Federal Information and Broadcasting Minister and senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader M Venkaiah Naidu was on Monday chosen as the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) candidate for the August 5 vice-presidential election as lawmakers across the country voted to elect the country’s 14th president.
The ruling NDA candidate Ram Nath Kovind has an overwhelming edge over opposition-backed Meira Kumar in the contest.
The unified opposition has already fielded former bureaucrat Gopal Krishna Gandhi as a candidate in the vice-presidential election.
BJP president Amit Shah announced his candidature after a 90-minute meeting of the BJP’s central parliamentary board chaired by Shah and attended by top leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It was said to have been a smooth affair with Venkaiah having emerged the front-runner much through the day.
“Venkaiah is a senior political leader across party lines and is a senior leader of the BJP which he had been associated from his youth. He is the unanimous choice of the BJP and all the NDA constituents who have welcomed his candidature,” Shah said after the meeting.
Indications that Venkaiah, 68, was an automatic choice came out after his meeting with the prime minister in the morning and informal consultations continued among leaders during the day. Venkaiah, who has been maintaining that he is keen on continuing in active politics, gave hints that he may have changed his mind when he told reporters that any decision by the BJP will be followed by partymen.
With the presidential candidate Kovind hailing from Uttar Pradesh, the party is believed to have looked for a vice-president candidate from the south, and Venkaiah fitted the bill.
Meanwhile, the presidential election saw ‘98-99 per cent’ voting with Lok Sabha secretary-general and returning officer for the presidential election Anoop Mishra on Monday terming it “probably the highest turnout ever (in presidential poll)”.
Mishra informed that a total of 717 MPs and five MLAs were supposed to vote in Parliament House. Of these, 714 MPs and four MLAs voted.
Mishra said the total strength of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha is 776 and 771 MPs were eligible to cast their votes.
He said that 10 states – Arunachal Pradesh, Asom, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Nagaland, Uttarakhand, and Union Territory of Puducherry – recorded 100 per cent voting, and added that the rest of the states also recorded “almost 100 per cent” voting.
“All other states voted almost close to 100 per cent. In that sense it is a complete vote,” he said, adding that the voting was extremely peaceful.
Answering a query, he said Prime Minister was the first to cast his vote.
He said there were six voting enclosures and an official was assigned at each of these to give and take back the special pen to mark voting preference.
Counting of votes will take place on July 20. Nine ballot boxes will reach Delhi on Monday while the rest will reach here on Tuesday as per schedule. Mishra said votes cast in Delhi will be counted first followed by those in the states.
Indo-Asian News Service