New Delhi: Backed by two-third members of Parliament, senior BJP leader M. Venkaiah Naidu on Saturday defeated the Opposition candidate Gopalkrishna Gandhi. He will be sworn in as the country’s 13th Vice-President on August 11. Hamid Ansari’s term as V-P ends on August 10.
Mr Naidu bagged 516 votes, while Mr Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson, secured 244. Nearly two-dozen MPs of Opposition parties, sources said, defied party whip and voted for the NDA’s vice-presidential candidate.
Mr Naidu bagged 21 more votes than the ones pledged to him (around 495). Of the total 785 MPs eligible to vote, 14 could not vote for various reasons. The BJP claimed that 20 MPs cross-voted in favour of Mr Naidu, and called it the “largest victory margin in last 33 years.”
Accepting defeat, the Opposition’s V-P candidate said, “Congratulate Venkaiah Naidu Garu on his victory. Wish him all the best for his new office. Thank those who voted for me; was expecting handsome performance by united vote of Opposition parties and I’m more than satisfied.”
Mr Gandhi also said that the votes he secured were an affirmation of “the right to free thought and speech and the duty to serve pluralism and secularism.”
Mr Naidu is the second BJP leader to become vice- president, after late Bhairon Singh Shekhawat. With Mr Naidu, “a farmer’ son,” winning the election, he is the third BJP leader, along with President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to hold the three top constitutional positions in the country.
The Vice-President of the country is also the ex-officio chairman of the Rajya Sabha. With Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan also from the BJP, the saffron party now has an effective control both Houses.
Mr Naidu’s candidature for the post of V-P is seen as part of the BJP’s strategy to send a positive message to the south where the party is trying to expand its base. Assembly elections are scheduled in Karnataka early next year. Mr Naidu was elected from the state for three terms in the Rajya Sabha. In fact, sources said that his first visit after becoming Vice-President elect will be to Bengaluru, on Sunday. He will also visit Tirupati to offer prayers.
Upon winning the election, Mr Naidu said he was humbled by the honour bestowed on him and promised to “uphold the Constitution and the high standards set by my esteemed predecessors.” He also thanked the people, the MPs who voted for him, Mr Modi, Mr Shah and leaders of the non-NDA outfits.
Mr Naidu said the election result was an “important milestone in India’s democratic journey”, one that speaks for the “beauty and strength of our parliamentary democracy” where a farmer’s son can reach the top office. He also said that ever since his candidature was announced, he became a “non-party man” and would try to take everybody along. Mr Naidu also said that he would endeavour to enable every member in Rajya Sabha to make a meaningful contribution.
“I will seek to utilise the vice-presidential institution to strengthen the hands of the President and uphold the dignity of the Upper House,” Mr Naidu said.
Congratulating the Vice-Presidential elect, Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed confidence that Mr Naidu will serve the nation with dedication and diligence.
Mr Modi, BJP president Amit Shah, senior leaders and Central ministers, including Ravishankar Prasad, Ananth Kumar, Dr Harshvardan, Hansraj Ahir, reached Mr Naidu’s residence to congratulate him.
Extending her wishes to Mr Naidu, Congress president Sonia Gandhi also extended her party’s support in further strengthening the Rajya Sabha for effective scrutiny of legislations and government policies.
The strength of the electoral college, comprising both elected and nominated MPs of the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha, is 790. There are two vacancies each in the LS and RS. One BJP Lok Sabha MP is barred from voting following a judicial pronouncement.
In the 2007 V-P poll, incumbent Hamid Ansari had polled 456 votes, Najma Heptullah 222 votes and Rashid Masood 75 votes. In the 2012 polls, Mr Ansari had bagged 490 and NDA nominee Jaswant Singh 238 votes.