Union Minister M Venkaiah Naidu is likely to become the country’s next vice president, with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party announcing his candidature on Monday.
Naidu’s victory seems to be a foregone conclusion as he has a clear lead over Opposition nominee Gopal Krishna Gandhi in an electoral college consisting of 790 parliamentarians.
The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance’s combined strength in the two Houses of Parliament is about 410. The coalition also expects other parties such as the AIADMK, Naveen Patnaik’s BJD and others to support Naidu in the August 5 election.
“Venkaiah ji has a lot of experience. All NDA allies have welcomed this decision,” BJP president Amit Shah said after making the announcement at a press conference.
“He is one of the senior-most and experienced leaders across party lines,” Shah said after a meeting of the party’s parliamentary board cleared Naidu’s name. “He has more than 25 years of experience in public life.”
Two sets of nomination papers in support of Naidu’s candidature will be filed on Tuesday — the last day of nomination. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, home minister Rajnth Singh, finance minister Arun Jaitley and external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj will propose Naidu’s name for the post.
Naidu’s long legislative experience — he is a four-time member of the Rajya Sabha — and the BJP’s expansion plans for southern India are understood to have influenced the decision in favour of the Andhra politician.
Opposition parties have managed to block the passage of many bills in the Rajya Sabha– where the government is in a minority — in the past. The ruling dispensation was, therefore, keen on nominating someone with experience in the Upper House, who could help the government steer the bills by building consensus.
The BJP will become the single largest party in the Upper house next year when elections for 58 Rajya Sabha berths, including 10 from Uttar Pradesh, are held in May.
Naidu holds the charge of urban development, housing and poverty alleviation, and information and broadcasting ministries in the Modi government. He will quit the council of ministers and resign from the Upper house to run for the post of vice president.
Naidu met Modi and BJP chief Shah, separately, in the morning, and they communicated to him the party’s decision to back him for the post.
The PM, sources said, told Naidu that letting him quit the Union ministry was a personal loss, but the party wanted to benefit from his long-legislative experience in the Upper house — of which he will become the chairman after getting elected as the vice president.
The Andhra politician, sources said, was reluctant to take up the job, which will mean end to his active political career, but Modi prevailed over him.
Naidu had also served as a minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. A student of law in college, Naidu, if elected, will be the second BJP leader, after Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, to occupy the post of the vice president.
He became the BJP’s president in 2003 at an early age of 54.
Naidu has been associated with the RSS’s student wing in his early days and also served as the president of Andhra University Student’s Union. He was elected to the legislative assembly of Andhra Pradesh in 1978 and again in 1983.