THE BJP Saturday announced West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar as the NDA’s vice-presidential candidate, with party chief J P Nadda lauding him as a “kisan putra (farmer’s son)” who had established himself as “a people’s governor”.
With the NDA having a clear majority in the electoral college comprising MPs of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, Dhankhar is expected to win the August 6 election to vice-president. He will succeed M Venkaiah Naidu, whose term ends on August 10.
Since assuming charge as the Governor of West Bengal in July 2019, Dhankhar has been in constant conflict with the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress government over various issues. The TMC incidentally is the second largest Opposition party in the Rajya Sabha.
The Opposition is yet to declare its candidate for the post.
With Dhankhar also acting as the chairman of the Rajya Sabha by virtue of being the vice-president, both the Houses of Parliament will be presided over by leaders from Rajasthan.
Shri 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 & guide the proceedings of the House with the aim of furthering national progress. @jdhankhar1 pic.twitter.com/Ibfsp1fgDt
“After all considerations and consultations, we have decided to announce kisan putra Jagdeep Dhankhar as the BJP and NDA’s candidate for vice-president,” Nadda said at a press conference after a meeting of the BJP parliamentary board, the apex decision-making body of the party, that lasted nearly two hours.
Dhankhar, 71, a lawyer by training, belongs to Rajasthan’s Jhunjhunu. BJP leaders noted that he has been in public life for more than three decades, and his life story reflects the spirit of new India: “overcoming innumerable social and economic hurdles and achieving one’s goals”. Nadda said he was a first-generation lawyer “fully equipped in administrative capacity”. BJP sources also said Dhankhar enjoys warm ties with leaders across party lines, a crucial quality for the presiding officer for the Rajya Sabha.
Following the announcement of Dharkhar’s name, Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised him for his “illustrious legal, legislative and gubernatorial career”. “Kisan Putra Jagdeep Dhankhar Ji is known for his humility… He has always worked for the well-being of farmers, youth, women and the marginalised,” Modi said in a tweet.
He added that Dhankhar’s knowledge of the Constitution meant he was perfect for the post of vice-president. “He is also well-versed with legislative affairs. I am sure that he will be an outstanding Chair in the Rajya Sabha & guide the proceedings of the House with the aim of furthering national progress,” Modi said.
A senior minister said: “Dhankhar is a good lawyer, good administrator, has knowledge of parliamentary work and belongs to the Jat community.”
The party is also expecting electoral gains from Dhankhar’s roots, both the fact that he belongs to a caste group considered a forward community in a number of states and that he is from Rajasthan. The BJP leadership, sources said, wants to address disquiet among upper caste leaders regarding the party’s “over focus”on Dalits, OBCs and other backward communities.
The party’s candidate for presidential polls, Droupadi Murmu, is a tribal. The move coincides with a massive outreach to the community by the BJP.
A party leader said: “Now that there is a growing impression that the party is completely ignoring other communities, a Jat candidate would be advantageous to the party’s election strategies.”
In Rajasthan, the selection of Dhankhar might go a long way in helping the BJP wrest one of the few states left in Congress kitty. Rajasthan goes to polls next year, and the party is banking heavily on the Jat vote base in the state.
In the past too, the BJP has made serious attempts to woo the Jat community, who are also in significant numbers in Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh. Party leaders admit that the Jat community joining the farmer agitation was one of the reasons behind the Modi government’s rethink on the controversial farm Bills. Both Nadda and Modi on Friday emphasised Dhankhar’s farming roots in their statements.