Vice Prez poll: Venkaiah Naidu, Gopalkrishna Gandhi file nomination

The Asian Age.

India, All India

The BJP is confident that Mr Naidu would touch base comfortably as the numbers favour him.

Gopalkrishna Gandhi will contest against the NDA's candidate M Venkaiah Naidu. (Photo: PTI)

New Delhi: The race for the vice-presidential office kicked off on Tuesday with both the candidates — NDA nominee M. Venkaiah Naidu and Opposition nominee Gopalkrishna Gandhi — filing their nomination papers in the company of their supporters. It was a show of strength that is tilted in Mr Naidu’s favour.

After filing their papers, the NDA’s nominee spoke of what a “painful” task it was to quit the BJP, while the Opposition’s nominee spoke of the “force which is dividing our country” and the dangers it poses.  

Mr Naidu, who had been with the Sangh and the BJP since his school days, had got emotional on Monday at a meeting of the top party brass where the decision to nominate him for the post of Vice-President was finalised. It was learnt that he broke down while recalling how, having lost his mother at a young age, he was “brought up” by the party. Leaving the organisation was like getting separated from his mother again, he said.

The BJP is confident that Mr Naidu would touch base comfortably as the numbers favour him.

Mr Naidu said the candidature was an “honour” and he would uphold the dignity of the office if elected. For filing his nomination papers, Mr Naidu was accompanied by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president Amit Shah, veteran leaders L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, NDA Cabinet ministers and non-NDA leaders.

The Opposition’s candidate, Mr Gopalkrishna Gandhi, was accompanied by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, vice-president Rahul Gandhi, JD(U)’s Sharad Yadav, CPI(M)’s Sitaram Yechury, CPI’s D Raja, NCP’s Tariq Anwar and Praful Patel, NC’s Farooq Abdullah and DMK’s Kanimozhi for filing his nomination.

Speaking to the media, Mr Naidu said that he would “like to assure the people of the country that, on being elected, I will uphold the traditions and standards set by the worthy predecessors.”

He reached out to parties across the political divide and said that he no longer belonged to the BJP and would strengthen democratic institutions if elected. “I am above any party now,” Mr Naidu said, and added that he would continue as a member of the Rajya Sabha and cast his vote in the vice-presidential poll next month.

Earlier, at a get-together to felicitate Mr Naidu, Mr Modi said in lighter vein that the Treasury benches in the Rajya Sabha, of which Mr Naidu will be chairman if elected, “will not let his blood pressure go up” and offer him their fullest cooperation.

Mr Gopalkrishna Gandhi, a strong and vocal opponent of the death penalty, defended his efforts to save Mumbai blast convict Yakub Memon from the gallows, saying that “capital punishment was medieval and wrong.” Facing criticism from the Shiv Sena for backing Memon’s mercy plea, Mr Gandhi said that his efforts were inspired by Mahatma Gandhi and Babasaheb Ambedkar, who were against the death penalty.

“In our country, we are living in times of division. A whole force which is dividing our country is in action mode and that spells danger,” the former West Bengal governor told reporters after filing his papers for the vice-presidential poll.

To a question on the odds favouring Mr Naidu, he said, “Arithmetic is about numbers, philosophy is about principles. There cannot be anything better than numbers and principle, but sometimes one has to take such steps for principles which are not linked to numbers.”