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Venkaiah Naidu for VP: Why BJP Picked Another RSS Man

Naidu’s victory is a foregone conclusion as the NDA has overwhelming majority in the electoral college.

Updated
Opinion
5 min read
Venkaiah Naidu. (Photo: <b>The Quint</b>)

M Venkaiah Naidu was elected as the next Vice-President of India on Saturday. Here’s a column explaining why BJP picked him as their candidate. This was first published on 18 July, 2017.

Snapshot
  • It is Venkaiah Naidu vs Gopal Gandhi for the Vice Presidential Polls
  • Naidu is the fourth from the RSS stable to occupy high constitutional post after Kovind, PM, and the Lok Sabha Speaker
  • Naidu’s appointment comes off as a message to the Opposition
  • One of the reasons that weighed in favour of Naidu was his being from the South

In a smart political move, the BJP on Monday picked Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu as its vice presidential candidate. The main objective behind selecting Naidu – a career politician – to pit against Opposition candidate Gopal Gandhi – a former bureaucrat, West Bengal governor and grandson of Mahatma Gandhi – is to tame the belligerent Congress-led Opposition in the Rajya Sabha where the government is in minority.

In the constitutional scheme of things, the Vice President is also the chairman of the Upper House. The election is slated for 5 August and incumbent VP Hamid Ansari will demit office on 10 August. Naidu’s victory is a foregone conclusion as the NDA has overwhelming majority in the electoral college.

 (Photo: <b>The Quint</b>)
(Photo: The Quint)
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Govt Needs Majority in Rajya Sabha

Naidu also cut his political teeth in the RSS, the BJP’s ideological mentor, and with his election – first time since Independence – all the four top constitutional posts will be held by lawmakers from the Sangh.

Following Naidu’s exit from the Union Cabinet (where he has been holding the portfolios of Information and Broadcasting, Urban Development and Housing and Urban Poverty alleviation and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley holding the additional charge of defence after the departure of Manohar Parrikar to Goa as chief minister), a reshuffle of the council of ministry is likely to occur after the Monsoon Session.

A four-time Rajya Sabha MP and a Union Minister for several years, Naidu is well-versed with parliamentary proceedings. Though several other names were also doing the rounds, Naidu was found to be politically the most astute to run the House according to the needs of the government. The BJP has since emerged as the largest single party in the Upper House, but the government still lacks majority to push crucial constitutional amendment bills.

 (Photo: <b>The Quint</b>)
(Photo: The Quint)

Moreover, unlike the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha has a galaxy of veteran leaders of substance – like P Chidambaram, Ahmed Patel, Kapil Sibal, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Ahmed Patel, Anand Sharma, Jairam Ramesh etc and Sharad Yadav (JDU) and CPM General Secretary Sitaram Yechury and BSP chief Mayawati (the term of the latter two has ended and subject to re-election) – who have been able to keep the government under relentless pressure. The Deputy Chairman PJ Kurian is from the Congress and does not always play ball with the BJP.

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Naidu Roping in Support From South

Naidu’s nomination also indicates that the confrontation between the Opposition and the treasury benches is unlikely to end and that his selection is in tune with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s muscular politics. Most of the other names discussed – such as Maharashtra Governor C Vidyasagar Rao (from Telangana), Union Minister Sushma Swaraj, Manipur Governor Najma Heputllah, O Rajagopal from Kerala, former Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel, Kerala Governor and former Supreme Court chief justice P Sathashivam and Karnataka Legislative Council Chairman Shankaramurthy, were seen too mild or not aggressive enough to run the politically-volatile House.

 (Photo:<b> The Quint</b>)
(Photo: The Quint)

At the same time, Naidu’s bellicose nature can also be counter-productive. The best presiding officers are those who use diplomacy and tact, not brawn, to win over the Opposition and push crucial legislative business. Sources said leaders like Arun Jaitley, who is leader of the House in the Rajya Sabha, was initially not keen on Naidu’s nomination as VP, but Naidu had big support from the RSS and a section of the BJP.

It will be interesting to note that the Prime Minister had recently made a public statement that he will not spare anybody from the Union Cabinet for the VP’s post. Naidu’s nomination betrays the fact that either Modi came under pressure from Nagpur or he wanted to set the media to a wrong trail so that it did not sniff the choice.
 (Photo: <b>The Quint</b>)
(Photo: The Quint)

The second reason that weighed in favour of Naidu was his being from the South. After the selection of Uttar Pradesh born Ramnath Kovind for the post of President, the BJP also had regional balance in mind. The RSS has long been trying to expand its ideological footprint across the South, but with little success so far.

At the same time, a negative factor also played a positive role in Naidu’s fate. The Nellore-born Naidu belongs to the predominant Khamma caste in Andhra, the same caste as that of chief minister and Telugu Desam Party boss Chandrababu Naidu, who is an ally of the BJP now. A section of the BJP and the RSS leaders suspect that Venkaiah was not doing enough to expand the BJP in Andhra and that he has a soft corner for the TDP chief.

The BJP has only two out of 25 Lok Sabha MPs from the state. Though Naidu began his political career as an MLA , he has not been politically very active and his political appeal in the state has been limited as being overshadowed by Chandrababu Naidu.

(The writer is a Delhi-based senior journalist. He can be reached @benedict18. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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