“PRIME MINISTER Narendra Modi’s voice will now become the voice of the Constitution,” said a BJP leader on Monday, as news that Union minister Muppavarapu Venkaiah Naidu would be the NDA’s vice-presidential candidate was reported on television channels. Over the last three years, Naidu has been Modi’s voice. He was the one who described Modi as “God’s gift to India”, “messiah of the poor”, and coined the following terms for his name — “Modifier of Developing India” and “Making of Developed India”. At the BJP parliamentary party meeting on Monday, Modi is learnt to have said that he was not happy to let Naidu go. “He said it will be a huge loss. But it was (BJP chief) Amit Shah, who was particular that we need an experienced hand in the Rajya Sabha who can make the House work better in the interest of the country,” said a source.
“I feel like I am leaving my mother. BJP has always been a mother to me,” Naidu is learnt to have said at the meeting. Naidu lost his mother when he was 18 months old — she was killed by a bull. “Since then, I always considered the party as my mother,” Naidu told a small group of reporters on Monday. While he was part of veteran leader L K Advani’s close circle, Naidu, over the last three years, came to be considered as a confidant and articulate supporter of Modi. When Shah and Modi informed him that he would be the party’s candidate for the Vice President’s post, Naidu is learnt to have told them that he would prefer to remain the PM’s voice.
Those in the BJP who have witnessed Naidu’s rise — from a farmer’s son to a Union Cabinet minister — credit his hard work, endurance and ability to seize the opportunities that the party offered him over a long public life spanning over 45 years. In Parliament and outside, Naidu, who celebrated his 68th birthday on July 1, is well-known for his coinage of slogans and rhyming remarks. He said he learnt the art of alliteration from Jagannath Rao Joshi, senior RSS pracharak and a front-ranking leader of the Jana Sangh and BJP.
Naidu’s personal relationships with politicians across party lines, and the ease with which he interacted with them as Parliamentary Affairs Minister, helped the BJP in the initial days of the government. “Naidu ensured the first highest political outreach by meeting Congress chief Sonia Gandhi when there was a standoff between the government and the Opposition in both Houses of Parliament, in a unique display of flexibility and pragmatism. He was also instrumental in setting up several meetings between the leading lights of the government, like the Finance Minister, Home Minister and External Affairs Minister, and leaders of opposition parties whenever the situation warranted,” said an official who worked with Naidu.
Naidu, who is currently a Rajya Sabha member, has been the Information and Broadcasting Minister since November 2016 and Urban Development Minister since May 2014. Naidu often says he is a proud swayamsevak. Decades ago, when he decided to join Jana Sangh, a senior politician and a well-wisher of his family reportedly tried to discourage him. He came up with many reasons, one of which was that “they are strict vegetarians”. A worried Naidu had to be assured by the prant pracharak that there were no dietary restrictions for members. Even after becoming Union minister, Naidu was known to host a lavish annual lunch, which included non-vegetarian fare.
Although BJP could not make deep inroads into Andhra Pradesh, which has witnessed many political re-alignments, Naidu never considered an alternative. “My policy has been: remain in one party, upgrade your ideology,” said Naidu. He often advises Left leaders to “make timely changes and updates” in their ideology too. “Constant ideology and hard work have been my formula for success,” he said.