Why Hukmdev Narayan Yadav may be Modi's choice as India's vice-president
One year before Vice President Hamid Ansari's term ends in 2017, the NDA government appears to have already identified his replacement. A source told Catch that BJP MP and former union minister Hukmdev Narayan Yadav has been sounded out that he will be the next occupant of 6, Maulana Azad Road, the official residence of the Vice President of India. Yadav represents Bihar's Madhubani parliamentary constituency in the Lok Sabha and is in his fifth term in the lower house.
An interesting mix of attributes is said to have made him emerge as the favourite. Firstly, his OBC credentials will help the BJP in sending out a message to the OBC vote bank throughout the country, the absence of whose support cost the party the Bihar assembly polls in 2015. Second, Yadav is a rare socialist in the BJP-RSS ranks, having begun his legislative career as a member of the Sanyukt Socialist Party (SANSOPA) in the Bihar Assembly in 1967. He is also considered to be a protege of iconic socialist leaders like Ram Manohar Lohia and Karpoori Thakur.
A socialist, an OBC and a Modi-admirer: beat that
The objective behind choosing a leader with a socialist background for the vice-president's job, the source said, was to further reinforce the NDA government's attempts to be seen as a pro-poor government. The third factor that appears to have gone in Yadav's favour are his fiery speeches in the Lok Sabha, many of them glorifying Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This one, for example, in which Yadav sought to convey that Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar's 'chai-walla' jibe at Modi was in sync with the derision that backwards have been treated with historically.
Yadav has had an illustrious career so far, having started as Gram Pradhan and risen up to the level of a Union minister. He kept moving on with his party SANSOPA as it merged into the Socialist Party, then into the Bhartiya Lok Dal, then the Janata Party and eventually the Janata Dal. He first became a union Cabinet minister way back in 1990, handling the textiles and food processing industries portfolio in the short-lived Chandra Shekhar government.
Yadav joined the BJP in 1993, although he claims to have attended RSS shakhas regularly from 1950. He subsequently handled several portfolios as minister of state in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, from 1999 to 2004, including agriculture, surface transport and shipping. In the present Lok Sabha, he has also been serving on the panel of chairpersons in the House, gaining experience of running the House.
Will Yadav remember his stand on caste census?
Yadav, however, is an old-school politician and the very credentials that Modi is said to admire in him have the potential of becoming a challenge for the party and especially the prime minister. The five-time MP was the only senior OBC leader in BJP who had openly come out against the NDA government's decision of not releasing the caste data from the Socio-Economic and Caste Census of 2011.
Yadav had told Catch in 2015 that he will write to the prime minister to demand publication of the data, saying some people did not want the OBCs to realise their numerical strength.
Read his full interview: The numbers game: why hiding caste survey data might hurt the BJP
Stepping into Hamid Ansari's shoes
Ansari is already serving his second term as vice-president. Although the Constitution does not bar him from contesting again, he is unlikely to be nominated by the Modi-government.
In both his terms, he was a candidate of the ruling Congress-led UPA. The BJP-led NDA, in fact, put up a candidate against him - Jaswant Singh - the second time round, who lost by 252 votes.
In these years, Ansari has come to be seen as a bulwark protecting the country's constitutional values in the wake of the resurgence of majoritarian forces. As Chairman Rajya Sabha, he is considered a strict disciplinarian as well as a firm believer in the instrumentality of the House. He has carried out various experiments to make the House function smoothly. One black spot does exist in his career as Chairman, when he abruptly adjourned the House sine die after fracas broke out during the Lokpal Bill debate in December 2011.
Ansari also launched the Rajya Sabha's own TV-channel, Rajya Sabha Television, that operates with the full might of the office of the Vice President of India behind it. Such kind of power has made RSTV take on government propaganda aired through Doordarshan. In fact, in the last two years, the channel has created an identity also distinct from its older Parliamentary cousin, the Lok Sabha Television, that has also come to face criticism of toeing the government's line. With Ansari out and a BJP man in the VP house, RSTV's functioning too may change.
The other probable
The name of West Bengal Governor and senior BJP leader Keshari Nath Tripathi has also been doing the rounds for the VP's job. Tripathi has been Speaker of the Uttar Pradesh Assemby in the past.
Apart from him, Yadav's fortune could also be impacted by another senior politician from UP, although not from the BJP. Speculation has been running rife in political circles for a long time now that Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav has been promised by BJP that he will be NDA's candidate for the President's election, in 2017.
If the former Defence Minister bags the top job, another Yadav may not be needed on the number two position. However, UP assembly polls will decide whether Mulayam will get this offer or not. Meanwhile, other names have crept into Delhi's political corridors as prospective occupants of the Rashtrapati Bhavan. These include BJP patriarch L K Advani, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan and Manipur Governor Najma Heptullah.