Information and Broadcasting Minister and senior BJP leader M. Venkaiah Naidu has been chosen as the ruling NDA's candidate for the August 5 Vice Presidential election, bringing to an end the suspense over the ruling combine's nominee for the second important constitutional post.
BJP president Amit Shah announced his candidature after a 90-minute meeting of the BJP’s Central Parliamentary Board chaired by Shah and attended by top leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It was said to have been a smooth affair with Naidu having emerged the front-runner much through the day.
“Venkaiah is a senior political leader across party lines and is a senior leader of the BJP which he had been associated with his youth. He is the unanimous choice of the BJP and all the NDA constituents who have welcomed his candidature,” Shah told reporters after the meeting.
Indications that Naidu, 68, was an automatic choice came out after his meeting with the Prime Minister in the morning and informal consultations continued among leaders during the day. Naidu, who has been maintaining that he is keen on continuing in active politics, gave hints that he may have changed his mind when he told reporters that any decision by the BJP will be followed by party men.
With the presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind hailing from Uttar Pradesh, the party is believed to have looked for a Vice President candidate from the south, and Naidu fitted the bill.
If elected Vice President, Naidu will also be the ex officio Chairman of the Rajya Sabha where the BJP still lacks a majority. With friends across parties and his amiable nature, Naidu is expected to steer the proceedings in the upper house through possible turbulence.
Shah described Naidu as a successful minister of the Modi government who was handling Urban Development and Information and Broadcasting ministries.
Shah said several names were considered, and ultimately Naidu was the unanimous choice.
Replying to questions, Shah said it would have been better if the opposition had not fielded its candidate. He said Naidu will file his nomination on Tuesday at 11 a.m.
Asked about Shiv Sena spokesman Sanjay Raut’s demand for an apology from UPA’s Vice President candidate Gopalkrishna Gandhi for his reported opposition to the hanging of Yakub Memon, convicted in the 1993 serial Mumbai blast case, Shah said he did not want to get into such issues.
He said Naidu is an experienced political leader and all NDA leaders have welcomed his nomination.
Giving his background, the BJP President said there was no need for Naidu’s introduction.
Shah said Naidu had a humble beginning and hailed from a farmer’s family.
He had been associated with the BJP since his younger days and was an ABVP leader and student union leader. He was associated with the Jayaprakash Narayan movement and was an MLA twice in Andhra Pradesh and Rural Development Minister in the Vajpayee government. He was also twice the president of the BJP.
Muppavarapu Venkaiah Naidu entered the RSS by accident – his links began in childhood when he chanced upon a ‘shakha’ while playing. Within some decades, he was the BJP’s best-known leader from southern India, famous for his witty one-liners.
A key member of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet, the now 68-year-old cut his political teeth during the “Emergency” of 1975-77 when he went underground against the government of Indira Gandhi and eventually got jailed.
He remained underground until his arrest, distributing anti-government literature in educational institutions in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, travelling on a scooter along with a woman activist on pillion in a bid not to arouse suspicion.
He was accused of disturbing a meeting of Sanjay Gandhi and handcuffed during transit from one jail to the other.
Naidu hit the national scene when he was one of the prominent opposition spokespersons along with S. Jaipal Reddy, who was then in Janata Party, during the campaign by N.T. Rama Rao after his dismissal as the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister by Indira Gandhi in the 1980s.
Even though the Bharatiya Janata Party was on a weak wicket in southern India, Naidu embraced it tightly.
A quick-witted and effective communicator steeped in RSS/BJP ideology, Naidu rose through the ranks to become the party president and a Union Minister. If all goes well, he will be India’s next Vice President.
Naidu has been a troubleshooter for the government and also one of its best communicators with his alliterative and catchy one-liners. He has friends across political parties. It will help him as Chairman of the Rajya Sabha where the BJP still does not have a majority.
Naidu is quick to respond to criticism from the opposition.
He has handled key organisational assignments in the BJP and became its President in 2002.
Naidu had three continuous terms in the Rajya Sabha from Karnataka from 1998 to 2016, when he shifted to Rajasthan to get a fourth term.
He was Rural Development Minister during the first NDA government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, his inspiration along with senior party leader L.K. Advani.
With Modi scripting BJP’s success in 2014, Naidu described him as the most popular Indian leader, the most credible political personality and among the top 10 leaders of the world. He is credited with coining the acronym MODI – Making Of Developed India, a BJP favourite.
Born on July 1, 1949 in Nellore district of Andhra Pradesh, Naidu was President of the Students Union, V.R. College, Nellore. In 1973-74, he was president of the Students Union of Andhra University Colleges.
Naidu pursued law and was involved in the movement launched by Jayaprakash Narayan.
He was President of the youth wing of the Janata Party in Andhra Pradesh from 1977 to 1980. After Emergency, he was elected to the Andhra Pradesh assembly in 1978 and was a legislator till 1985.
After the BJP was formed in 1980, he became Vice president of its youth wing.
He was leader of the BJP Legislature Party in Andhra Pradesh, state general secretary and state unit chief.
Naidu was the BJP General Secretary in 1993-2000 and its spokesperson in between. He has been a part of apex committees of the party, including its parliamentary board and Central Election Committee.
Naidu is currently the Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Urban Development and Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation. He was the Parliamentary Affairs Minister for the first two years in the Modi government.
His term as Urban Development Minister has seen several initiatives including Smart Cities. (IANS)