BJP names Jagdeep Dhankhar as Vice President candidate
The Jat leader has had several run-ins with the Mamata Banerjee-led government in West Bengal, of which he is the current governor.
New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Saturday named West Bengal governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, a Jat leader who has had several run-ins with the Mamata Banerjee-led government in the state, as the National Democratic Alliance’s nominee for the vice presidential election, which will be held on August 6.
BJP president JP Nadda made the announcement after a meeting of the party’s highest decision-making body, the parliamentary board, which was chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The last date for filing the nomination for the election is July 19.
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“He is known as the people’s governor… the NDA decided that the ‘kisan-putra’ (son of a farmer) who is fully equipped in administrative capacity will be our nominee,” Nadda said.
Dhankhar’s election as the Vice President is almost certain as the BJP has a majority in the electoral college comprising members of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. Out of Parliament’s current strength of 780, the BJP alone has 394 MPs, more than the majority mark of 390.
The BJP president said 71-year-old Dhankhar was picked as the NDA’s candidate after deliberations on several names. “Jagdeep Dhankhar Ji has excellent knowledge of our Constitution. He is also well-versed with legislative affairs. I am sure that he will be an outstanding Chair in the Rajya Sabha and guide the proceedings of the House with the aim of furthering national progress,” the Prime Minister tweeted after Nadda’s briefing. Dhankhar met Modi earlier in the day.
Soon after the announcement, Dhankhar tweeted: “Thank you Narendra Modi ji for nominating me as the Vice President candidate for the vice presidential election.”
Nadda said Dhankhar, who hails from Rajasthan’s Jhunjhunu, is a first-generation professional and a lawyer who rose to great heights and began practising in the Supreme Court.
Dhankhar, who has had a turbulent working equation with chief minister Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal, was a member of the Lok Sabha from 1989 to 1991 as a representative of the Janata Dal. He served as a central minister, holding the portfolio of parliamentary affairs. In 1993, he was elected to the Rajasthan assembly from the Kishanganj constituency. He joined the BJP in 2003.
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Political experts said that with Dhankhar’s nomination, the BJP hopes to placate two important constituencies – the agrarian community in the northern parts of the country that was cut up with the government over now-repealed farm laws, and the Jat community that has political heft in Rajasthan, Haryana and parts of Uttar Pradesh. Even though the Jat community is not homogenous, in Rajasthan, they are counted as OBCs, while in Haryana and western UP, they are demanding reservation; they have largely supported the BJP since 2014.
“The party does not want to lose out on support from the community and it wants to send a message that the party is sensitive to their concerns. During the farm agitation, an attempt was made at building the perception that the Jats were against the BJP. The Uttar Pradesh elections proved that it was not true,” said a party leader, asking not to be named.
According to a second party functionary, the BJP, in selecting Dhankhar, wanted to send out a message of equal representation and political empowerment of all castes. “He rose to great heights overcoming innumerable social and economic deterrents. He was born in a family of farmers in a remote village and worked his way up,” the functionary said on condition of anonymity.
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While the BJP has picked Droupadi Murmu, who hails from the Santhal tribe, as its nominee for the presidential election as an illustration of its commitment to the empowerment of the marginalised communities, Dhankhar’s selection is being seen as a signal to the politically significant Jat community, which has the power to affect electoral outcomes in Rajasthan and Haryana. The party hopes to woo the community that erupted in anger against the BJP government in Haryana in 2016 over the issue of reservation in government jobs.
The party is also banking on his familiarity with constitutional matters and parliamentary affairs to help steer the Upper House in Parliament. “Since he has very good understanding of parliamentary affairs and constitutional matters and enjoys friendly ties with opposition parties, he was a natural choice to be the Vice President who is also the chairperson of the Rajya Sabha. The party wanted a person who was well versed in all constitutional matters that are a prerequisite for the position,” said a third functionary, who also asked not to be named.
In a series of tweets, Union home minister Amit Shah said Dhankhar’s extensive and long administrative experience in the constitutional process of the House will greatly benefit the country. “I am sure that with the election of Shri @jdhankhar1 as the vice president and the chairman of the Rajya Sabha, the dignity of the Upper House will increase further. At the same time, his extensive and long administrative experience in the constitutional process of the House will greatly benefit the country,” he said.
After being appointed as the governor of West Bengal in 2019, Dhankhar has had a tumultuous equation with CM Banerjee.
In February this year, after the chief minister blocked him on Twitter, Dhankhar wrote to her underlining that “dialogue, discussion and deliberation, particularly among the constitutional functionaries like the chief minister and governor are quintessential to democracy and inseparable part of constitutional governance.”
He urged the chief minister to visit the Raj Bhavan for an interaction as a lack of response to issues has the potential to lead to “constitutional stalemate”.
Earlier, the chief minister announced that she blocked the governor on Twitter and also spelt out the reasons why. She said policy decision is the government’s responsibility and not that of the governor.
Dhankhar also raised objections on the appointments of vice chancellors in 24 universities in the state and has been critical of the government’s role in curbing post-poll violence in the state.
Recently, he was again in the crosshairs of the Trinamool Congress after he tweeted that he asked the chief secretary to update him regarding an ongoing Central Bureau of Investigation probe in some cases in the state.
The tenure of the current Vice President, M Venkaiah Naidu, will end on August 10.
The polling and results are scheduled for August 6 and the new Vice President will be sworn in on August 11.
Nadda hosted the party’s lawmakers over dinner on Saturday. He told lawmakers to ensure that they vote as per the correct procedure so that not even a single vote is wasted. The party will carry out a practice session for all lawmakers in the Capital on Sunday.
The Vice President is the second highest constitutional office in the country and also serves as the chairperson of the Rajya Sabha. As per the rules, if a Vice President acts as or discharges the functions of the President, she or he does not perform the duties of the chairperson of the Rajya Sabha and is not entitled to any salary or allowance payable to the chairperson.
The Vice President is indirectly elected by an electoral college by proportional representation by means of a single transferable vote and the voting is held by a secret ballot. The electoral college consists of both elected and nominated members of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha.
Members are not bound by a party whip to vote for a particular candidate.