The BJP on Saturday named West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, a Jat leader from Rajasthan with socialist background, as the ruling National Democratic Alliance’s vice presidential candidate.
Making the announcement, BJP president J P Nadda lauded Dhankhar as a “kisan-putra” (son of farmer) who, he said, established himself as a “people’s governor”.
Dhankhar’s election as vice president, who is also the ex-officio chairperson of Rajya Sabha, is almost a certainty as the BJP has a majority in the electoral college comprising members of
Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. Out of Parliament’s current strength of 780, the BJP alone has 394 MPs, more than the majority mark of 390.
The BJP parliamentary board in a meeting, attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other senior leaders, picked the 71-year-old Dhankhar after deliberating over several names from different backgrounds, Nadda said.
After the announcement, Modi tweeted, “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.”
Soon after his name was announced, Dhankhar tweeted, “Thank you Narendra Modi ji for nominating me as the Vice President candidate for the vice presidential election.”
Since taking over as the West Bengal Governor in July 2019, Dhankhar has had several run-ins with the Mamata Banerjee government.
While his proactive conduct has drawn criticism from the state’s ruling Trinamool Congress, the BJP has backed him, noting that he had stuck to constitutional provisions to ask questions of the Banerjee government. The TMC had also demanded his removal as governor.
Being a Jat, a backward community in Rajasthan, Dhankhar’s elevation as vice president is likely to send helpful political message for the BJP as not many Jats besides former prime minister Charan Singh and former deputy prime minister Devi Lal have occupied high positions at the national level.
The BJP has had uneasy relations with Jats, a powerful agrarian community in Haryana, Rajasthan and western Uttar Pradesh, though the party has received their support in good numbers in the recent two Lok Sabha polls compared to assembly elections in these states. The community was also at the forefront of protests against the farm laws, now repealed, enacted by the Modi government.
He is seen as an affable and accessible person with keen grasp of law and the Constitution.
BJP leaders noted that Dhankhar 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 Dhankhar established himself as a respected lawyer in the Rajasthan High Court and later in the Supreme Court before making a mark in politics.
He was elected to Lok Sabha from Jhunjhunu in Rajasthan in 1989 and had served briefly as a Union minister in the government led by Chandrashekhar. He was also a MLA of the state assembly. He joined the BJP later.
The last date for filing of nomination papers for the poll is July 19 and the election is scheduled for August 6. Dhankar has been a keen cricketer enthusiast and is follower of spirituality and meditation, those familiar with him said. He was also involved with the grant of OBC status for Jats in Rajasthan.
Congratulating him, Nadda expressed his happiness at Dhankhar’s candidacy as the NDA’s vice presidential candidate.
Incidentally, presiding officers of the both the Houses, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, will be from Rajasthan after Dhankhar is elected as vice president.
Om Biral, who is the Lok Sabha MP from Kota. Is the Speaker of the Lower House.
Home Minister Amit Shah said that as an MLA, MP and governor, Dhankhar has contributed a lot to the nation’s development. He remained connected to people in every capacity and prioritised the social interests as a lawyer too, Shah said.
“I am confident that his election as vice president and Rajya Sabha chairperson will further add to the prestige of the Upper House. His vast administrative experience in Parliament’s constitutional mechanism will benefit the country a lot,” the senior BJP leader tweeted.