For Vice-President, BJP picks Venkaiah Naidu
Union Minister M Venkaiah Naidu, one of most recognisable faces in the BJP, is the NDA's vice presidential candidate, party president Amit Shah said on Monday.
Naidu was chosen at the BJP parliamentary board meeting here attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other senior party leaders.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, after a meeting of top BJP leaders, tweeted that he had known the 68-year-old politician for years and had "always admired his hard work and tenacity".
Soon after Naidu was named the NDA's vice president pick, Modi called up chief ministers of Tamil Nadu, Bihar and Andhra Pradesh and senior leaders including Sharad Pawar seeking their support, a source in the government said.
Naidu, the Urban Development Minister, will file his nomination on Tuesday for the August 5 election.
His nomination is seen as part of the BJP's attempts to expand its presence in South India, which has been identified by Shah as a key region for growth before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
The two-time BJP president is pitted against Gopalkrishna Gandhi, who was chosen by an alliance of 18 opposition parties, including the Congress, but his election is almost inevitable due to the NDA's huge numerical superiority over the opposition.
Announcing his candidature, Shah heaped praise on the Andhra Pradesh leader, who is known for his witty rhymes and has often voiced the government's and the party's stand on key issues while taking on the opposition.
Recounting Naidu's rise through the party's ranks since he was a junior worker, Shah said, "He has been with the BJP since he was very young. He hails from a farmer's family and held important organisational posts in the party."
Asked about reports that Naidu was reluctant to take up the new responsibility, the BJP chief told reporters, "There is nothing like this". He added that the senior leader had always accepted the party's decisions.
Meanwhile, speculation is rife that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to go for a Cabinet expansion as senior minister M.Venkaiah Naidu's almost certain election as the next vice president will leave two heavyweight portfolios without a Cabinet minister.
Already, two key ministries–defence and environment–are without a full-time minister.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Science and Technology Minister Harsh Vardhan are holding the additional charge of these two portfolios respectively. Naidu currently holds charge of the ministries of Information and Broadcasting and Urban Development.
BJP sources said a reshuffle in the Union council of ministers is expected after the monsoon session of Parliament, and some new faces could also be inducted into the Cabinet.
While Manohar Parrikar's move to Goa as its chief minister in March left the defence ministry without a full- time Cabinet minister, the death of Anil Dave in May caused a vacancy in the environment ministry.