NEW DELHI: The buzz that a Union minister from south would make the cut as BJP-NDA’s vice-presidential candidate began around last weekend only. Although it was known in the corridors of power that M Venkaiah Naidu’s name was in the reckoning, sources said he was sounded out around the same time.
However, most senior BJP leaders and ministers were tight-lipped about who is PM Modi’s choice for the post. BJP chief Amit Shah called Naidu on Sunday evening to confirm that he was going to be NDA’s vice-presidential candidate.
PM Modi and Naidu met for a short while in the Parliament House complex on Monday where the former congratulated him. Naidu, known for being vocal on various issues and for his interesting one-liners and alliterations, kept the matter to himself and his close circle.
But the cat was out of the bag on Monday morning and even Opposition leaders, like CPM’s Sitaram Yechury, congratulated him when the polling for presidential elections was on.
Known for his acronyms and quick wit in speeches, Naidu also has a book — Relentless Mind, Tireless Wings — on his speeches coming out later this year. Sources said Naidu was chosen as the PM wanted somebody well versed in parliamentary issues and with good equation with the Opposition.
As parliamentary affairs minister, Naidu had built a good rapport with all parties, including Congress. Naidu had even visited UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi’s residence to seek her support for the goods and services tax bill.
It was Naidu again who reached out to Gandhi on the presidential election and home minister Rajnath Singh let him do the talking with the Congress chief when they visited her to know the Opposition view on the candidate.
His cordial relations with the Opposition parties would help him run the Rajya Sabha smoothly. This is significant as NDA is not likely to get a majority in the Upper House till 2019.
Naidu would also be useful as an accessible adviser to Ram Nath Kovind as and when the new President would need help on any issue or precedents. After Kovind, a leader from north, was chosen as NDA presidential candidate, it was expected that BJP would go for a leader from south for the post of VP.