New Delhi, July 18 (IANS) Ruling NDA’s candidate M. Venkaiah Naidu and Opposition-backed Gopalkrishna Gandhi filed their nominations for election to the Vice President’s post on Tuesday, the last day for filing of papers for the August 5 poll.
Scrutiny of the nomination papers will be held on Wednesday.
In a show of strength, the top brass of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) accompanied Naidu when the senior BJP leader and four-time Rajya Sabha member went to file his nomination in Rajya Sabha Secretary General Shamsher K. Sheriff’s room.
Those who accompanied Naidu included Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) President Amit Shah, several Cabinet Ministers like Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj and Prakash Javadekar, besides veteran party leaders L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi.
A number of NDA leaders, including Lok Janshakti Party’s Ram Vilas Paswan, Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut and Anandrao Adsul, Shiromani Akali Dal’s Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Republican Party’s Ramdas Athawale and AIADMK’s V. Maitreyan, were also present.
The Telugu Desam Party, Telangana Rashtra Samiti, YSR Congress and the Indian National Lok Dal are among the other parties extending support to Naidu.
Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson Gopalkrishna Gandhi, a former West Bengal Governor and a diplomat, also filed his nomination later.
He was accompanied by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress President Sonia Gandhi, party Vice President Rahul Gandhi and senior Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Mallikarjun Kharge.
Besides, Janata Dal-United’s Sharad Yadav, Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Sitaram Yechury, Nationalist Congress Party’s Tariq Anwar and Praful Patel, Communist Party of India’s D. Raja, DMK’s Kanimozhi, Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’Brien, Bahujan Samaj Party’s Satish Chandra Mishra and National Conference’s Farooq Abdullah were among those present with Gopal Gandhi.
Addressing the media after filing his papers, Naidu said he no longer belonged to the BJP and would strive to “strengthen parliamentary democratic system”.
Urged by photojournalists to look left for a snap, Naidu retorted: “Neither am I in the left, nor right. I am at the centre.”
Recalling that the Vice President’s office in the past has been held by great leaders like Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, Zakir Hussain, Justice M. Hidayatullah, R. Venkataraman, Shankar Dayal Sharma, and Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, Naidu said he was fully aware of the responsibilities and would uphold the “dignity, decorum and traditions” set by his worthy predecessors and work to further strengthen it.
Gopalkrishna Gandhi, after filing his nomination, said he would like to reduce the gap between politics and citizens.
Responding to allegations by the Shiv Sena that he opposed death penalty for Mumbai blasts convict Yaqub Memon, Gandhi said: “I believe death penalty belongs to the medieval ages. I believe that the death penalty is wrong. My views are inspired by Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. (Bhimrao) Ambedkar.”
“Gandhiji was opposed to the death penalty. I belong to that school of thought,” he added.
He also said: “I am not here to oppose any individual, much less the senior gentleman who has been nominated by the NDA for the office of the Vice President of India.”
“I am not here to oppose any political party or any political formation. I am, in fact, not here to oppose, though I am here as a candidate proposed by the opposition parties,” he added.
Gandhi said: “In fact, the people’s faith in politics itself has diminished, has almost collapsed. I would like today to see a revival of that faith.”
“We are living in times of division. A whole force that is dividing our country is in action, is in what can be called action mode and that spills danger to our future not just as a polity but as a nation and as a civilization,” he added.
In an effective electoral college of 786 members of both houses of Parliament, Naidu is comfortably placed against Gandhi as the NDA has a clear majority in the Lok Sabha. The Lok Sabha currently has 543 members and the Rajya Sabha 243. Both Houses have two vacancies each.
A senior BJP MP, who did not wish to be named, said that Naidu could easily get at least 530 votes.