The term of incumbent vice-president Hamid Ansari, who has held the post for two consecutive terms, will end on August 10.
New Delhi: Voting to elect India’s next vice-president will take place on Saturday. Members of both Houses of Parliament will cast their votes to choose between BJP-led NDA nominee M. Venkaiah Naidu and the Opposition parties’ joint candidate Gopalkrishna Gandhi. The numbers seem to favour the NDA candidate, who is also likely to get the support of some non-NDA parties like the AIADMK, TRS and YSRCP. The results will be declared the same day, by the evening.
The electoral college comprises MPs of both Houses of Parliament, which comes to 790. There are two vacancies each in both Houses. The NDA has 336 members in the Lower House while in the Upper House it has nearly 90 members. With the support of the AIADMK (LS 37; RS 13), TRS (LS 11; RS 3) and YSRCP (LS 9; RS 1), Mr Naidu is in a comfortable position to win. The BJP is also hoping that cross-voting by some members of the Akhilesh Yadav-led SP and the Nitish Kumar-led JD(U) will help its candidate. While the JD(U) has joined hands with the BJP in Bihar, Mr Kumar had said his party will vote for Mr Gandhi in the vice-presidential election.
Ahead of the V-P polls, Prime Minister Narendra Modi hosted a dinner for NDA MPs and also MPs of the non-NDA parties supporting Mr Naidu’s candidature. Earlier, a dummy voting exercise was held for NDA MPs, but 16 MPs, including some BJP members, cast invalid votes. BJP president Amit Shah has asked NDA MPs to vote carefully. The BJP has again called a meeting of its MPs at 9 am on Saturday. The MPs were asked to vote carefully after 21 MPs votes were found invalid during the presidential elections. Unlike the presidential polls, however, where MLAs are also part of the electoral college, only MPs can vote in the vice-presidential polls.
Addressing NDA MPs, Mr Modi said 2017-2022 was a “naya kalkhand (new phase)” in the country as the President, vice-president, Speaker and Prime Minister were “ek he kunbae ke pale bade hain (from the same ideological family)”. He said the BJP was different and as a reason people believe that we have the capabilities to bring the required changes in the country. He said there has been criticism of what is happening in Parliament but the BJP, which had got absolute majority after 30 years, had a responsility to ensure that the dignity of Parliament was maintained and enhanced. He said the Upper House had seen some fine speeches and was the place which guides the nation without political differences. Under Mr Naidu, the Rajya Sabha will be able to guide the country in the way envisaged by the Constitution, he said.
Mr Modi also released a book Tireless Voice, Relentless Journey, a compilation of Mr Naidu’s old speeches and articles. Sources said Mr Naidu will visit Bengaluru a day after the result was declared as he had represented Karnataka three times in the Rajya Sabha. He will also go to Tirupati to offer prayers and then visit his home district Nellore the next day.
The term of incumbent vice-president Hamid Ansari, who has held the post for two consecutive terms, will end on August 10. The vice-president is also ex-officio Chairman of the Rajya Sabha.
Incidentally, on the eve of the V-P polls, Rajya Sabha deputy chairman P.J. Kurien appeared confident that Mr Naidu would emerge victorious. During the proceedings on Friday, he said that “he (Venkaiah) is going to be my Chairman”. Prof. Kurien’s comment came after Congress member Jairam Ramesh remarked to him in a lighter vein: “You are getting Venkaiah Naidu’s skills now”.
Another Congress member, Pramod Tewari, objected, asking: “How can you say before the election? Election has to take place.” Realising this, Prof. Kurien then said: “Oh sorry, that is correct. Then I can say I expect...”