Tale of two V-P farewells: PM Modi praised Venkaiah Naidu, mocked Hamid Ansari

NEW DELHI: The five-year term of M Venkaiah Naidu as vice-president and ex-officio chairman of Rajya Sabha on Monday came to an end with senior leaders heaping lavish praise on him. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s generous compliments were also a reminder of the manner in which he had criticised Naidu’s predecessor Hamid Ansari almost five years ago.
Naidu was bid farewell by MPs on the last day of Rajya Sabha’s monsoon session. MPs of several political parties paid rich tributes to the outgoing chairman of the Upper House during the farewell speech.
While making his speech first, PM Modi spoke for close to 20 minutes. In contrast, he spoke for barely five minutes during the farewell of Ansari on August 10, 2017, the day the latter retired after serving as V-P and Rajya Sabha chairman for two consecutive terms.
Ansari was only the second V-P in independent India’s history to serve for two consecutive terms. The first was India’s first V-P Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan, who was on the chair from 1952 to 1962.
PM Modi on Venkaiah Naidu
Participating in the farewell in the Rajya Sabha on August 8, the prime minister remembered many moments that were marked by the wisdom and wit of Naidu. He noted the change of complexion of leadership in modern India and said, “When we mark 15th August this year, it will be an Independence Day when the president, vice-president, speaker and prime minister would have been born after independence. And that too, each of them belongs to very simple backgrounds.”
Modi recalled Naidu’s contribution for the youth of the country. “As our vice-president, you devoted a lot of time to youth welfare. A lot of your programmes were focused on Yuva Shakti,” he said and added that 25 per cent of Naidu’s speeches outside the House were among the youth of India.

PM Modi’s remarks during farewell ceremony of Vice President Venkaiah Naidu in Rajya Sabha

The PM appreciated Naidu’s ideological commitment as a party worker, as an MLA and as an MP; organisational skills as the president of the BJP; his hard work and diplomacy as Union minister and his dedication and dignity as the V-P and the chairman of the Upper House.
“I have worked with M Venkaiah Naidu ji closely over the years. I have also seen him take up different responsibilities and he performed each of them with great dedication,” he said.
Modi also highlighted the wit, vocabulary and wordplay of Naidu. He said, “Your each word is heard, preferred, and revered… and never countered. The one liners of Venkaiah Naidu ji are famous. They are wit liners. His command over the languages has always been great.”
Modi also referred to Naidu’s humble beginnings in south India. He said the V-P’s journey from a political worker to the president of the BJP was a reflection of his indomitable steadfastness in ideology and tenacity. “If we have feelings for the country, art of putting forward our views, faith in linguistic diversity then language and region never become obstacles for us and you have proved this,” he said.
The PM further said, “One of the admirable things about Venkaiah ji is his passion towards Indian languages. This was reflected in how he presided over the House. He contributed to increased productivity of the Rajya Sabha.”
Modi made a special mention of the increased productivity of the Upper House due to the systems established by Naidu. During his tenure as Rajya Sabha chairman, productivity of the House increased by 70 per cent, attendance of the members increased, and a record 177 bills were passed or discussed. “You have taken so many decisions that will be remembered for the upward journey of the Upper House,” he said.
Lauding Naidu, the prime minister said, “I see the maturity of democracy in your standards” and praised his view of “let government propose, let opposition oppose and let the house dispose”.
PM Modi’s farewell speech for Hamid Ansari
Modi had started with praising Ansari’s family background. He said, “After a long service, I am confident that today you will be moving towards a new field of work because physically you have kept yourself fit. A family whose history has been in public life for almost a 100 years. Your maternal grandfather, your grandfather were sometimes president of the Congress and sometimes were in the Constituent Assembly. In a way, you come from the background of a family whose ancestors have been in public life. In particular, they have been active in the Congress and sometimes with the Khilafat Movement.”
Subsequently, Modi took a dig at Ansari who was an Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officer before he joined politics.
Modi said, “Your own life has been a career diplomat. I understood what a career diplomat is only after becoming PM. One cannot immediately understand the meaning of their laughter and the way they shake hands. Because they are trained in this. But the use of his skills would definitely have happened here in 10 years. In handling all this, how this skill would have benefitted this House.”

PM Modi’s speech on the farewell to VP Shri Hamid Ansari

The PM roasted Ansari when he said, “Most of your tenure has been associated with West Asia as a diplomat. Many years of life have passed in that realm, in that environment, in that thought, in that debate and among those people. Even after retiring from there, most of your work largely remained the same – be it the Minority Commission or Aligarh University. The circle remained the same. But in the last 10 years, you were entrusted with a separate task. Every moment you were tied within the limits of the Constitution. You tried your best to shoulder that responsibility.”
Modi said perhaps there would have been some restlessness within Ansari for 10 long years. “However, that crisis will not remain for you after today. You will experience the joy of liberation. You will have the opportunity to act, think and speak according to your basic thinking,” the PM said.
Hamid Ansari’s reservations about PM Modi’s remarks
Ansari did take objection to Modi’s comments during his farewell function.
Almost a year later, Ansari said many considered the PM’s comments to be a departure from accepted practice on such occasions.
In July 2018, Ansari wrote it in his book ‘Dare I Question? Reflections on Contemporary Challenges’, which is a collection of his speeches and writings, made mostly in his last year in office and for a few months later.
“The prime minister participated in this and while being fulsome in his compliments also hinted at what he perceived to be a certain inclination in my approach on account of my having spent, as he put it, both a good part of my professional tenure as a diplomat in Muslim lands and in post-retirement period on minority-related questions.
“The context, presumably, was my reference in the Bengaluru speech to what I perceived as enhanced apprehension of insecurity and in the TV interview to a sense of unease creeping in among Muslims and some other religious minorities,” Ansari wrote in his book.
He further wrote, “The subsequent furore by the ‘faithful’ on social media tended to lend credence to this. On the other hand, editorial comments and a good many serious writings considered the PM’s remarks to be a departure from accepted practice on such occasions.”

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