Former Vice-President of India, Hamid Ansari, in his autobiography ‘By many a happy accident’, revealed that Prime Minister Modi had told him during his tenure that the Rajya Sabha TV was not being favourable to the central government. He responded saying that he had no control over the editorial decisions of the channel.
Hamid Ansari also revealed that the government was unhappy that bills were not being passed by the Rajya Sabha amid the din created by opposition parties in order to obstruct their passage. Ansari claimed that “it was technically, procedurally and morally impossible to pass the bills in din, assuming the majority for the government.”
While Hamid Ansari might cite constitutional norms to back his position, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that he is a partisan hack. It is abundantly clear from the fact that in his last interview before stepping down as VP in 2017, he claimed a “feeling of unease”, especially among Muslims of the country and that the “Idea of India” was being frequently challenged, making him uncomfortable.
When someone makes such partisan comments that are frequently used by liberal propagandists to falsely target the central government, it would be extremely surprising, and against all odds, if his conduct happened to be neutral as Vice President.
Since the passage from the book emerged in the media, there have been a few responses from government sources which have been quoted in the media. The Government has listed 13 bills that were passed in the Rajya Sabha amid a din when the UPA regime was in power.
The bills include Competition (Amendment) Bill, 2007, Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production , Supply and Distribution (Amendment) Bill, 2007, All India Institute of Medical Sciences and the Institute of Medical Education and Research (Amendment) Bill, 2007, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Reservation in the Posts and Services ) Bill, 2008, Information Technology (Amendment Bill), Street Vendors Bill, and Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill, 2014.
The government also cited the passage of the bill addressing the partition of Andhra Pradesh to refute the former Vice President’s claim of consistency. “He chose different yardsticks for reasons best known to him,” a government source told Times of India. “It is a belated discovery of a principle,” he said.
With regards to the Rajya Sabha TV, there are some appointments that betray the purported neutrality. MK Venu and S Varadarajan, both with the far-left propagandist portal The Wire, were paid handsomely for their appearance. They were paid Rs. 15,000 per appearance, totaling Rs. 33 lakh and Rs. 14 lakh respectively. Varadrajan and Venu even hosted show on the channel which were later discontinued.
The Wire had later been accused of stealing content from Rajya Sabha TV and they were served a notice after RSTV accused them of stealing, illegally possessing and using copyrighted material. The Wire was also threatened with civil and criminal consequences.
There were numerous other controversies that Rajya Sabha TV found itself embroiled in during his tenure as Vice President. DNA and Tehelka had claimed that between 2010-14, the Rajya Sabha TV had spent Rs. 1700 crores of the taxpayer’s money. Prashant Bhushan, a favourite among the left-liberal crowd, had himself moved a PIL alleging irregularities in the appointment of the Rajya Sabha Secretariat, under which the RSTV operates.
A CAG report noted that the the Executive Editors and Executive Directors had spent Rs. 60 lakh on travel even before the channel became fully functional. It also revealed that RSTV had made senior level appointments and fixed their salary structures which are not consistent with Rajya Sabha secretariat or government. The report also pointed towards several ad hoc decisions taken by the management of RSTV.
Thus, quite clearly, there is more than merely an element of truth in the words of Prime Minister Modi. It is also important to recall here that during his speech at the farewell of Hamid Ansari, the Prime Minister had said that he would not finally be free to speak as per his ideology, removed from his constitutional duties. Since then, Hamid Ansari has batted for Sharia Courts and attended events organized by Islamist PFI.
Hamid Ansari had said on Sharia Courts, “People are confusing social practices with the legal system. Our law recognizes that each community can have own rules. Personal laws in India covers marriage, divorce, adoption and inheritance. Each community has a right to practice its own personal law.”
The former VP also called nationalism an ‘ideological poison’. “Nationalism in its strident form is inseparable from the desire for power. It is an ‘ideological poison’ that has no hesitation in transcending and transgressing individual rights,” he had said. On another occasion, he claimed that Sardar Vallabhai Patel was as responsible for partition of the country as Mohammed Ali Jinnah.
Thus, considering all of this, the central government has every right to feel that Hamid Ansari deliberately undermined the bills proposed by the government in the Rajya Sabha. Furthermore, the manner in which the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill, 2014 was passed by the Parliament leaves very thin ground for the former VP to make a constitutionalist defense.