New Delhi: Former West Bengal governor and National Democratic Alliance (NDA) nominee Jagdeep Dhankhar, 71, was elected the 14th Vice-President of India Saturday, defeating joint opposition candidate Margaret Alva by 346 votes.
Announcing the result, Lok Sabha secretary general Utpal Kumar Singh said that Dhankhar got 528 of the total 725 votes that were cast, while Alva got 182. Fifteen votes were declared invalid. The total voter turnout was 92.94 per cent.
Dhankhar will succeed incumbent Vice-President M. Venkaiah Naidu, whose five-year term ends on 10 August.
The Vice-President of India is elected through an electoral college composed of members of both the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha. The electoral college comprises 780 MPs – 543 in Lok Sabha and 245 in Rajya Sabha.
The NDA has 441 MPs, which includes 394 BJP MPs. Besides, five nominated members also supported Dhankar taking the total NDA tally to 464.
Of the 780 MPs, 725 voted Saturday. While there are 8 vacant seats in Rajya Sabha, 34 Trinamool MPs abstained from voting and two BJP MPs – Sunny Deol and Sanjay Dhotre– could not vote because they were unwell. 15 votes were cancelled.
Among the opposition parties, the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), known to be friendly to the NDA, the YSR Congress Party, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Bahujan Samaj Party,Telugu Desam Party, Akali Dal and the Eknath Shinde faction of the Shiv Sena supported Dhankhar. Together these seven parties have 81 MPs.
Trinamool Congress, with 36 MPs decided to abstain from voting. However, Parliament sources said two Trinamool MPS –Shishir Adhikary and his son Dibyendu Adhikary – voted in the Vice President elections defying the party direction.
The Congress, Aam Aadmi Party, Nationalist Congress Party, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Rashtriya Janata Dal, Telangana Rashtra Samithi, Samajwadi Party, Left parties and nine MPs of Shiv Sena’s Uddhav Thackeray faction are among the key opposition parties that supported Alva.
One of the leading lawyers in Rajasthan, Dhankhar has practiced in both the Rajasthan High Court and the Supreme Court of India, and his legal acumen is expected to come in handy for his role as Rajya Sabha chairman.
A thorn in Mamata’s side
Dhankhar, described by BJP chief J.P. Nadda as ‘kisan putra’ (a farmer’s son), was born in an agrarian household in a remote village in Jhunjhunu. He completed his school education from Chittorgarh and earned his LLB from the University of Rajasthan in 1979.
The lawyer entered politics in 1989 and has been in public life for over three decades.
His tenure as West Bengal governor since 2019 was marked by constant run-ins with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. So much so that in January this year, the Trinamool chief blocked Dhankhar on the microblogging platform Twitter.
The latest flashpoint between the two was when the West Bengal Assembly passed a bill seeking the appointment of CM Mamata Banerjee as chancellor of 17 state universities replacing Dhankhar.
In December 2020, a TMC delegation had even written to President Ram Nath Kovind urging him to recall the governor.
Dhankhar was first elected as MP for Jhunjhunu in the 1989 Lok Sabha election on a Janata Dal ticket. He went on to serve as minister of state for Parliamentary affairs in 1990. Later, in 1993, he was elected to the Rajasthan Assembly from Kishangarh in Ajmer district. He joined the BJP in 2003.