Venkaiah Naidu as vice presidential candidate seen as part of BJP’s South India push
New Delhi: It was only a few weeks ago that Union minister M. Venkaiah Naidu, 67, stated categorically that he would never participate in vice-presidential elections “even if anyone compels me”.
Ceremonial positions that keep him away from public service are of little interest to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) veteran or so he insisted. As a senior member of the party and a union minister, one would assume that Naidu’s wish carried weight but clearly the party had other plans as he was declared the National Democratic Alliance’s vice presidential candidate on Monday evening. The opposition has already named Gopalkrishna Gandhi as its candidate.
Naidu, if reports are to be believed, was selected in the context of the BJP’s push for a greater political profile in the southern part of the country. Which is why Tamil Nadu governor C. Vidyasagar Rao was also considered as a candidate.
A lawyer by training, Naidu has been in active politics since his student days and was jailed during the Emergency. His stint in the legislature began in 1978 when he was elected to the Andhra Pradesh legislative assembly from the Udayagiri constituency in Nellore district on a Janata Party ticket. He joined the BJP in 1980 and from then on became the leader of the BJP’s legislature party in Andhra Pradesh. His national role began only in 1993 when he was appointed the BJP’s national general secretary. He has since twice served as the party president, in 2002 and 2004.
An experienced parliamentarian, Naidu has been a Rajya Sabha member since 1998. His first three stints, till 2010, were from Karnataka but in 2016, he was elected to the upper house from Rajasthan.
Naidu was the party spokesperson from 1996 to 2000 which is when his skills as an orator, though of a slightly different nature, came into prominence. Naidu is famous for peppering his remarks with similes and alliterations. He had stated that he had no desire to be either the rashtrapati (president) or uprashtrapati (vice-president) and was happy being Usha’s pati. His wife’s name is Usha.
Naidu was minister of rural development from 2000 to 2002 in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, and currently serves as both the minister of housing and urban poverty alleviation, and information and broadcasting.
Naidu will be pitted against the opposition’s nominee, former West Bengal governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi. Only four vice presidents in India have been chosen uncontested till date. The election is to be held on 5 August.
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