Union minister M Venkaiah Naidu has been named the vice-presidential candidate for the NDA. The decision was taken at a BJP meeting headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the party office on Monday.
Naidu’s name popped up with the speculation that the saffron party may pick a candidate from a region where it has been traditionally weak so as to send out a positive message. According to reports, party chief Amit Shah has identified states like Kerala, Telangana and West Bengal as the new growth region for the party.
The opposition, including all 18 parties, has decided to field former West Bengal governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi as its candidate for the post of vice-president.
Gopalkrishna Gandhi's name was endorsed by the JD(U) too, which is backing the NDA's candidate in the presidential poll.
Earlier, the BJP had announced Ram Nath Kovind, a Dalit, as the party’s surprise pick for the presidential candidate.
Naidu, 68, who accompanied Kovind on his campaign in various states, gets prominence among them as his name was also heard as a probable for the presidential candidate as well. In a twitter response to the rumours, he had then quipped, "I neither want to become Rashtrapati (president), nor do I want to become uprashtrapati (vice-president). I am happy being Usha's pati (wife Usha's husband)."
NDTV reports that Naidu had even gone to the extent of saying: "Never am I going to participate in the vice-presidential elections even if anyone compels me. Happiness for me is meeting people, being among them and serving them. I cannot let a ceremonial position keep me away from people."
A four-term Rajya Sabha member, Naidu is currently the minister of urban development, housing and urban poverty alleviation and information and broadcasting.
Born in the coastal district of Nellore in Andhra Pradesh, Naidu was a swayamsevak with the RSS and later joined student politics. Elected as president of student union at VR College in Nellore, he rose to become the president or Janata Party’s youth wing in 1977.
He was union minister for rural development in the Vajpayee government and has also served BJP’s national president from 2002 to 2004.