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Venkaiah Naidu: The rise and rise of the quintessential party man

M. Venkaiah Naidu has taken the long route up the career ladder in the party; his elevation is a nod to his steadfastness

July 17, 2017 09:13 pm | Updated December 03, 2021 12:41 pm IST

Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu.

Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu.

As BJP president Amit Shah announced the name of M. Venkaiah Naidu as the party and the NDA’s choice as vice president of India, he went into details of the various positions that Mr. Naidu has held within the party organisation and the government, a roll call of the quintessential party man.

 

Mr. Naidu did indeed take the long route up the career ladder in the party, from joining the RSS shakha in his village just to play a rousing game of kabaddi as a 14-year-old in 1963 and deciding to support the Jan Sangh after hearing Atal Bihari Vajpayee speak at a public meeting in 1967, to joining the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad and the JP movement.

As a student leader in Nellore, Mr. Naidu was instrumental in inviting Jayprakash Narayan to the area for a public meeting, just before the Emergency.

That got him seven months in prison during the Emergency and the Janata Party ticket from the Udaygiri constituency in 1978 as JP had urged the party to give at least one ticket to youth leaders in every State. Mr. Naidu won that and the 1983 elections (this time as a BJP candidate), in the teeth of an Indira Gandhi and N.T. Rama Rao wave, respectively. Known as a fiery orator in Telugu, Mr. Naidu started a steady climb in the party hierarchy, becoming spokesperson, general secretary and president of the Andhra Pradesh unit in quick succession.

Confessed foodie

The only time he confesses that he had any misgivings about his choice of party was when a senior Congress politician told him that the Jan Sangh was a party of vegetarians. Mr. Naidu, famous for his hospitality and fondness for non-vegetarian food, went to senior Sangh leader Somayaji, who assured him that there was no such dietary restrictions in the Sangh. “You eat, and you can invite us to eat as well,” he reportedly told Mr. Naidu, a story he shares with much relish.

Mr. Naidu’s national career in the BJP started when L.K. Advani picked him to be party general secretary in 1993. From that to becoming party president from 2002 to 2004 was a short jump away.

Persuasive speaker

Known for peppering his speeches and statements with catchy alliterations and rhymes, he told this writer that it was an affectation that he had cultivated after having heard the speeches of veteran politician Jagannath Rao Joshi.

As Minister for Urban Development, Mr. Naidu has been instrumental in putting in place legislation for a real estate regulator. It was, however, his tenure as Parliamentary Affairs Minister that seems to have clinched matters for him, as the Vice-President’s role includes that of being the presiding officer of the Rajya Sabha, a House where the NDA is not in a majority, and would need all the goodwill it can get to get important legislation passed. Mr. Naidu’s four terms in the Rajya Sabha are expected to help him handle the precarious numbers situation.

At 68, Mr. Naidu is the senior-most leader in the party after the trio of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, former Home Minister L.K. Advani and former Human Resources Development Minister Murli Manohar Joshi. At the parliamentary party meeting where his name was endorsed as candidate, Mr. Naidu is learnt to have become emotional, pointing out his long party stint.

In the year that the BJP has the best chance of getting its own men into the top two Constitutional offices in the country, Mr. Naidu’s elevation is a nod to his steadfastness in hewing to the party line.

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