Keeping House in order the biggest challenge for new VP

Jagdeep Dhankar will have to bank on his command over legislative affairs to handle the vastly deteriorated relationship between the Opposition and Treasury benches of the Rajya Sabha.

Jagdeep Dhankar will have to bank on his command over legislative affairs to handle the vastly deteriorated relationship between the Opposition and Treasury benches of the Rajya Sabha.

The ongoing Monsoon Session of Parliament was largely devoted to the election of the next President and the Vice-President, but it also saw the suspension of a record number of MPs over protests and waving of placards. This signaled a vastly deteriorated relationship, and as the newly elected presiding officer of the Rajya Sabha, or the Upper House, the handling of this relationship would be the biggest challenge facing Vice-President-elect Jagdeep Dhankhar.

The choice of Mr. Dhankhar as the Vice-Presidential candidate of the National Democratic Alliance was said to be made on the basis of his political career, his education and work as a lawyer, and the fact that he was born and raised in an agrarian family in rural Rajasthan.

It is perhaps Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s congratulatory message to Mr. Dhankhar, laying stress on him being “well versed in legislative affairs”, which gives the biggest clue on why the choice devolved on him.

Born on May 18, 1951 in Jhunjhunu district of Rajasthan, Mr. Dhankhar’s beginnings were humble. After studying in a village school he won a scholarship to the Sainik School in Chittorgarh, and later got degrees in both physics and law from Rajasthan University. He practiced law before foraying into a political career. Belonging to the Jat community, Mr. Dhankhar is also said to have been mentored by former Deputy Prime Minister in the VP Singh government, Chaudhary Devi Lal.

He won the 1989 Lok Sabha election from Jhunjhunu, and when Devi Lal walked out of the VP Singh government in 1990, Mr. Dhankhar followed him, to be appointed Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs in the Chandra Shekhar government.

In fact, the Rajya Sabha will have a unique “Chandra Shekhar connection” this time around. While Mr. Dhankhar served as a Minister in that government, Deputy Chairperson Harivansh was media adviser to then Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar, and Neeraj Shekhar, the son of the late Prime Minister, is a member of the current Rajya Sabha.

After the fall of the Chandra Shekhar government, Mr. Dhankhar joined the Congress and won the Assembly elections from Rajasthan, remaining an MLA between 1993 and 1998.

From 1998 to 2008, when he joined the BJP, he concentrated on his legal career, weighing in his political options.

While all this was a hefty political career in itself, Mr. Dhankhar burst onto the national consciousness when he was appointed West Bengal Governor in 2019. He held strong opinions, did not shy away from expressing them in strong language and was frequently at loggerheads with the Mamata Banerjee-led government in the state. He spoke out on the post-poll violence and issues of protocol with equal vehemence.

His shift to Delhi as the Vice-President owes much to his legal acumen and knowledge of constitutional positions as well. As the Chairperson of the Rajya Sabha, where the Treasury and Opposition benches are frequently at loggerheads, he will need all these skills.

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