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Vice-Presidential poll 2017: A look at the history, political backing behind Naidu-Gandhi contest

The vice-presidential election will take place on Saturday and NDA candidate M Venkaiah Naidu is likely to defeat Opposition's candidate Gopalkrishna Gandhi because most of the states have NDA governments apart from its majority in Lok Sabha.

Despite the expected outcome though, there is still a lot of politics involved in the vice-presidential polls. On one hand, is BJP leader and a key member of the cabinet Venkaiah Naidu and on the other hand, is the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, Gopalkrishna.

Here are the backgrounds of both the candidates and the political backing behind each of them:

M Venkaiah Naidu

The senior BJP leader, born on 1 July 1949, actually joined Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) by accident when he chanced upon the shakha when he was playing during his childhood.

File image of Venkaiah Naidu. PTI

File image of Venkaiah Naidu. PTI

His political career started as a student leader in 1971 when he became the president of the student union in VR College.

Naidu was the president of the youth wing of the Janata Party in Andhra Pradesh from 1977 to 1980.

He was eventually jailed because of being involved in the JP movement during the Emergency of 1975-77.

After the Emergency, Naidu was elected to the Andhra Pradesh Assembly in 1978. After the BJP was formed in 1980, he became vice-president of its youth wing.

Naidu is a four-time Rajya Sabha member, being elected to the Upper House in 1998, 2004, 2010 and 2016.

It is not surprising that BJP chose Naidu as its vice-presidential candidate because the saffron party will achieve a regional balance with Naidu as President Ram Nath Kovind hails from Uttar Pradesh, this article in The Times of India had pointed out.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself praised Naidu on Twitter after his appointment.

PTI also reported that Naidu so far enjoys committed support of 485 of the 788 members of the electoral college that will choose the next vice-president on Saturday. Three non-NDA parties — the AIADMK, TRS and YSR Congress-have also announced their support to Naidu.

"Venkaiah Naidu was close to former (Tamil Nadu) chief minister J Jayalalithaa. He loves Tamil Nadu and its people and he is a south Indian. We are happy to offer our support to him ," Tamil Nadu chief minister had said.

The ruling TRS in Telangana made it clear that the party was supporting Naidu because "CM (TRS president and Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao) told us to support. He asked us to go and sign the papers."

YSR Congress chief YS Jaganmohan Reddy, after extending support to Naidu, had said, "Being a Telugu, we will extend our support to Venkaiah Naidu. Our party's stand has been that election to constitutional posts like the president, vice president and Lok Sabha speaker should be unopposed. So, we will fully support him."

Gopalkrishna Gandhi

Perhaps the most significant aspect about the vice-presidential nomination of Gandhi was that his name was first suggested by Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, who is now in alliance with the BJP in the state.

Despite leaving the Mahagathbandhan, JD(U) continues to support Gandhi.

File image of Gopalkrishna Gandhi. AFP

File image of Gopalkrishna Gandhi. AFP

There is much more to Gandhi than just being the grandson of the Mahatma though. He is an acclaimed civil servant, diplomat and former governor, who is a strong votary of secular ethos, and has clear and independent views, according to IANS. He is also an author and a columnist.

Gandhi's term as West Bengal Governor between 2004-09 coincided with the violent land struggles in Singur and Nandigram that contributed to the Left losing its dominance in the state and Trinamool Congress replacing it in power in the state.

As governor, Gandhi spoke his mind on the farmers' agitation that earned the ire of the then Left government. Now both Left parties and Trinamool Congress are supporting his candidature, reflecting his ability to effectively deal with contentious issues and draw cross-party support.

Gopalkrishna Gandhi was born on 22 April, 1945, to Mahatma Gandhi's son Devdas, and Lakshmi, daughter of C. Rajagopalachari, the last Governor-General of India. He graduated with a Master's degree in Literature from St. Stephen's College in Delhi.

Gandhi joined the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) in 1968 as a Tamil Nadu cadre officer and is credited with preparing the first district gazetteer for Pudukkottai.

He worked among the tea plantation labourers of Indian origin in Sri Lanka as first secretary in Indian High Commission's Kandy office.

He was secretary to the Vice President of India (1985-87) and joint secretary to the President of India (1987-1992).

In 1992, he took voluntary retirement from the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and was appointed the Director of the Nehru Centre at the High Commission of India, London.

In 1996, he was appointed High Commissioner for India in South Africa and Lesotho.

Gandhi was also secretary to then president KR Narayanan.

He was appointed the High Commissioner for India in Sri Lanka in 2000. In 2002, he was made Ambassador of India to Norway and Iceland.

Gandhi at present is working as a professor of Political Science, History and Indian Civilizations at the Ashoka University, Sonepat (Haryana).

His name as the vice-presidential candidate has been endorsed by 18 parties. "The 18 opposition parties have unanimously agreed to field Gopalkrishna as their joint candidate for the vice presidential election. We spoke to him. He has agreed to be the joint opposition candidate," Congress chief Sonia Gandhi had said.

However, PTI had reported that a section of the CPM in West Bengal is not happy with the central leadership for backing Gandhi.

With inputs from agencies

Updated Date: Aug 04, 2017 17:17 PM

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