NDA candidate Jagdeep Dhankhar was elected India’s 14th vice-president on Saturday, beating opposition candidate Margaret Alva by a huge margin in an election marred by absenteeism and spoiled votes.
The former governor of West Bengal got 528 of 725 votes, with Alva, a former five-term congressman, union minister and governor, getting 182, a total lower than expected. On paper, the opposition had nearly 200 votes.
The vice-president’s electoral college is made up of members of both houses of parliament. Combined, the Houses have a sanctioned membership of 788 MPs, including eight vacancies in the Upper House. Among the 780 voters on Saturday, 725 votes were cast (92.94 percent turnout), including 15 invalid votes, said Lok Sabha secretary general Uptal Kumar Singh, the returning officer for the election.
Dhankhar’s victory was inescapable, with the BJP alone holding 394 votes and the total totaling 510 votes, counting its allies and supporting parties like the BJD and YSRCP.
Dhankhar ended up getting even more, at 528. Congratulating him, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he received resounding support from all parties.
As many as 55 MPs did not vote, including 34 from the Trinamool Congress, which had decided to abstain, saying opposition parties had chosen Alva without proper consultation with the party.
Congress sources said at least two of its MPs Rajya Sabha, Randeep Surjewala and Dhiraj Kumar Sahu, did not vote because they are on treatment. Surjewala is said to be abroad. Alongside them, from the opposition camp, at least seven Shiv Sena MPs, two Samajwadi Party MPs and one AAP member did not vote.
Among those supporting Dhankhar, two BJP MPs and as many BSP members were absent, as was an independent. The two BJP MPs who did not vote were Sunny Deol and Sanjay Dhotre, who are also believed to be ill. TMC sources said BJP MP Arjun Singh, who joined the TMC in May, did not vote either.
During the presidential election, Draupadi Murmu won 540 votes from deputies. Of the 748 votes of deputies polled at the time, the common opposition candidate, Yashwant Sinha, obtained 208 (26 more than Alva).
At the time, two TMC MPs, Sisir Kumar Adhikari and his son Dibyendu Adhikari, voted against the parties’ decision to back Yashwant Sinha. Sisir is the father of the BJP MLA and opposition West Bengal leader Suvendu Adhikari.
On Saturday, Sisir and Dibyendu cast their ballots, challenging the TMC’s decision to abstain. A few hours later, TMC Lok Sabha leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay wrote to them to say that the party had taken note of their decision. Both are already facing disqualification proceedings.
While the decision of the TMC – the second largest opposition party after the Congress in Parliament, with 36 deputies to abstain, had already dealt a blow to the opposition, others too like the BSP and the TDP supported Dhankhar. The AAP, TRS, AIMIM and JMM however supported Alva.
Among them, the JMM, largely a tribal party, had backed the NDA’s Draupadi Murmu for the presidency, due to his tribal affiliation.
Dhankhar succeeds Ms. Venkaiah Naidu, whose term ends on August 10. He will be sworn in on August 11.
President Murmu was among those who hailed Dhankhar on his victory, along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his Cabinet colleagues, chief ministers and senior opposition leaders, including Congress Speaker Sonia Gandhi , NCP leader Sharad Pawar and Dhankhar’s rival candidate, Margaret Alva.
In his message to the 71-year-old Vice President-elect, Murmu said: The nation will benefit from your long and rich experience in public life.
Congratulations to Jagdeep Dhankhar on being elected Vice President of India. The nation will benefit from your long and rich experience of public life. My best wishes for a productive and fruitful mandate.
President of India (@rashtrapatibhvn) August 6, 2022
Modi and BJP Chairman JP Nadda met with Dhankhar after the results. Thanking MPs who had voted for Dhankhar, Modi said: At a time when India is marking Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, we are proud to have a kisan putra (farmer’s son) Vice President who has excellent knowledge legal and intellectual prowess… I am convinced that he will be an exceptional vice-president. Our nation will benefit immensely from his intelligence and wisdom.
Alva, who congratulated Dhankhar, thanked all MPs from all parties who had voted for her. Taking snaps at the TMC, she tweeted: This election has been an opportunity for the opposition to work together, put the past behind them and build trust between them. Unfortunately, some opposition parties have chosen to directly or indirectly support the BJP, in an attempt to derail the idea of a united opposition. I am convinced that by doing so, these parties and their leaders have damaged their own credibility.
Alva added: This election is over. The battle to protect our Constitution, strengthen our democracy and restore the dignity of Parliament will continue.
Congratulations to Mr. Dhankhar on his election as vice-president!
I want to thank all the opposition leaders and members of all parties who voted for me in this election.
Also, all the volunteers for their selfless service during our short but intense campaign.
Margaret Alva (@alva_margaret) August 6, 2022
Union Home Minister Amit Shah has said that as Deputy Speaker and Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, Jagdeep Dhankhar will prove to be an ideal guardian of the Constitution.
Joining Congress Speaker Sonia Gandhi in congratulating the new Vice President, Rahul Gandhi tweeted: Thank you Smt Margaret Alva ji for representing the spirit of common opposition with grace and dignity.
Like Alva, Congress has not spared the TMC either. Alva ran a spirited campaign and it was a shame the TMC didn’t support her. India will have to wait for its first female vice president, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh has said. In Dhankhar he said: I hope he will show the sagacity and objectivity of Bhairon Singh Shekhawat and the wit and humor of Venkaiah Naidu, his supporters who have become Vice President.
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Dhankhar, a native of Rajasthan, started his political career in the former Janata Dal. A lawyer by training, he was elected to the Lok Sabha of Jhunjhunu in 1989. He was briefly Union Deputy Minister from April to November 1990. He was in charge of parliamentary affairs. He then turned to state politics and moved to Congress.
His next election was for the Rajasthan Assembly on a Congress ticket. He represented the seat of Kishangarh from 1993 to 1998. After that, he practiced as a barrister in the Supreme Court until he was appointed Governor of West Bengal in July 2019. His tenure as Governor of West Bengal has been marked by constant clashes with the Mamata Banerjee Government.
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