NEW DELHI, Aug 05 (IANS): Veteran BJP leader M. Venkaiah Naidu, who had humble origins in an agriculturist family in Andhra Pradesh, was on Saturday elected as the Vice of President of India, completing the quartet of top four constitutional posts namely President, Vice President, Prime Minister and Lok Sabha Speaker going to persons from BJP with RSS background for the first time in 70 years.
Muppavarapu Venkaiah Naidu, 68, who was a minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee and later the Narendra Modi governments, defeated the combined opposition candidate Gopalkrishna Gandhi by a huge margin of 272 votes in a straight contest, whose verdict was already predictable.
At the end of two-hour counting process in the 15th vice-presidential election, Returning Officer Shamsher K. Sherif announced the election of Naidu, who secured 516 votes against 244 by Gandhi. In all, 771 votes were cast out of a total of 785 MPs eligible to vote. Eleven votes were declared invalid. Of this, seven were voters backing Gandhi.
A seasoned politician, Naidu, who had his political teeth cut in the RSS and later Bharatiya Jana Sangh, had been President of the BJP. Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and C. Rajagopalachari, is a bureaucrat-turned-diplomat, who was Governor of West Bengal. He was fielded by the Congress-led Opposition with backing from parties, including Trinamool Congress, Left, BJD and the Janata Dal-U.
Soon after his election, Naidu said he as Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, would steer the functioning of the House “without fear or favour” and uphold its dignity and decorum with the cooperation of all members by acting in accordance with the rules and conventions of the House.
In his reaction, Gandhi congratulated Naidu on his victory and wished him all the best in his new office. He hoped Naidu would be Vice President of all sections of India.
Gandhi thanked all the parties that supported him and said that the voting figures showed that the numbers that voted for him were “beyond expectations”.
He said the fight in the election was for free thought, free speech, pluralism and secularism.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi greeted Naidu on his victory and expressed confidence that he will serve the nation “as a diligent and dedicated Vice President, committed to the goal of nation building”.
“My mind is filled with memories of working with Venkaiah Naidu in the party and the government. Will cherish this aspect of our association. My best wishes for a fruitful and motivating tenure,” Modi tweeted.
Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad also congratulated Naidu and said he was sure that he would give time and opportunities to all leaders and parties to express their views in the way the outgoing Chairman Hamid Ansari conducted the House.
Azad and CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury said the fight was between two political trends. One wanted to strengthen the constitutional order. Both of them thanked Gandhi for agreeing to be the opposition candidate and for putting up a dignified fight.
Azad and Yechury claimed that the opposition has got 19 votes more than what it got in the recent Presidential election. They said they would go into issues like how many of their voters were absent or invalid and the reasons for that and take actions internally.
Born in 1949 in Chavatapalem in Nellore district, Naidu acquired law degree from Andhra University College of Law Visakhapatnam. He was a “swayamsevak” in the RSS and joined ABVP during his college days. He came to the spotlight for his role in “Jai Andhra” movement of 1972 and became the convenor of the anti-corruption Jayaprakash Chhatra Samiti in 1974. He held street protests against the Emergency.
He served three terms in the Rajya Sabha from Karnataka from 1998 and was elected for his fourth term from Rajasthan last year. He was a member of the Andhra Pradesh assembly twice in the 1980s.
Naidu was Rural Development Minister in the Vajpayee government between 2000-02. In Modi’s government, first he was Parliamentary Affairs Minister as well as the Housing and Urban Development. From Parliamentary Affairs, he was shifted to Information and Broadcasting Minister which portfolio he held till he was nominated as the Vice Presidential candidate.
Soon after his election, a string of leaders of the BJP and allied parties and ministers went to Naidu’s residence and greeted him on his victory.