New Delhi: House No. 6 on Maulana Azad Road in New Delhi, official residence of the Vice-president of India, has had many illustrious residents – freedom fighters, academicians, bureaucrats and politicians. Six of them became President of India after the end of their term.
The palatial bungalow is being decked up for its new resident. Soon, Venkaiah Naidu, a lifelong politician, will move in here with his family.
Starting as a student leader, Naidu’s rise to become the 15th vice-president of India is a culmination of 46-year-long political journey.
From ABVP to RSS to BJP: The Quintessential Karyakarta
Naidu’s association with politics started off during his college years where he graduated in politics and diplomatic studies. He was part of BJP’s student wing, ABVP, during his college days and was a swayamsevak for RSS.
Later, when he went on to study in Andhra University, he was made ABVP president of all colleges under the university. It was in 1972 that he came into the spotlight with Jai Andhra Movement. The agitation led to the resignation of the then Andhra Pradesh chief minister PV Narasimha Rao and President’s Rule was imposed in the state.
Naidu’s rise was, however, cut short temporarily when he was jailed during the Emergency, under Maintenance of Internal Security Act. Soon after being released, he moved on to becoming an MLA in the Andhra Pradesh Assembly in 1978.
He was made the party’s Andhra unit president in 1988, and he served in that capacity until 1993, post which he was elevated to the post of the party’s general secretary. He was the secretary till 2000. He was also the national spokesperson from 1996-2000.
The veteran was also the party’s president for two terms in 2002 and 2004.
During the Atal Behari Vajpayee government, he was the rural development minister. In Modi government, he has held the portfolio of housing, urban poverty alleviation as well as information and broadcasting.
Master of Acronyms and a Leader With Reach Across Parties
Despite BJP losing power in 2004, Naidu won a seat in the Rajya Sabha with ease. He has been known for having a good rapport with leaders across parties.
“I didn’t campaign because everyone knows me. I have just written a polite letter to everyone and the response has been good. I am confident they will support me,” Naidu had said before voting on Saturday.
He is also known as a master of Acronyms. He’s the one who coined Every Vote Modi (EVM), Maker of Developed India (MODI), You Owe U and Nation Greatness (YOUNG), Anything is Possible with Just Attitude and Karma (APJ Abdul Kalam), and many more.
One of the prime reasons for the ruling party to get Naidu into the VP fray was his popularity. Despite thumping victories in Uttar Pradesh and Assam, BJP has had a struggle with Rajya Sabha numbers. Naidu can be of great help to the government in the Upper House.
A South Indian who Loves Hindi
Naidu biggest criticism came during the time he supported the idea of having Hindi as the national language. “While learning English, we have trained our minds like English. It’s not in the interest of the nation,” he had said, in Hindi.
Another controversy that was raked by the Opposition was a 13-year-old allegation of ‘land grab’. He was accused of being the ‘kingpin’ of a trust that was ‘illegally allotted’ a plot in Bhopal by the Babulal Gaur government in 2004. The matter did go to Supreme Court, where the land allotted to Kushabhau Thakre Memorial Trust was cancelled.
Naidu also came under fire for his over-the-top praises for Modi. He had called the PM ‘God’s gift to India’, which soon came under attack by the Congress. The Opposition took a dig wondering whether Naidu’s flattery was any different than Dev Kant Baruah’s ‘India is Indira and Indira is India’ comment, for which he was reprimanded.
Modi’s Trusted Minister and Valued Colleague
When Naidu’s name was being cleared by the party, PM Modi is said to have said that he was letting go to a valued colleague in the Cabinet for the larger cause.
Handling some of the key portfolios like urban development, housing, information and broadcasting, Naidu was known for spearheading many crucial projects like the Real Estate Regulatory Act (RERA), Housing for All, Smart Cities, Swachh Sarvekshan, AMRUT and many more.
Many stakeholders from housing industry said Naidu’s contribution as housing minister was far more than many of his predecessors.
Under Smart Cities Mission, Naidu envisaged a project to develop 100 cities in India with the help of technology.
For a man who had not plans of becoming Rashtrapati (president) but was happy being ‘Usha’s (his wife’s) pati (husband)’, the election as up-rashtrapati (vice president) is a moment of celebration for the BJP, particularly in the southern states.