NEW DELHI: True to its established practice by now, the BJP surprised many on Saturday evening when it announced that the party’s Parliamentary Board, its highest decision-making body, has zeroed in on West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar as its Vice-Presidential candidate.
With the selection of a Jat for the post of Vice-President, BJP has sent out a message that it wants to take along all sections of the society as promised by the prime minister in his slogan ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikaas’.
Jats have a considerable presence in Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. While they make up about 20-25% in Haryana and Punjab, in Rajasthan, they are about 10%. In Uttar Pradesh, although they form about 2-3% of the population, they are very influential in western Uttar Pradesh.
Rajasthan is going to polls next year and Jats can influence as many as 65 seats. The BJP, which is in Opposition in the state, is giving a serious push to take it back from Congress. It is also hoping that a son of the soil (a Jat from Rajasthan) as the Vice-President will create fissures in an already faction-ridden Rajasthan Congress.
BJP had earlier banked on a prominent Jat face from Western UP Satyapal Malik and trusted him with an important gubernatorial appointment. But he turned into a dissident and lost no opportunity to hit the Centre. BJP didn’t deem it fit to join the slanging match with Governor Malik who is retiring in two months.
The ruling BJP had a lot of trouble pacifying the Jats of Western UP at the peak of the farmers’ agitation. A prominent Jat leader from Western UP told The New Indian, “Although the party had successfully pacified Jats in the UP Assembly elections, the selection of Jagdeep Dhankhar will send out a positive message in the community. Jats have always reciprocated whenever BJP has reached out to them. Jagdeep Dhankhar, considered to be a constitutional expert and a former minister of parliamentary affairs, is the suitable candidate to run the Rajya Sabha.”
BJP president JP Nadda dropped enough hints why Governor Dhankhar was picked up during his address to the media Saturday. Nadda chose his words to hammer across the message that the BJP has selected a ‘Kisan Putra’ (farmer’s son) for the second highest constitutional post in the country. He also delivered a message to the powerful Jat community and Other Backward Castes (OBCs) that under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP was committed to uplifting OBCs and the farmers across the country.
Three words were especially noticeable. Describing Governor Dhankhar, Nadda called him ‘Kisan Putra’, ‘People’s Governor’ and ‘established lawyer with long administrative experience’.
Nadda repeatedly emphasised that Governor Dhankhar is the first-generation lawyer in his family and comes from a very humble background. He also emphasised that Governor Dhankhar has excellent academic credentials and is an expert in the Constitution.
Born in a Jat family in Jhunjhunu’s Kithana village in 1951, Dhankhar completed his basic schooling in the village itself. Later he secured admission to Sainik School and passed with flying colours. In July 2019, the Modi government appointed him Governor of West Bengal with full freedom to discharge his Constitutional duties in the state. Once in the Governor’s chair in West Bengal, he reminded the Mamata Banerjee government of its duties whenever it failed to discharge its duties.
After the massive post-poll violence in the state, following Mamata Banerjee-led TMC’s win, Governor Dhankhar visited the affected areas and met the victims of the violence. This did not go down well with Chief Minister Banerjee but Governor Dhankhar conveyed to her that he was only discharging his Constitutional duties.
With many crucial legislations on the anvil, and Dhankhar’s presence as the Chairman of the Upper House, BJP expects to reap a good Legislative harvest in the times to come.
If Dhanakar is elected as the Vice-President then for the first time in the history of the Indian parliament presiding officers of both the houses will be from Rajasthan. Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla is the sitting member of parliament from Kota while Dhankar was a former MLA, from Kishangarh, and MP, from Jhunjhunu, in Rajasthan.