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Wise Presidents

The contest for the post of Vice President has reduced to Gopalkrishna Gandhi (GKG) and Union Minister M Venkaiah Naidu. The former has been proposed jointly by several political parties opposed to the NDA. 

GKG,  a grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and C Rajagopalachari, belonged to the Tamil Nadu cadre of IAS and functioned as the private secretary to President R Venkataraman, High Commissioner for India at South Africa and retired as the Governor of West Bengal.  Settling down in Chennai he has been a regular fixture  in literary and cultural discussion programmes. He also fits in well with the nationalist newspaper, The Hindu’s not-so-friendly stances on Narendra Modi. GKG is part of the secular ‘brigade’ and frequently waxes eloquence  against  the several policies and preferences of the Modi government,

So, GKG  syncs well with the requirements of the anti-BJP parties which originally planned to field him as their nominee for the presidential election. When the BJP selected Ram Nath Kovind, a dalit, these parties wanted to match the contest with another dalit representative and fielded Meira Kumar, Jagjivan Ram’s daughter and a Speaker of the Lok Sabha during the UPA regime.

GKG  understandably  has  to be on the right side of the leaders in opposition. He must have remembered the Chanakya, his illustrious grandfather Rajaji,  in uniting parties opposed to the Congress that included the DMK and the Communists and defeated the Congress in 1967. The Congress never regained power  in Tamil Nadu in the next 50 years. You can understand  GKG singing the paeans of  DMK supremo M Karunanidhi on the latter’s 94th birthday in  his article in The Hindu.

Few can question the multifaceted traits of Karunanidhi, especially his rich contribution as a literateur, playwright, fiery orator, organiser et al. But the incalculable damage he had caused by institutionalising corruption,  bloating the bureaucracy, neglecting growth,  lacking long term vision for economic development,  zealously enriching  his family’s fortunes, years of denigrating Rajaji and creating a divisive Tamil society... have all been sidelined in GKG’s article. Of course, the size of corruption seems to have been dwarfed by that of Jalyalalithaa. 

The BJP has chosen to field the seasoned politician M Venkaiah Naidu.  From the student days he has been active in politics and  was elected as the Member of the Rajya Sabha for four terms. Naidu has been among the prominent  BJP politicians who have held the posts of General Secretary and President of  BJP.  Naidu, as the Parliamentary Affairs Minister earlier had built good rapport with leaders of other political parties.

In the absence of tall leaders of BJP in the southern region, the party has relied much on Naidu. Remember, the close rapport he built with J Jayalalithaa even while she kept a long  distance from Central ministers? Minister  of  Power and Coal Piyush Goyal expressed concern  over the inaccessibility of chief minister Jayalalithaa and her opposition to  even beneficial schemes like UDAY. But Venkaih Naidu differed and claimed easy access. He endeared himself  with the Tamil Nadu government by making frequent visits to Chennai  during the hospitalisation of Jayalalithaa and with his long presence at the Rajaji Hall when the mortal remains of Jayalalithaa were kept for public view.  He further strengthened this relationship with chief minister 

E K Palaniswami and conducted a joint press conference from the Secretariat for the first time in decades. Naidu has also been maintaining such close relations with the other illustrious Naidu: AP chief Minister Chandrababu. Together the Naidus have been working for the development of AP.  Venkaiah’s  long experience as member of Rajya Sabha would stand him in good stead as the chairman of Rajya Sabha in which the BJP is in a minority. 

Electoral arithmetic points to Naidu winning  easily over GKG.With Naidu‘s resignation the entire south lacks representation of a strong, eloquent and popular leader.  Apart from inducting the senior BJP leader of Tamil Nadu,  L Ganesan, now a member of the Rajya Sabha, into the cabinet,  Modi should even look for such talent outside the party.

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