New Delhi: Information and broadcasting minister and senior BJP leader M. Venkaiah Naidu was on Monday chosen as the ruling NDA's candidate for the August 5 vice-presidential election, bringing to an end the suspense over the ruling combine's nominee for the second important constitutional post.
BJP president Amit Shah announced Naidu's 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 Naidu 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 with 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 told reporters after the meeting.
Indications that Naidu, 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. Naidu, 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 Ram Nath Kovind hailing from Uttar Pradesh, the party is believed to have looked for a vice-president candidate from the south, and Naidu fitted the bill.
If elected vice-president, Naidu will also be the ex officio chairman of the Rajya Sabha where the BJP still lacks a majority. With friends across parties and his amiable nature, Naidu is expected to steer the proceedings in the upper house through possible turbulence.
Shah described Naidu as a successful minister of the Modi government who was handling urban development and information and broadcasting ministries.
Shah said several names were considered, and ultimately Naidu was the unanimous choice.
Replying to questions, Shah said it would have been better if the opposition had not fielded its candidate. He said Naidu will file his nomination on Tuesday at 11 am.
Asked about Shiv Sena spokesman Sanjay Raut's demand for an apology from UPA's vice-president candidate Gopalkrishna Gandhi for his reported opposition to the hanging of Yakub Memon, convicted in the 1993 serial Mumbai blast case, Shah said he did not want to get into such issues.
On Naidu's background, the BJP president said there was no need for an introduction to the leader.
Shah said Naidu had a humble beginning and hailed from a farmer's family.
He had been associated with the BJP since his younger days and was an ABVP activist and students' union leader. He was associated with the Jayaprakash Narayan movement and was an MLA twice in Andhra Pradesh and rural development minister in the Vajpayee government. He was also twice the president of the BJP.