Dhankar: NDA candidate Jagdeep Dhankar elected new Vice President

Former West Bengal Governor and NDA candidate Jagdeep Dhankar was elected as the 14th Vice President of India on Saturday, defeating joint opposition nominee Margaret Alva by a huge margin of 346 votes. Dhankar, a kisan leader and lawyer by profession, got 74% of the valid votes cast by members of the two Houses of Parliament.

The 71-year-old leader, who hails from the Jat community of Rajasthan, was set to win the Vice Presidential elections from the start as the numbers were heavily stacked in favor of the NDA. Lok Sabha secretary general Utpal Kumar Singh, who was the returning officer for the VP elections, announced that of the 780 electors, 725 had cast their vote. Of these 710 votes were found to be valid while 15 were declared invalid.

Dhankar got 528 votes while Alva could manage only 182, showing again that the disarray in the Opposition.

Dhankar had polled 74.36% of the valid votes. While Trinamool Congress had declared it will abstain from the elections as Congress and other Opposition parties had unilaterally announced Alva as their candidate without consulting Mamata Banerjee, its two MPs – Sisir Adhikari and Dibyendu Adhikari – cast their vote, going against the party diktat. Trinamool has total 36 MPs in both houses.

Dhankar will take charge on August 11 when the term of incumbent M Venkaiah Naidu draws to a close. His experience as a lawyer and as deputy minister of Parliamentary Affairs in the first VP Singh government is likely to help him in presiding over the Rajya Sabha.

Dhankar was a surprise choice as there were several names of probables doing the rounds before BJP announced its candidate.

Legal knowledge a strong point

His tenure as governor of West Bengal where he constantly took on the Trinamool government as well as his knowledge of the law and Constitution appear to have gone in his favor. He also belongs to the Jat community, a caste that is primarily engaged in agriculture and one which BJP has been trying to woo since the farm law protests.

Unlike NDA presidential candidate Droupadi Murmu who got the support of JMM due to her tribal credentials and her equations with the ruling party in Jharkhand where she had served as Governor, Dhankar had strained relations with Trinamool during his term as West Bengal governor. He was backed by JDU, AIADMK, BJD, YSRCP and BSP, among others. The rebel faction of Shiv Sena and the five nominated Rajya Sabha members are also likely to have supported him.

Two BJP MPs – actor Sunny Deol and Sanjay Dhotre – did not vote as they are reportedly unwell.

Comfortable win

With 710 valid votes, 356 was the majority mark. The results were on expected lines as BJP itself has 394 MPs, including 303 in Lok Sabha, 91 in Rajya Sabha and four nominated members who joined the party, and had the numbers to get its candidate elected without the support of even its NDA partners. Dhankar did not get much support cutting across party lines.

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