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. His love for sports was also highlighted. 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 people".
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.
Modi said though he did not have much interaction with Ansari, he had understood a lot from him whenever they met.
"I hope you will continue to guide the nation in moving forward on the path laid down by the Constitution," he added.
Conveying his best wishes to Ansari and wishing him a long life, Modi noted that the outgoing Chairman has also kept himself physically fit.
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.
At the end of the day, Jaitley said, the system of political consensus works in the Upper House and consensus is eventually reached, irrespective of who is in the government and who is in the opposition.
Jaitley added that a Chairman's job is also a thankless job and "you take the good with not so good".
"We have seen at times, when we members, have disrupted the House, your anguish was visible. It used to be more visisble in your concluding statement at the end of the sessions," he said.
He said that Ansari's tenure might have seen disturbances but it also saw a high quality of debates on many occasion.
"I am sure you retire from this House with great memories. We all recollect the sage advice that you kept giving to us and through us to the country from time to time... We will always have memories of you as the Chair and how you lent dignity to the quality of the debates in the house while presiding over it," the finance minster said.
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, during whose tenure Ansari had become the Rajya Sabha Chairman, hailed his contribution and said the country keeps on progressing despite challenges largely because of people like him.
Singh said he had received maximum possible guidance and cooperation from the outgoing Chairman.
Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad praised Ansari for the way he conducted the proceedings of the House.
Recalling his long association with Ansari, Azad said the Chairman was given several honorary degrees by different countries, but he never used them.
SP member Ram Gopal Yadav said Ansari conducted the House without any discrimination and never allowed any legislation to be passed in din. He hoped the next Chairman too would continue the tradition.
Trinamool Congress leader Derek O'Brien told the House that Ansari does Yoga and routinely goes for evening walks to maintain good health. He said Ansari has been eating only sandwiches at lunch for the past 40 years and it "must be a world record".
He appreciated Ansari for extending the working hours of the Rajya Sabha's day from 5 pm to 6 pm.
CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury also appreciated Ansari for not allowing any bill to be passed in din and hoped that the practice will be continued. He said Ansari's decision to shift the Question Hour timing from 11 am to noon has yielded good results as more questions are now taken up. Yechury also appreciated of Ansari's initiative of starting the Rajya Sabha TV channel.
Deputy Chairman P J Kurien said he had enjoyed working with Ansari. "You protected me, you guided me and you corrected me," he said, adding "if we were to choose our destiny, then we all would pass a resolution to have Chairman Hamid Ansari for another term."
K Rehman Khan (Congress) said his days as Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman earlier were his best days when he worked under Ansari's guidance.
Naresh Agrawal of Samajwadi Party said people are known by the Chair they hold, but Ansari had shown that the Chair is known by the person holding it. "You tought me discipline and I thought the point of order to this House," he said.
Anu Agha (Nom) said she has seen Ansari's anguish when the House was being disrupted. "We will miss your dignified presence and we look forward to guiding the nation with your love and wisdom".
K Parasaran (Nom) said Ansari had added dignity to the office of the Rajya Sabha Chairman.
Others who spoke include Amar Singh, Virender Kumar, Roopa Ganguly and Narendra Jadhav.
NCP member Majeed Memon said that managing children in a primary school or kindergarten may not be as difficult as handling the House but Ansari always managed to do an exceptional job.
He said Ansari's performance in public sphere would continue to be important for the country.
Sanjay Raut (Shiv Sena) said Ansari, as Chairman never allowed any advocate, either on the ruling side or the opposition side, to flout the rules of the House. He always imposed "vice president's rule" and ensure that no norms are flouted, Raut quipped.
Naresh Gujral (SAD) said that Ansari was sagacious, scholarly and committed to secular values. He lauded him for paying due attention to smaller groupings in the House and would never hesitate from calling a spade a spade.
D Raja (CPI) said Ansari's advice was valuable while Karan Singh (Congress) recited a Sanskrit couple to bless Ansari.
Ansari sits on a higher chair but I am elder in age, Singh said. Minister Ramdas Athavale paid tributes by reciting a few lines which left many members, including leader of the House Arun Jaitley, laughing.
"We wished that you could get another five years, but you belonged to that side and was not possible," he said.
V Maitreyan of AIADMK recalled the time when, he along with some other members, would decide whether to allow the House to function or not.
He, however, emphasised that Ansari handled these situations with skill and sagacity.
Many other members also lauded Ansari's impartiality, wisdom and clear approach as they paid tributes to him.