NDA picks Venkaiah Naidu as Vice-Presidential candidate

The Asian Age.

India, All India

Naidu’s name was announced by BJP president Amit Shah after the meeting of the party’s parliamentary board.

Union Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu is greeted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as BJP President Amit Shah looks on, after he was announced as the BJP's Vice-Presidential candidate in New Delhi. (Photo: PTI)

New Delhi: The BJP on Monday officially announced its senior leader Muppavarapu Venkaiah Naidu, 68, a “farmer’s son”, as the NDA’s vice-presidential candidate for the August 5 election. Famous for his oratorial skills, the former BJP president and Union minister will file his nomination on Tuesday and take on the Opposition’s candidate Gopalkrishna Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson. The vice-president also officiates as the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha.

Hailing from Andhra Pradesh, Mr Naidu is a prominent BJP face from South India and had been jailed during the Emergency. Known for his quirky one-liners and rhymes, Mr Naidu is often seen passionately defending Mr Modi, his policies and taking on the Opposition in both Houses of Parliament. He had once described Mr Modi as the “gift to the nation from God” and “messiah of the poor”. Mr Naidu had vigorously backed Mr Modi for the prime ministership before the 2014 elections. In fact, Mr Naidu had coined the term “MODI — Making of Developed India”, which was the official theme of the BJP and the government’s outreach campaign on the occasion of its third anniversary in office.

Mr Naidu’s name was announced by BJP president Amit Shah after the meeting of the party’s parliamentary board on Monday evening. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who attended the meeting, tweeted: “I know @MVenkaiahNaidu Garu for years. Have always admired his hard work & tenacity. A fitting candidate for the office of Vice-President.” Mr Modi described Mr Naidu as a farmer’s son who “brings years of experience in public life and is admired across the political spectrum”.

“The years of parliamentary experience @MVenkaiahNaidu Garu has will help him discharge the important role of Rajya Sabha Chairperson,” Mr Modi added. Mr Naidu, sources said, had a meeting with Mr Modi at Parliament House on Monday morning, where he was apparently told about the party and RSS’ decision to nominate him for the vice-president’s post.

The electoral college for the vice-presidential election consists of members of both Houses of Parliament, including the nominated members, which is currently at 786, as there are two vacancies each in both Houses. The numbers seem to favour Mr Naidu, with the ruling party claiming Mr Naidu will get more than 500 votes as the BJP-led NDA already has 338 members in the Lok Sabha. Though the NDA is in a minority in the Rajya Sabha, some non-NDA parties including AIADMK, BJD, TRS and YSRCP, which are already backing the NDA’s presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind, are also likely to vote in favour of Mr Naidu.

Though his name was officially announced by the BJP on Monday evening, Mr Naidu, who is well respected across party lines, was seen receiving congratulations from leaders of different parties in Parliament since the morning. Associated with the Jan Sangh, the BJP’s former avatar, since the 1970s, Mr Naidu had closely worked with many Sangh Parivar stalwarts and party patriarch Atal Behari Vajpayee and veteran leader L.K. Advani. He was also a Cabinet minister in the Vajpayee government. Having extensively travelled across the country for organisational activities, Mr Naidu played a key role in bringing the TDP into the NDA fold and in gaining TRS backing for the NDA presidential nominee.

Born in a humble agricultural family of Andhra Pradesh’s Nellore district, Mr Naidu, a former BJP president, was a two-term member of the Andhra Pradesh Assembly. He  was never a member of the Lok Sabha. Elected to the Rajya Sabha three times from Karnataka, Mr Naidu now represents Rajasthan in the Upper House of Parliament.

Mr Naidu currently holds the portfolios of information and broadcasting and housing and urban affairs. He was also parliamentary affairs minister earlier in the Modi government. Earlier, he served as rural development minister in the previous NDA government led by Mr Vajpayee.

The 68-year-old veteran leader served as BJP president from July 2002 to October 2004 for two terms. He quit the post after the party’s 2004 defeat. He was an ABVP activist during the Emergency, and was arrested and sent to jail.

Mr Naidu also ensured high political outreach by meeting Congress president Sonia Gandhi when there was a standoff between the government and the Opposition in Parliament. Several major laws were cleared by Parliament when he was parliamentary affairs minister, including the historic Real Estate Act and fast-forwarding of the GST Bill.

As I&B minister, he was always quick to present issues in perspective with effective repartee when required. As urban development minister, Mr Naidu pioneered the launch of several new urban missions, including Smart City Mission, Atal Mission, Swachchh Bharat Mission and Housing for All. As rural development minister, Mr Naidu was instrumental in launching the hugely popular “Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana”.