NDA candidate Jagdeep Dhankhar was elected India’s 14th Vice-President on Saturday, defeating Opposition candidateby a huge margin in an election which was marked by absenteeism and invalid votes.
The former West Bengal Governor got 528 of the 725 votes polled, with Alva — a former five-term Congress MP, Union minister and governor — getting 182, a lower tally than expected. On paper, the Opposition had close to 200 votes.
The electoral college for the vice-president comprises members of the two Houses of Parliament. Together, the Houses have a sanctioned strength of 788 MPs, of which there are eight vacancies in the Upper House. Among the 780-member electorate Saturday, 725 votes were polled (92.94% turnout), of which 15 votes were found to be invalid,Secretary General Uptal Kumar Singh, the returning officer for the election, said.
Dhankhar’s victory was a foregone conclusion, with thealone having 394 votes and the total adding up to 510 votes, counting its allies and supporting parties like the BJD and YSRCP.
Dhankhar ended up getting even more, at 528. Congratulating him, Prime Ministersaid he had received “resounding” support across party lines.
As many as 55 MPs did not vote — among them 34 from the Trinamool Congress, which had decided to abstain, saying the Opposition parties had decided on Alva without proper consultation with the party.
Sources in the Congress said at least two of itsMPs, Randeep Surjewala and Dhiraj Kumar Sahu, did not vote as they are undergoing treatment. Surjewala is said to be abroad. Besides them, from the Opposition camp, at least seven MPs of the , two MPs and one AAP member did not vote.
Of those backing Dhankhar, two BJP MPs and as many of the BSP were absent, as was one Independent. The two BJP MPs who did not vote wereand Sanjay Dhotre, also reportedly unwell. Sources in the TMC said that BJP MP Arjun Singh, who rejoined the TMC in May, did not vote either.
In the presidential poll,had garnered 540 votes from MPs. Of the 748 MP votes polled then, the joint Opposition candidate, , had secured 208 (26 more than Alva).
At the time, two TMC MPs, Sisir Kumar Adhikari and his son Dibyendu Adhikari, had voted against the party’s decision to back Yashwant Sinha. Sisir is the father of BJP MLA and West Bengal Leader of the Opposition Suvendu Adhikari.
On Saturday, both Sisir and Dibyendu voted, defying the TMC decision to abstain. Hours later, TMC Lok Sabha floor leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay wrote to them saying the party has taken note of their move. The two are already facing disqualification proceedings.
While the decision by the TMC — the second largest Opposition party after the Congress in Parliament, with 36 MPs – to abstain had already dealt a body blow to the Opposition, others too like the BSP and TDP backed Dhankhar. The AAP, TRS, AIMIM and JMM though supported Alva.
Of them, the JMM, largely a tribal party, had backed the NDA’s Droupadi Murmu for President, by virtue of her being a tribal.
Dhankhar succeeds M, whose term ends on August 10. He will be sworn in on August 11.
President Murmu was among those who greeted Dhankhar on his win, besides Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his Cabinet colleagues, chief ministers and senior Opposition leaders, including Congress president, NCP chief Sharad Pawar and Dhankhar’s rival candidate, Margaret Alva.
In her message to the 71-year-old Vice-President elect, Murmu said: “The nation will benefit from your long and rich experience of public life.”
Congratulations to Jagdeep Dhankhar on being elected the Vice President of India. The nation will benefit from your long and rich experience of public life. My best wishes for a productive and successful tenure.
— President of India (@rashtrapatibhvn)
Modi and BJP president J P Nadda met Dhankhar after the results. Thanking the MPs who had voted for Dhankhar, Modi said: “At a time when India is marking Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, we are proud to have a kisan putra (son of a farmer) Vice-President who has excellent legal knowledge and intellectual prowess… I am confident he will be an outstanding Vice-President. Our nation will gain tremendously from his intellect and wisdom.”
Alva, who congratulated Dhankhar, thanked all the MPs from across parties who had voted for her. Taking potshots at the TMC, she tweeted: “This election was an opportunity for the Opposition to work together, to leave the past behind and build trust amongst each other. Unfortunately, some Opposition parties chose to directly or indirectly support the BJP, in an attempt to derail the idea of a united Opposition. It is my belief that by doing so, these parties and their leaders have damaged their own credibility.”
Alva added: “This election is over. The battle for protecting our Constitution, strengthening our democracy and restoring the dignity of Parliament will continue.”
Congratulations to Mr Dhankhar on being elected Vice President!
I would like to thank all the leaders of the Opposition, and MPs from across parties who voted for me in this election.
Also, all the volunteers for their selfless service during our short but intense campaign.
— Margaret Alva (@alva_margaret)
Union Home Minister Amit Shah said that “as Vice-President and Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, Jagdeep Dhankhar will prove to be an ideal guardian of the Constitution”.
Joining Congress president Sonia Gandhi in congratulating the new Vice-President,tweeted: “Thank you to Smt Margaret Alva ji for representing the spirit of the joint Opposition with grace and dignity.”
Like Alva, the Congress too didn’t spare the TMC. “Alva ran a spirited campaign and it was too bad the TMC didn’t support her. India will have to wait for its first woman Vice-President,” senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said. On Dhankhar, he said: “I hope he will display the sagacity and objectivity of Bhairon Singh Shekhawat and the wit and humour of Venkaiah Naidu, his partymen who became V-P.”
Dhankhar, who hails from Rajasthan, began his political career in the erstwhile. A lawyer by training, he was elected to the Lok Sabha from Jhunjhunu in 1989. He was a Union deputy minister briefly from April-November 1990. He was in-charge of Parliamentary Affairs. He then shifted to state politics and moved to the Congress.
His next election was for the Rajasthan Assembly on a Congress ticket. He represented Kishangarh seat from 1993 to 1998. After that, he practised as a lawyer in the Supreme Court until he was appointed the Governor of West Bengal in July 2019. His stint as Governor of West Bengal was marked by constant run-ins with the Mamata Banerjee government.