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‘Boy’ from Calcutta in battle for VP

July 20: Mohammad Hamid Ansari, a seasoned diplomat born in Calcutta, is on course to becoming India’s next Vice-President.

The UPA today formally nominated the West Asia hand — the 70-year-old Ansari is now the National Minorities Commission chief — its candidate for Vice-President elections scheduled for August 10.

“All of us have come to a unanimous understanding that Ansari would be our candidate,” UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi told reporters in Delhi after a meeting with Left leaders. The BSP is also expected to support Ansari.

The UPA and its supporters have enough votes to see Ansari through if the NDA fields a candidate. L.K. Advani said today “we will definitely contest”. The third front has already put up a nominee, Rashid Masood.

The vice-presidential electorate is confined to members of both Houses of Parliament. Against a combined House count of around 790 members, the UPA and allies hold nearly 440 votes.

Ansari said in Delhi that he was “humbled” by the nomination. Later, Ansari recalled his childhood in Park Circus and college days in St Xavier’s and told The Telegraph: “I had a great time in Calcutta.”

Ansari’s was the only name proposed by the CPM and its allies to the Congress. His distinguished career as a diplomat, roots in an illustrious political family of Uttar Pradesh and a strong stand on issues such as the Gujarat riots were cited as his strengths.

Congress sources said Sonia and Manmohan Singh agreed to the choice “without ado”. “It was a joint effort of the Left and the Congress,” a source said.

Mild misgivings whether a non-political nominee can run the Rajya Sabha — the key function of the Vice-President — were overruled by the perception that a non-controversial person of eminence will be appropriate after the muckraking on the presidential poll.

Ansari’s uncle M.A. Ansari was the president of the Indian National Congress in 1927 — a piece of history cited to stress that the family’s secular credentials were impeccable although the elder member was in the Muslim League once. The Congress seems to have done its homework just in case the Opposition decides to dig for dirt.

As the minorities panel chief, Ansari had toured Nandigram after the March 14 police firing and concluded that though the state might have failed in its duty, the killings were not communal.

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