Ansari for “criticism” to bolster democracy

10 Aug 2017

Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari today said a democracy could degenerate into a tyranny if free and frank criticism of government policies was not allowed. On the last day of his decade-long tenure as the Vice President of India and the Upper House Chairman, Ansari also stressed that Rajya Sabha was the creation of the Constitution that portrays Indian diversity. In his farewell speech, he extensively quoted former Vice President S Radhakrishnan and said "a democracy is likely to degenerate into a tyranny if it does not allow the opposition groups to criticise fairly, freely and frankly the policies of the government."  Ansari said while the members "have every right to criticise, their right of criticism should not degenerate into wilful hampering and obstruction of the work of Parliament. All groups, therefore, have their rights and their responsibilities". He also said that "a democracy is distinguished by the protection it gives to minorities. .... But at the same time the minorities have also their responsibilities."  Ansari, who has been instrumental in the decision that laws should not be passed amid din, said there should be a calibrated restraint on hasty legislation. He said the Rajya Sabha upholds democracy's sacred creed that debate and discussion were not a stumbling block, but an indispensable preliminary to wise action. Ansari said that the Chair was like an umpire in cricket or a referee in a hockey match, witnessing the play and the players but without becoming a player. "Its only source of reference is the book of rules," he said. "This House is a creation of the Constitution and reflective of the wisdom and foresight of the founding fathers who wished it to portray India's diversity and to be a calibrated restraint on hasty legislation. "It has upheld democracy's sacred creed that discussion, instead of being a stumbling block in the way of action, is in fact an indispensable preliminary to wise action. Deviations from this golden rule contribute neither to diligent policy making nor to our claim to be a mature democracy based on Rule of law," he said. Ansari said he hoped that all sections of the House would seek to achieve this laudable objective, as the manner in which they conduct business is watched by the citizens with a discerning eye. Ansari, who has been the Vice President and RS Chairman for 10 years, said a decade is a long time in the life of an individual. He also recalled how he was advised by a eminent member of the House from which he benefitted immensely. Earlier, a number of members lauded the role played by Ansari as the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha and they learnt a lot from him. Earlier, on his last day as Rajya Sabha Chairman, Hamid Ansari was today accorded a warm farewell by leaders from across the political spectrum, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying that he had done his best to uphold the Constitution. Ansari served two terms as the Vice President by virtue of which he was the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha as well. M Venkaiah Naidu will take over as the next Chairman of the Upper House of Parliament tomorrow. Members, while bidding farewell to Ansari, recalled his contribution towards enriching Parliament's functioning. Most of them appreciated his constant endeavour to stick to the rules and not allowing any legislation to be passed during din. Some members also said that his decision to change the timing of the Question Hour from 11 am to 12 pm every day had proved beneficial. Interestingly, there were also a few remarks of praise vis-a-vis the fitness of the 80-year-old Ansari as well In his remarks, the prime minister said, "On behalf of the citizens and both Houses of Parliament, I express gratitutde for the services you have rendered as Vice- President of the nation."  Modi said the outgoing Rajya Sabha Chairman had done his best to uphold the Constitution. Referring to Ansari's career, he said his tenure as a diplomat was focussed on West Asia and had been associated with the "same kind of atmosphere, same kind of ideology and same kind of ideology. The Prime minister said that even after retirement from service, Ansari had mostly worked with the Minority Commission and Aligarh Muslim University. "Your work remained limited in a particular area. But during these 10 years, you had to deal with a different kind of responsibility (in running the House). Each moment, you had to remain confined to the Constitution and you made a good effort. "There may have been some struggle within you (all these years) but from now onwards, you won't have to face this dilemma. You will have a feeling of freedom and you will get an opportunity to work, think and talk according to your ideology," Modi told the outgoing Chairman.
Talking about Ansari's diplomatic career, the prime minister quipped that the way a diplomat talks or shakes hands, have a meaning and it cannot be understood immediately. "I hope you will continue to guide the nation in moving forward on the path laid down by the Constitution," he added. Leader of the House and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said it was a very nostalgic occasion for both Ansari as well members. "The chairperson's job is a very challenging job in this House ... This House, unlike in 1950s and 1960s, now has a changed character. It really reflects the strength of the parties in the state. "The character of this House is that things start with a lot of acromonius debate, noise, disruptions but eventually you would have seen during your tenure that nothing remains indefinitely held up," he said.