Incumbent Hamid Ansari is the UPA’s candidate for the Vice President’s post and is all set to get a second consecutive term.
The name of the 75-year-old Mr. Ansari was announced by UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi at a meeting of the Congress-led coalition at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s residence.
A career diplomat, Mr. Ansari was the only choice of the UPA which was approved at the meeting, also attended by Trinamool Congress representative and Railway Minister Mukul Roy.
Mr. Roy, whose party had opposed Pranab Mukherjee’s candidature for President’s post last month, is believed to have suggested the name of former West Bengal Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi and former MP Krishna Bose.
However, he applauded the candidature of Mr. Ansari once Ms. Gandhi announced it. Another UPA constituent VCK of Tamil Nadu suggested a Christian candidate.
Neither the UPA Chairperson nor the Prime Minister reacted to these suggestions.
“Mohd Hamid Ansari will complete shortly a term as Vice-President of India. He has presided over the Rajya Sabha with dignity and distinction.
“The UPA is honoured to nominate him as its candidate for a second term as Vice-President of India,” Ms. Gandhi said in her brief statement.
Ansari, a career-diplomat
Luck may have eluded Hamid Ansari in denying him a shift to Rashtrapati Bhavan but he is soon set to create a record as only the second Indian to get a consecutive term as Vice President.
The 75-year-old Ansari, a career diplomat who has also served as Vice Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University, will emulate the late philosopher-statesman S Radhakrishnan, who got two terms as Vice-President between 1952 and 1962.
In 2007, Mr. Ansari was a surprise choice for Vice President when the Left parties — which were supporting the UPA-I government from outside — proposed his name and the Congress-led alliance accepted it.
He had defeated Najma Heptuallah of BJP in the 2007 election securing 455 votes in an electoral college of 788. Rashid Masood, candidate of UNPA, was placed third.
Well read and an affable personality, Mr. Ansari was among the front runners in the race for the Presidential election next week. His name was the UPA’s second choice as revealed by Sonia Gandhi but Pranab Mukherjee pipped him to the post after Trinamool Congress’ pressure tactics on the Congress failed.
Mr. Ansari was Chairman of the National Commission for Minorities when he was nominated for the Vice-Presidential poll in 2007.
By and large, he carried himself well in the post as well as Chairman of Rajya Sabha except for the controversial decision to abruptly adjourn the House on the last day of the winter session last year when the House was expected to vote on the Lokpal bill.
The BJP was critical of the adjournment decision alleging it was done to rescue the government from a possible embarrassing defeat.
Mr. Ansari tried to innovate in the House proceedings when he shifted the Question Hour to post-lunch session to avoid loss of opportunity for members to question the government on account of routine disruptions in the morning.
The move was given up after just a session when he found the questioners themselves absent from the House and the government also not very enthusiastic about it.
The suave Mr. Ansari has served as Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations, Indian High Commissioner to Australia and Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia. He had joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1961.
A Padma Shree awardee, Ansari became Vice-Chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University in May, 2000 and held the post till March, 2002.
Mr. Ansari is also known for his role in ensuring compensation to the victims of the Gujarat riots and pushing for a complete re-look into the relief and rehabilitation for riot victims since 1984.
He is also known for his strong views on burning issues.
“The language used by the Pope sounds like that of his 12-Century counterpart who ordered the crusades… It surprises me because the Vatican has a very comprehensive relationship with the Muslim world,” Ansari had said in 2006 as Chairman, Minorities Commission of India, in reaction to Pope Benedict XVI’s comments on Islam.