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After 10 years, a BJP leader set to become vice president again

LiveMint logoLiveMint 03-08-2017 Gyan Varma

New Delhi: After a gap of 10 years, the nation is all set to have a vice president who will be elected primarily on the strength of support from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) at the centre.

Polling and counting for the vice presidential elections is scheduled to take place on Saturday.

Apart from the vice presidential elections, the likely victory of former Union minister M. Venkaiah Naidu is also part of the changing dynamics for the BJP in Rajya Sabha, where the NDA is in a minority. The last BJP-NDA candidate who was elected vice president was Bhairon Singh Shekhawat from 2002 to 2007.

Naidu is directly pitted against Gopalkrishna Gandhi, the former West Bengal governor who is the joint opposition candidate for the vice presidential polls. A retired civil servant from the Indian Administrative Service and former diplomat, he is the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi.

The outcome of the vice presidential elections will be decided by the total strength of both houses of Parliament, which gives NDA-backed Naidu the advantage.

“The post of vice president should not be seen as a political appointment and certainly not to favour any political party. However, the presence of a former NDA minister who has been a senior parliamentarian would definitely help the BJP-led alliance in raising their concerns in the upper house. It is possible that some of the NDA leaders may feel little more comfortable while raising their concerns,” said a senior BJP leader from the Rajya Sabha.

While Naidu has been associated with the BJP, he enjoys a comfortable relationship with all political parties. He was key to holding discussions with the opposition parties when he was parliamentary affairs minister.

“During the discussions over goods and service tax (GST), Venkaiah Naidu played an important role in reaching out to the Congress and listening to the concerns of the opposition party. Naidu was also present when Modi met Congress president Sonia Gandhi and former prime minister Manmohan Singh to discuss GST,” the BJP leader added.

The current monsoon session has seen a dramatic turnaround in the fortunes of the ruling alliance after Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar joined the NDA. Apart from the political dominance of the NDA in Bihar, the switch in alliance by Kumar’s Janata Dal (United), or JDU, will help the NDA as the regional party has 10 members of Parliament (MPs) in the Rajya Sabha.

“Of course, Venkaiah Naidu has a decisive advantage over Gopalkrishna Gandhi and he will eventually win. But the important part is that the chairman’s role is limited. A lot of the changing dynamic in the Rajya Sabha will depend on when the NDA will gain majority and that will take at least 7-8 months more,” said Subrata Mukherjee, a New Delhi-based political analyst and former political science professor at Delhi University.

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