West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar was on Saturday announced as the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance’s vice presidential candidate.
Making the announcement in New Delhi after a meeting of the BJP’s executive board, party president J P Nadda lauded Dhankhar as a "kisan putra" (farmer's son) who established himself as a "people's governor".
Dhankhar's election as vice president is almost a certainty as the BJP has a majority in the electoral college comprising members of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. Out of Parliament's current strength of 780, the BJP alone has 394 MPs, more than the majority mark of 390.
The BJP parliamentary board in a meeting on Saturday evening, attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other senior leaders, picked the 71-year-old Dhankhar after deliberating over several names, Nadda said.
After the announcement, Modi tweeted, "Jagdeep Dhankhar Ji has excellent knowledge of our Constitution. He is also well-versed with legislative affairs. I am sure that he will be an outstanding Chair in the Rajya Sabha & guide the proceedings of the House with the aim of furthering national progress."
Soon after his name was announced, Dhankhar tweeted, "Thank you Narendra Modi ji or nominating me as the Vice President candidate for the vice presidential election."
Since assuming charge as the governor of West Bengal in July 2019, Dhankhar has taken on Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee-led government regularly over various issues.
BJP leaders noted that Dhankhar has been in public life for more than three decades, and his life story reflects the spirit of new India: "overcoming innumerable social and economic hurdles and achieving one's goals".
Dhankhar has been in the limelight since becoming governor of West Bengal in July, 2019 over frequent run-ins with the Mamata Banerjee government.
While his proactive conduct has drawn criticism from the state's ruling Trinamool Congress, the BJP has backed him.
Being a Jat, a backward community in Rajasthan, his elevation as vice president is likely to send helpful political message for the BJP as not many Jats besides former prime minister Charan Singh and former deputy prime minister Devi Lal have occupied high positions at the national level.
The BJP has had uneasy relations with Jats, a powerful agrarian community in Haryana, Rajsthan and western Uttar Pradesh, though the party has received their support in good numbers in the recent two Lok Sabha polls compared to assembly elections in these states.
A lawyer by profession, Jagdeep Dhankhar forayed into politics in 1989 and was elected to the Lok Sabha from Jhunjhunu in Rajasthan that same year and became a Union Minister in 1990.
Dhankhar, who practised in the Rajasthan high court and the Supreme Court, was designated a senior advocate in 1990, the same year he became a Union minister.
He was also a member of the Rajasthan Vidhan Sabha from 1993 to 1998 representing Kishangarh constituency.
The lawyer-turned politician was appointed governor of West Bengal in July 2019 and has since had a tumultuous relationship with the ruling Trinamool Congress in the state.
The TMC leadership has often accused him of acting as an “agent of the BJP”, while the saffron party in the state looked upon him as an ”upholder of constitutional norms”.
On his part, Dhankhar has claimed he has gone by the rule book and the Constitution in pointing out issues to the Mamata Banerjee government and the state legislature.
Acrimony between Dhankhar and the ruling party and its leader often led to messy situations with both levelling accusations at each other over issues ranging from post-poll violence in the state to delays in assent to bills passed in the House besides interference in the functioning of the civilian bureaucracy and state run universities.
Dhankhar who has in the past claimed to be a “reluctant politician” graduated with honours in physics from Maharaja's College in Jaipur and an LLB degree from Jaipur University in 1978-79.
Before that he had schooled at Sainik School, Chittorgarh on a full merit scholarship after his primary education from the government school at village Kithana in Jhunjhunu, where he was born in 1951.
He is married to Sudesh Dhankhar and they have a daughter.