Hailed as a “future President” by his supporters and admirers back home in Andhra Pradesh, Bharatiya Janata Party’s Vice-Presidential candidate Muppavarapu Venkaiah Naidu will not only be an able deputy to President Ram Nath Kovind, but also be a very active Constitutional functionary as the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha.
Given the arithmetic in both Houses of Parliament, Venkaiah Naidu is all set to be elected as the next Vice President of India on 5 August. From Andhra Pradesh, he will bag all the 25 Lok Sabha MP-votes (18 from TDP and BJP and seven from YSR Congress) and seven out of 11 Rajya Sabha MP-votes.
In Telangana, Naidu will get 15 out of the total 17 Lok Sabha MP-votes and five out of 11 Rajya Sabha MP-votes. His opponent, Gopal Krishna Gandhi will get just one Lok Sabha and two Rajya Sabha MP-votes from Telangana and only four Rajya Sabha MP-votes from Andhra Pradesh, thus rendering the contest one-sided, in favour of Naidu.
Naidu, whose four-decade old political career was marked by a fight against the Emergency in 1975 and was shaped by the RSS’ students’ wing, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad and BJP, may not be available to play a political role, but sources close to him told The Sunday Guardian that he would continue to be “very active as a public figure” through his post of Chairman of the Rajya Sabha.
Telugu Desam Party (TDP) MPs M. Murali Mohan and N. Siva Prasad hoped that Venkaiah Naidu would become the President one day. The MPs who called on Naidu after he filed his nomination for the VP election in New Delhi are, however, hopeful that he would play an active public role.
“He may have left state politics, but he assured us (TDP MPs) that he would be available there for us to safeguard our interests as the Chairman of the Council of States, that is the Rajya Sabha,” said a TDP Rajya Sabha member, preferring anonymity. As Rajya Sabha Chairman, he can exert pressure on the government to protect the interests of the states, the MP added.
The MPs who called on Venkaiah Naidu, shared their views with this newspaper that “he would be a dynamic Vice President” both as a Deputy to the President and as the Chairman of the Upper House. As Parliamentary Affairs Minister and a four-time RS MP, Venkaiah Naidu enjoys a greater rapport with leaders of all major political parties in the country, they said.
In fact, Venkaiah Naidu was a prime force behind the pre-poll alliance between TDP and BJP in both AP and Telangana in 2014. He ironed out all the differences that surfaced during seat adjustments and ensured that the alliance won comfortably. He played a role in wooing film star and Jana Sena chief Pawan Kalyan to campaign for the BJP in the elections.
Venkaiah Naidu was instrumental in drawing the ruling TRS in Telangana to the BJP camp, though they fought a bitter contest. As the Union Urban Development Minister, Venkaiah Naidu also reached out to Telangana Rashtra Samithi president and Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao and conveyed the message that the governments at the Centre and state could work on friendly terms for the benefit of the people. Now, the TRS, too, is supporting Venkaiah Naidu.
Naidu’s nomination to the Vice President’s post has evoked mixed reactions from different political parties in the two Telugu states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. He has strong connections with many leaders from the two states over the past few decades. Though he was a committed BJP leader all through the time, Naidu shared an excellent rapport with leaders of even the Left parties here.
Naidu’s elevation to the second highest Constitutional post has brought both joy and disappointment to the camp of ally TDP in Andhra Pradesh. Ever since his name was announced as VP candidate, TDP MPs in Delhi and ministers in Amaravati, along with Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, started taking stock of the situation and the possible impact on them.
For the past three years, Venkaiah Naidu has been the sole source of communication between the ruling BJP-led NDA government at the Centre and the TDP government in AP. Whenever Chandrababu Naidu wanted any help, right from an appointment with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other Union ministers to fixing meetings with officials at the Centre, Venkaiah Naidu took up the responsibility and delivered most of the time.
Venkaiah Naidu also played a crucial role in getting a special economic package worth around Rs 2.25 lakh crore for AP, in lieu of the special category status, which was “promised” at the time of the division of the combined state three years ago. Venkaiah Naidu used to arrange meetings of Central ministers at his residence in New Delhi to chalk out this package.
Venkaiah Naidu was also constantly reviewing the promises in the pipeline for AP as part of the package. His sudden exit from the Union Cabinet has disappointed the TDP ministers in the state, which will hold Assembly elections in two years’ time. CM Chandrababu Naidu admitted that “Venkaiah Naidu’s exit from the Union Cabinet is a loss to AP, but we celebrate his election as Vice-President.”
Union Minister of State for Science and Technology Sujana Chowdary, too, said, “Venkaiah Naidu’s exit from the Union Cabinet is a big loss for AP, which is in the middle of securing many funds from the Centre. But we have to celebrate his election as Vice-President as it is an honour to Telugu people. We are sure he will become the President of India in future.”
Even the people of Chavatapalem, Venkaiah Naidu’s home village in Nellore district in AP were optimistic that he would rise to the highest constitutional post of President of India. “We expected our sir (Venkaiah) to become the President this time, but Vice-President is the next best. We are confident that he would go higher,” Kolliparru Ranga told the media from Chavatapalem.