NEW DELHI: There is no doubt about it now. Vice President Hamid Ansari is on the target radar of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh that has decided to keep taking deliberate potshots at him. And these virtual ‘hit and run’ attacks are not incidental, but designed to focus attention on the office of the Vice President and the fact that it is being occupied by a person who happens to be a Muslim.
There is a certain intolerance built into this attack, as even the RSS snipers know the facts but take the pot shot to feed into ‘outrage’ on the social media, withdrawing the allegation only after considerable damage has been done and the VP drawn into the line of fire. A similar comparison is the recent attack on US President Barack Obama by the Israeli wife in a highly racist tweet, withdrawn after the social media and the media per se had taken up the issue in a big way.
RSS functionary on loan to the BJP Ram Madhav is not a fool. He is a well read man, intelligent and knows the facts as these exist in the books and on the ground. He is also close to the centre of power, being trusted by the government and the Bharatiya Janata party to handle the crucial state of Jammu and Kashmir. So when he tweeted against the VP, asking why he had not attended the Yoga Day celebrations at Rajpath; and attacked Rajya Sabha TV that comes under the VP in his capacity as the Chairperson of the Upper House for not telecasting the event, he was not doing it out of ignorance. The tweet remained long enough to get the media responding, and was withdrawn soon after.
The Vice President, clearly hurt and upset, made it clear through his office that he was not invited, and given his constitutional position he could not present himself at a spot without the proper invitation from the Minister concerned. And Rajya Sabha TV made it clear that it had not only telecast the celebrations, but had also done several features before the day on Yoga per se. The government, then slowly moved in, to finally clarify that the VP had not been invited as the Prime Minister was the Chief Guest, and protocol thus ruled out the attendance of the VP , as well as the President of course.
So what then was Ram Madhav tweeting about? Later he said that he had withdrawn the tweet because he had heard the Vice President was not well, a fact that the latter’s office denied vehemently. However, Madhav continued to insist on this and did not admit to reporters questioning him that he had gone wrong on the protocol details.
This constitutes the second attack on the Vice President. The first being in January this year after Republic Day where again the luminaries of the RSS attacked him for not ‘saluting’ and standing with his arms by his side. This allegation was not withdrawn, and continued to direct reactions on the social media, despite the VP’s office again making it clear that when the President was taking the salute, protocol did not allow the Vice President to do so as well.
VP Ansari is a gracious diplomat who had excelled in the service. His colleagues remember him as ‘one of the best’ chiefs of Protocol in the Foreign Office who could not be faulted at all. This is a fact recognised by all diplomats, and it is strange that those in government today are seeking to attack him on the ground that he has firmly, and very soundly, walked on in the past, and continues to do so today. He cannot be faulted in manners, in protocol, soft spoken and generous in response.
The intention of those bringing him and his office into the news through baseless allegations is clearly to use it to polarise, as is their wont. The social media is polarised between those questioning the Vice President, and those who have now come out in large numbers to defend him. In the process sufficient pressure is being exerted on him, in his position as the VP but also as the chair of the Rajya Sabha that is home to active and intense opposition to the ruling government. So far even the BJP has been unable to fault the Chairman on the grounds of partisanship, with the VP erring on the side of caution insofar as his management of the House is concerned. Hence, the RSS tweets and posts that at best, leave a bad taste and demonstrates either its members ignorance of the rules and the norms, or their insistence to create trouble where none exists.
In the process the RSS is building an atmosphere, where the anti-reaction in its larger constituency is not really diluted by the denials. And hence the VP by virtue of being a Muslim is dragged into the spotlights and left there, to be watched as it were. This feeds into the larger argument of Muslims being suspect, and the strategy mastered by extremists the world over of repeating the lie until it becomes the truth.
It is fortunate that the Opposition has battled vehemently for the Vice President, and in this particular context placed the government and its mentors on the defensive. However, given the periodic nature of the attack that has in the first instance questioned the Vice President’s nationalism— a grave and ugly charge in itself— and in the second focused on his religious credentials, it will not be an exaggeration to say that it will be repeated yet again. As clearly the dividends on the ground insofar as right wing ideology and polity is concerned, outweigh the risks of the lie.