no uproar after Ansari made this irresponsible statement nor has he given any clarification.)
- On national anthem and national song: About a Supreme Court order that ‘Jana Gana Mana’ must be played before every film screening and a Madras High Court order that ‘Vande Mataram’ must be sung at least once a week in Tamil Nadu schools and colleges and at least once a month in government offices and private establishments, he said that these court orders reflected a sense of insecurity.
(Why should these court orders reflect a sense of insecurity? If the Hindus and Muslims have no objection to singing ‘Jana Gana Mana Adhinayak, Jai Hey Bharat Bhagya Vidhata’ which was originally composed by Ravindra Nath Tagore in praise of George V, the Emperor of India, what is the justification of objection to singing ‘Vande Mataram’? The Muslims are ready to call someone ‘Bharat Bhagya Vidhata’ but not ready to sing ‘Vande Mataram’ at any cost. This is nothing but hypocrisy. Neither of the two songs has anything to do with religion. Orthodox Muslims are objecting only because of their unjustified rigidity.)
- On triple talaq: The reform has to come from within the community.
(This again amounts to supporting orthodox Muslims who do not want to reform Islamic personal laws. If the state is concerned with the welfare of the people, it cannot wait indefinitely for the people to start their centuries-old bad customs and practices. The state intervention becomes necessary. The state had to intervene to stop ‘Sati’, child marriage, dowry, etc.)
- On stone-pelters in Kashmir: “…when young boys and girls come out on to the streets and throw stones day after day, week after week, month after month, it’s something to worry about because they are our children, they are our citizens.”
(He did not utter a word about the adverse circumstances under which the military and paramilitary forces and JK police are fighting terrorists, local as well as those sent by Pakistan. He ignored the fact that there is enough evidence that Pakistan is financing these stone-pelters Kashmir. Now he is speaking in the language of Mehbooba Mufti)
Interview to Sagarika Ghosh of Times of India on July 12, 2018
In this interview, in addition to reiterating what he had said in the first interview, he gave more proofs of his partisan views.
- On fear among Muslims: “Muslims are concerned. There is a sense of unease among religious minorities and this is something that has to be addressed… On occasion, Muslims are fearful and under siege. Not everybody is, that would be an exaggeration. But there have been incidents that have been commented on within and outside the country. You can’t deny facts.”
- On the definition of “nationalism”: “The philosophy of nationalism that is being purveyed goes against my basic understanding of what is India and Indian nationalism. Sometimes asking questions is becoming dangerous. I am a citizen, I have a constitutional structure. If that structure is not delivering as per the norms laid down, then I am entitled to ask why is it not delivering.”
- On triple talaq: “Triple talaq is totally un-Islamic but it has become a social evil. But these are social practices and you cannot reform them by administrative edict.”
(Muslim clerics, members of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board and orthodox Muslims will not agree with him that triple talaq is “totally un-Islamic but they will agree that they do not want administrative edict.)
- On Jinnah’s portrait in Aligarh Muslim University: “If Victoria Memorial is there, what’s wrong with Jinnah’s portrait?”
- On attending the function in Kerala: “I did not know that this think tank in Delhi had an institutional arrangement with a body called PFI. Nor did the local officials, including the local police chief, tell me anything about it.”
(On Sept 23, 2017, he had participated in an event in Kozhikode in which the National Women’s Front, the women’s wing of the Popular Front of India, was a co-organiser. The Popular Front of India commerce set up in 2006, is a well-known extremist and militant Islamic fundamentalist organisation in India and is on the radar of the National Investigation Agency (NIA). Later, he defended himself by pretending ignorance about the PFI. It is difficult to believe that a person like Hamid Ansari could not be aware of the PFI and its activities. The local officials would not have said anything out of courtesy or not have expected that there would be protests later. However, Ansari once again admitted his ignorance of anti-Indian organisations in the country.)
His other attacks
On the same day i.e. July 12, 2018, he strongly backed the proposal of opening Sharia courts in the country, saying that each community has the right to practise its own personal law. “Personal law in India covers marriage, divorce, adoption, and inheritance. Each community has a right to practise its own personal law,” he told news agency ANI. (In other words, he is against Article 44 of the Constitution which says that “the states shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India.”)
On Jul 17, 2018, on the occasion of the launch of his book “Dare I Question? Reflections on Contemporary Challenges” (a collection of his speeches and articles), he remarked that our electoral democracy “has not transformed itself into a substantive, inclusive and participatory democracy.” He expressed apprehension that it could metamorphose itself into an “illiberal, ethnic democracy based on the principles of a socio-political philosophy called Hindutva, whose core concepts circumscribe the ambit of citizenship.”
Last but not the least, Ansari does not want to displease any congressperson. On July 11 this year, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor had made a very irresponsible remark about the BJP. He had said, “If they (BJP) win a repeat in the Lok Sabha our democratic constitution as we understand it will not survive as they will have all the elements they need to tear apart the constitution of India & write a new one. That new one (Constitution) will be the one which will enshrine principles of Hindu Rashtra, that’ll remove equality for minorities, that will create a Hindu Pakistan.” Next day, speaking in support of Tharoor, Hamid Ansari said that though he had not read what Tharoor had said, “He is a learned man and whatever he says will be well considered.” Ansari further said that “Tharoor has a right to make his own judgment.”
Ansari regrets that he is being perceived as a Muslim leader but he alone is responsible for that. True, some Muslims have become victims of mob violence but Hindus to have been victims. The mobs that lynch someone suspected to be witch or child-lifter or indulging in human trafficking or rapist, do not make any distinction between Hindus and Muslims. Almost every day we read in newspapers about violent clashes following a dispute over car parking or road rage. In Kerala CPM and RSS have been engaged in a bloody war for decades. West Bengal
The trouble with the Indian intellectuals is that they flag problems but do not come forward with any solution. Nor do they offer to work with the masses to change their heart. All of them have their own political agenda.
Hamid Ansari is no exception. Perhaps, his agenda is to portray himself as a consensus candidate for the post of Prime Minister in 2019. Even if it is not his agenda, he may turn out to be real threat to Rahul Gandhi’s agenda. If there is danger of losing the battle, Sonia Gandhi herself may proposeAnsari’s name.
Some readers may say that the age will be against him. He will turn 82 on the eve of the next general election. But politicians always claim to be fit to hold any political post. Morarji Desai was 81 when he became Prime Minister in 1977.
July 23, 2018
Now Rahul Gandhi has declared that for the sake of the unity of the alliance, he is ready to sacrifice his ambitiion.