Venkaiah Naidu

Venkaiah Naidu knew the essence of bipartisanship, but he drew a line when it came to Parliamentary norms and rules


Today, India’s former vice-president and respected statesman Shri M Venkaiah Naidu garu turns 75. I wish him a long and healthy life, and also extend my greetings to all his well-wishers and supporters. This is an occasion to celebrate a leader 


whose life journey showcases dedication, adaptability, and an unwavering commitment to public service. 

 


From his early days in the political arena to his tenure as vice-president, Venkaiah garu’s career exemplifies his unique ability to navigate the complexities of Indian politics with ease and humility. His eloquence, wit, and steadfast focus on developmental issues have earned him respect across party lines.

 


Venkaiah garu and I have been associated with each other for decades. We have worked together, and I have also learned a lot from him. If there is one thing that has remained common in his life, it is the love for people. His brush with activism and politics began in Andhra Pradesh with student politics as a student leader. Considering his talent, oratory, and organisational skills, he would have been welcomed in any political party but he preferred to work with the Sangh Parivar because he was inspired by the vision of Nation First. He was associated with the RSS, ABVP, and then strengthened the Jana Sangh and the BJP. When the Emergency was imposed almost 50 years ago, young Venkaiah garu immersed himself in the anti-Emergency movement. He was imprisoned and that too for inviting Loknayak JP to Andhra Pradesh. This commitment to democracy would be seen time and again in his political career. In the mid-1980s, when the great NTR’s government was unceremoniously dismissed by the Congress, he was again at the forefront of the movement to protect democratic principles.

 


Venkaiah garu has always been comfortable swimming even against the most formidable tides. In 1978, Andhra Pradesh voted for the Congress but he beat the trend and was elected as a young MLA. Five years later, when the NTR Tsunami swept the state, he got elected as a BJP MLA, thus paving the way for the BJP’s growth across the state.

 


All those who have heard Venkaiah garu speak will vouch for his oratory skills. He is certainly a wordsmith but he is as much a worksmith. Since his days as a young MLA, he began to be respected for the rigour he put into legislative affairs and speaking for people of his constituency. No less than a stalwart like NTR noted his talent and even wanted him to join his party but Venkaiah garu refused to deviate from his core ideology.  He went on to play a big role in strengthening the BJP in Andhra Pradesh, going across the villages and connecting with people from all walks of life. He led the party on the floor of the Assembly, and even became the Andhra Pradesh BJP president. It was in the 1990s that the BJP central leadership took note of Venkaiah garu’s efforts and thus in 1993 began his stint in national politics when he was appointed the party’s All India General Secretary. It was truly a remarkable moment for a man, who as a teenager would go around announcing the visits of Atal ji and Advani ji, to be working directly with them. As the General Secretary, he was focused on how to bring our party to power and ensure that the nation gets its first BJP prime minister. After the move to Delhi, there was no looking back and he rose to become the national president of the party.

 

In 2000, when Atal ji was keen to induct Venkaiah garu in the government as a minister, Venkaiah garu instantly conveyed his preference for the Rural Development Ministry. This left everyone including Atal ji puzzled. After all, here was a leader who was being asked which portfolio he wants and his first choice was Rural Development. But, Venkaiah garu was clear — he was a kisan putra, he had spent his early days in the villages and thus, if there was one area he wished to work, it was rural development. As minister, he was closely associated with the conception and rolling out of the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana. Years later, when the NDA government of 2014 assumed office, he handled the crucial portfolios of Urban Development, Housing, and Urban Poverty Alleviation. It was during his tenure that we launched the important Swachh Bharat Mission and important urban development-related schemes. Perhaps, he is one of the only leaders to have worked for both rural and urban development for such an extensive period. When I came to Delhi in 2014, I was an outsider to the national capital, having worked in Gujarat for the previous decade and a half. In such times, Venkaiah garu’s insights were very handy.

He was an effective Parliamentary Affairs Minister. He knew the essence of bipartisanship, but he drew a line when it came to Parliamentary norms and rules.In 2017, our alliance nominated him as our vice-presidential candidate. We faced a dilemma – we thought about how the big shoes of Venkaiah garu would be impossible to fill, but at the same time, we also knew there was no better candidate for the vice-presidency than him. I can never forget one of the speeches he gave when he resigned as minister and MP. He could not control his tears when he recalled his association with the party and efforts to build it. It gave a glimpse of his deep-rooted commitment and passion. Upon becoming the vice-president, he undertook various steps that also enhanced the dignity of the office. He was an outstanding chairperson of the Rajya Sabha, ensuring that young MPs, women MPs, and first-time MPs get the opportunity to speak.  

 


He put great emphasis on attendance, making the committees more effective, and also raising the level of debate in the House. When the decision to remove Articles 370 and 35(A) were placed on the floor of the Rajya Sabha, it was Venkaiah garu who was on the chair. I am sure it was such an emotional moment for him — the young boy who was drawn to Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee’s dream of a united India was on the chair when this was finally achieved.

 


Apart from work and politics, Venkaiah garu is a voracious reader and writer too. For the people in Delhi, he is known as the person who brought the glorious Telugu culture to the city. His Ugadi and Sankranti programmes are clearly among the most cherished gatherings in town. I have always known Venkaiah garu as someone who loves food and also hosting people. But, off late, his self-control has also been visible to everyone. 

 

His commitment to fitness is seen in how he still plays badminton and enjoys his brisk walk. Even after the vice-presidency, Venkaiah garu has led an active public life. On the issues that he is passionate about or on various developments that take place across the nation, he calls me and asks me about it. I met him most recently when our government returned to office for the third term. He was delighted and conveyed his best wishes to me and our team. I wish him once again on this milestone. I hope young karyakartas, elected representatives and all those who have a passion to serve, learn from his life and imbibe those values. It is people like him who make our nation better and more vibrant.



The writer is India’s Prime Minister

Disclaimer: These are personal views of the writer. They do not necessarily reflect the opinion of www.business-standard.com or the Business Standard newspaper

First Published: Jul 01 2024 | 6:15 AM IST



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