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Venkaiah Naidu Quits As Minister, Preps For Vice President Contest

NEW DELHI: M Venkaiah Naidu resigned as union minister last night after he was named by the BJP as its vice presidential candidate against Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson Gopalkrishna Gandhi, the opposition’s nominee.

Mr Naidu was in charge of Urban Affairs and Information and Broadcasting; the vacancy in two major ministries raises the possibility of a reshuffle soon. Prime Minister Narendra Modi also needs to reassign the defence ministry, held by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley since Manohar Parrikar shifted to Goa as Chief Minister earlier this year.

Sources said though Mr Naidu was not required to resign, he did so “to set high political standards”.

PM Modi and senior ministers Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj are expected to accompany Mr Naidu when he files his nomination today for the August 5 election.

Gopal Gandhi will also file his nomination.

PM Modi, after a meeting of top BJP leaders in which Mr Naidu’s nomination was finalised, tweeted that he had known the 68-year-old politician for years and had “always admired his hard work and tenacity”. “A farmer’s son, Venkaiah Naidu Garu brings years of experience in public life and is admired across the political spectrum,” said the prime minister.

Mr Naidu as candidate falls in neatly with the party’s big plans for expanding its base in the south, especially Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

The party also sees other advantages in the seasoned MP, as Vice President, running the Rajya Sabha, the house where the government is in a minority.

The PM referred to his “years of parliamentary experience” and his goodwill across the political spectrum.

On Sunday, Congress president Sonia Gandhi conceded that the opposition doesn’t have the numbers but called it a battle that needs to be fought hard.

Like in the case of President, the BJP’s Vice President nominee enjoys a clear edge. The government estimates that it has the votes of 557 MPs in the electoral college of 787 MPs.

Mr Naidu’s nomination marks the return of a politician to the post, which ranks above the Prime Minister. Hamid Ansari, who served two terms as Vice President, was a diplomat.

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