Was never in the running for President: M. Hamid Ansari in his memoirs

New Delhi, Jan 27 : Former Vice President M. Hamid Ansari has stoutly denied that he was in the running for President to succeed Pratibha Patil, depreciating the “Byzantine” process that dragged his name into the picture – and even played golf on the day the decision was to be announced. But one is left wondering whether he nurtured a secret desire that he held close to his chest.

“Media speculation initially named former president Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam as a possible candidate; he, however, denied it. One report quoted the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha saying that the BJP will not support anyone connected to the Congress,” Ansari writes in his memoirs, “By Many A Happy Accident – Recollections Of A Life” (Rupa), which is being released on Thursday.

“A commentator (in May 2012) said that ‘almost no one is thinking of the other man in the race, who has done his work quietly for 10 years, always speaking his mind but never in a way that it causes controversy: Hamid Ansari’. Another report on 13 June said that ‘at this point one can only say that either Pranab Mukherjee or Vice President Hamid Ansari is likely to be the Congress candidate’, but this has to be finalised after acceptance by Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mamata Banerjee, whose votes would be essential, adding that a deal on many political issues’ with the former would be essential. Another media report said that ‘a series of bizarre developments…made this contest quite intriguing’. On 15 June, Reuters reported the Congress party named Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee as its nominee for president,” Ansari writes.

“The political thinking behind the decision was delineated later by M.L. Fotedar,” Ansari writes. (This was that Ansari should have been the presidential candidate by precedence but the view gaining ground was that elections to the 16th Lok Sabha could throw up a hung Parliament and Mukherjee’s vast skills would be required in such a scenario, Fotedar has written in his memoir, “The Chinar Leaves”.)

“Pranab Mukherjee’s memoirs give some details of the political background and the position and postures of the leaders involved.”

“Having nothing to contribute to the Byzantine process, on the day a decision was expected (12 June), I decided to play golf on a very hot afternoon with two of my friends, Ambassadors Garekhan and Naresh Dayal. Halfway through the game, a call from my office told me of the decision and the game continued. That evening, Pranab Mukherjee called on me and I felicitated him.

“Late in the evening the next day, I conveyed to a senior functionary of the Congress my unhappiness at being pulled into the process without having being consulted; he, in turn, shared with me some of the happenings that went into the decision making.

“A couplet of Daagh Dehlvi could have described the situation:

“Quismat ki khoobi dekhiye, tooti kahan kamand/Do char haath jab ke lab-e-baam rah gaya (See the irony of Fate, the ladder has given away when the rooftop was just a few feet away),” Ansari writes.

What followed was unanticipated as a few days later Prime Minster Manmohan Singh called on him, “was somewhat apologetic” for what had happened and “suddenly asked me if I would like to be considered for a second term”.

“It was my turn to be surprised; my answer was that I would be honoured. I thus became the second person, after Dr Radkahrishnan in 1957, to assume the office of Vice President for a second term,” Ansari writes.


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