New Delhi, July 9: Almost a year after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarks at his farewell function, former vice president Hamid Ansari spoke up to say that many considered the comments to be a departure from accepted practices on such occasions, said reports. (Also read: ‘Efforts to Change History Will Not Work’)

The last day of Ansari’s second term as Vice President (2007-2017) and Chairman of the Rajya Sabha was on August 10, 2017. As per tradition, leaders of political parties and members spent the forenoon session in thanking the Chair. “The Prime Minister participated in this and while being fulsome in his complements 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 says in his book ‘Dare I Question? Reflections on Contemporary Challenges’, a collection of his speeches and writings, made mostly in his last year in office and some in recent months.

In his speech, Modi had said, “In the last 10 years (of vice-presidentship), your responsibility changed considerably and you had to confine yourself strictly to the Constitution. You may have been internally agitated by this, but from today, you will have the freedom to speak your mind and to think, speak and act according to your core set of beliefs…You have held responsibilities and been associated with a certain ‘circle’ because of which you have certain opinions and perception.”

In his last interview before he demitted office, Ansari had pointed out that Muslims in the country were experiencing a “feeling of unease”. “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. He told The Indian Express, “The PM spoke a lot and was fulsome in his praise too. I responded in my speech, including a sher (couplet) at the end — but then his army of supporters feasted on it.”

According to Ansari, the country faces two sets of challenges _ the first relates to principles and values of public life and the second to institutional structures of the Indian polity. “Both are succinctly expressed in the Preamble and dilated upon in the text of the Constitution; both seem to be under stress for a variety of reasons. Some of these are easily identified by reading the section on Fundamental Duties and assessing the extent to which these are observed individually and collectively.