SENIOR BJP leader and former Union minister M Venkaiah Naidu was on Saturday elected the 15th Vice-President of India. His election comes a day after the BJP became the single-largest party in the Rajya Sabha, over which he will now preside as its ex-officio chairperson. “I am very humbled. I am also thankful to the Prime Minister and all party leaders for their support. I will seek to utilise the vice-presidential institution to strengthen the hands of the president and secondly uphold the dignity of the Upper House,” Naidu said after his emphatic victory.
Naidu, 68, will be administered the oath of office by President Ram Nath Kovind at a function at Rashtrapati Bhavan on August 11. Naidu replaces Hamid Ansari, who retires on August 10. Within seconds of the election results, Prime Minister Narendra Moditweeted, wishing Naidu a “fruitful and motivating tenure” and saying he was confident Naidu would “serve the nation as a diligent and dedicated vice-president, committed to the goal of nation building”. Later, both Modi and BJP president Amit Shah visited Naidu at his residence to congratulate him.
Naidu won 516 of the total 771 votes polled, in the 786-member electoral college. Gopalkrishna Gandhi, the Opposition’s candidate, got 244 votes, while 11 votes were declared invalid. Two BJP members, Vijay Goel and Sanwarlal Jat, could not cast their votes due to illness while party MP Chedi Paswan had been barred by the Supreme Court from voting.
Naidu got 67 per cent of the total votes in an election that witnessed over 98 per cent polling. A source pointed out that the highest votes ever cast in a vice-presidential election before this was 759, when BJP veteran Shekhawat was elected as the 11th vice-president in 2002. Naidu is the second BJP leader to be vice-president after Bhairon Singh Shekhawat.
Ever since the BJP-led NDA government came to power with a clear majority in 2014, the Rajya Sabha has been dominated by the Opposition. On Friday, the BJP became the single largest party in the Upper House, overtaking the Congress’s 57 by one seat. Though the NDA is not likely to get a majority on its own in the Upper House in the current term of the Modi government, it is expected that the government will have a smoother run.
A BJP leader said that since Naidu is from Andhra Pradesh, his term as Rajya Sabha chairman is expected to help the BJP get the backing of southern parties such as the AIADMK, TRS and YSR Congress during debates and passage of legislation in the Upper House.
It remains to be seen how Naidu, who is known for his puns and one-liners, settles into his new role as Rajya Sabha chairman. On the eve of the vice-presidential election, while launching ‘Tireless Voice Relentless Journey: Key Speeches of M Venkaiah Naidu’, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said in a lighter vein that in his new role as Rajya Sabha chairman, it would be a “challenge for him to speak less and let others speak”.
BJP leader and Rajya Sabha MP Prabhat said he was confident that Naidu would be a “fair chairperson”. “When he sits on the chair, he will be a just and fair person,” Jha told The Sunday Express. The Opposition is watching, said a senior Congress leader. “We will see how Naidu conducts the House. If he takes everyone along, we will cooperate, otherwise the government will face a tough Opposition,” he said.
On Saturday, before the results came out, Naidu assured that he would be bipartisan. “There is no my party or your party. Now I am a non-party man. A majority of political parties in India have supported my candidature,” he said.