As the voting for the election for the post of President of India came to an end, the BJP's parliamentary committee got down to business of choosing the candidate for Vice-President. And staying true to form the party led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah, while keeping everyone guessing till the end, with the choice of Venkaiah Naidu, have almost secured a comfortable win in the election to be held on August 5.
By deciding to back former party president and current union cabinet minister for Information and Broadcasting, and one of the most senior leaders of the BJP, the party has given a fitting reply to the gauntlet thrown at them by a joint opposition.
And they have done so in some style by selecting Naidu against the choice of a united opposition of 18 parties led by the Congress, who in trying not to repeat the mistake made in picking a candidate for President, declared Mahatma Gandhi's grandson, Gopalkrishna Gandhi, as its nominee for Vice-President well in advance to a decision taken by the ruling dispensation.
In Naidu, unlike the BJP's choice for Ram Nath Kovind, the Modi-Shah duo, have selected anything but a low-key candidate, as many had expected them to do. And this was not just out of some whim, rather it is a cold and calculated move to ensure not only that the next Vice-President of India is of their choice but also that the choice ticks all the other boxes they require.
Modi-Shah did not fall for the opposition's 'trap'
The Modi-Shah duo did not fall for the trap set for them by the opposition, which came in the form of selecting someone like Gopalkrishna Gandhi, who is considered an apolitical figure, with impressive credentials such as being a former governor, a member of the coveted Indian Administrative Services as well as the Indian high commissioner to South Africa and Sri Lanka.
Those backing Gandhi must have hoped that the nature of their candidate might make the BJP, in an attempt to match its opponents choice, select a candidate who would also be considered from outside of politics and hence lead to a fight between equals and would make the possibility of cross voting an option. Something that would be required for the Congress and its allies to get Gandhi elected.
But the Modi and Shah have been able to control such an urge and hence side stepped the trap laid out for them.
Instead in Naidu they have gone for someone who is a political heavyweight, against who chances of cross voting are a minimum, and gives them the best chance of winning an election in which they already have the numbers on their side. Like in the case of President, with the backing of parties like AIADMK, Telengana Rashtra Samiti and YSR Congress, Naidu is likely to win the votes of 557 MPs in the electoral college of 787 MPs.
Naidu will be able to control Rajya Sabha
The importance of who becomes the next Vice-President of the country lies in the fact that the incumbent is also the ex-officio Chairman of Rajya Sabha, who presides over the sessions of the house.
Though by convention the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha are to perform their duties in a neutral manner, where the party they belong to should not influence their performance, the reality is that though usually the holders of such posts largely remain true to such a requirement of them, when push comes to shove they hold great power in deciding the workings of the house they preside over and in how they wish to control it.
By choosing Naidu, a multiple term member of Rajya Sabha, the BJP has found an individual who would help it ease its way through a house where the opposition still has considerable strength and presence, at least till the representatives from the states that the party has won since coming to power in 2014 become members of the house and give it control over it.
This might be even more important in case the BJP and it allies in the NDA suffer a fall in the numbers of seat in the Lok Sabha in the general assembly elections to be held in 2019. As in such a scenario the Rajya Sabha will assume even more strategic importance.
Ticks other boxes as well
Along with these, picking Naidu makes sure that he ticks other smaller boxes that few other options would have been able to.
One of these include, while ensuring that no cross voting takes place against the NDA's candidate, it also brings about a very high probability of parties and legislators breaking ranks within the united opposition to vote for Naidu, as he enjoys considerable goodwill on both sides of the political divide. Similar cross voting has also been reported in the case of the President's election held yesterday.
Another advantage of picking him comes from the fact that he is seen as both a choice of Modi and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh,and no apparent power tussle between the two will come to the fore following naming his candidature. As though he is now one of the most senior BJP leaders, he also has a Sangh background.
In addition, hailing from Andhra Pradesh and having represented Karnataka in the Rajya Sabha, he also represents a pick from the south of India which was seen as necessity in the candidate to be named given that Kovind comes from the state of Uttar Pradesh and a need for a balancing act was felt within the party. Especially with important elections coming up and, both the BJP and RSS, trying to increase their base in the southern part of the country.
Modi-Shah prove their political mettle again
The opposition in order to display an action that is not based on the BJP taking the first step, declared Gandhi's candidature before the Modi and Shah could decide on whom they wanted. And in this the BJP leaders were most probably for the first time put into the situation where they had to react to the opposition rather the other way around.
And the duo have not disappointed in how they have handled this challenge. In taking their time in choosing their candidate this time, as they had to show a reaction rather than take the first step, they have proven that while their government might have its critics, when it comes to the politics in the country at present there exist no equal to them in the effectiveness of the kind practiced by them.
In doing so they have also made sure it is clear that they realize, though the discussion is about an election for a particular post, it has a deeper meaning given the exercise can easily be seen as an attempt by a disjointed opposition to form a strategy to take on the all powerful pair in the upcoming and the 2019 elections. An attempt to which, they have given a strong blow through the choice of Naidu.