Less than a fortnight ago, on 25 July 2017, Ram Nath Kovind took charge as the 14th President of India. After the Head of the State, it is now time for the country to elect the person who will assume the second highest constitutional office of India. The incumbent Vice President of India, Mohammad Hamid Ansari, was first elected in August 2007 and again re-elected in 2012. He is set to retire from office this month. Voting for the VP’s office is on and pitted against each other are former Union Minister M Venkaiah Naidu, who is the candidate backed by the BJP-led NDA, and former West Bengal Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi (grandson of Mahatma Gandhi), the candidate put forth by the Congress led opposition.
Voting for the election of the next Vice President of India is underway. It is expected that polling will be complete by 5 pm and the results of the election will be announced by 7 pm today.
A Look At The Candidates
The position of the Vice President (VP) of India is a very important one. The VP is the ex-officio Chairman of the Council of States (Rajya Sabha). In this role, the VP presides over all Rajya Sabha debates and settles any stalemate or tie by casting a decisive vote. Apart from representing India in foreign countries, the VP is also next in line to temporarily discharge the duties of the President of India if the President is unable to perform his/her functions for some reason.
Keeping in mind the importance of the role they shall be required to perform, let us take a look at the two candidates –
- Born in 1949, Venhaiah Naidu studied international law and and politics from Vishakapatnam and joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh at a very early age. As a young man Naidu was an ardent protester against the Emergency. Joining the BJP, Naidu rose through party ranks and came to be known as a very skilled orator. He has held several key portfolios whenever the NDA has formed a government at the centre. Since 204 Naidu has been the Minister of Urban Development, Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation and Parliamentary Affairs. In 2016, he additionally took on the ministry of Information and Broadcasting but gave up all the ministries to contest in the VP election. In the current VP elections Naidu is backed by the NDA and also by AIADMK, Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), and the YSR Congress.
- Gopalkrishna Gandhi comes from an illustrious lineage. His paternal grandfather was Mahatma Gandhi and his maternal grandfather was C Rajagopalachari. Having secured a master’s degree in English literature, Gandhi went on to join the Indian Administrative Services and served as India’s High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Lesotho, and South Africa and as the Ambassador of India to Norway and Iceland. He also served as the Governor of West Bengal between 2004 and 2009. He is the Congress-led UPA candidate in the VP elections being held today.
The Vice Presidential Elections
Article 66(1) of the Constitution of India deals with the election of the Vice President of India. According to constitutional guidelines, the VP is elected by the majority of votes cast by an electoral college. This Electoral College consists of both elected and nominated members of both the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha. Presently the NDA has 337 MPs representing it in the Lok Sabha and 80 MPs in the Rajya Sabha. This gives it 417 of the total 790 votes of the Electoral College. Added to this are the votes of 67 AIADMK, TRS, and YSR MPs in both houses – a total of 484 votes – well past the simple majority required by Naidu to win the elections. While JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar has now pledged support for the NDA he and his party MPs may still vote for Gandhi in keeping with their prior commitments. Despite this, Venkaiah Naidu seems to be the stronger of the two candidates for the post of Vice President of India and his victory seems to be a forgone conclusion.
The results of the Vice Presidential Election 2017 will be declared at 7 pm this evening and the victor is likely to assume office on 11 August 2017.