Indian right-wing leader elected vice-president

August 05, 2017

THE NEW VICE-PRESIDENT. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (2L) talks with Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Venkaiah Naidu (L) and senior leader L. K. Advani (2R) as they arrive to file their nomination papers for the forthcoming vice-presidential election at Parliament in New Delhi on July 18, 2017.  (AFP)

India's lawmakers on Saturday elected a veteran leader from the ruling right-wing party as the country's next vice-president, boosting Prime Minister Narendra Modi's political standing.  

Venkaiah Naidu, 68, secured 516 parliamentary votes to pip rival Gopalkrishna Gandhi -- the 72-year-old grandson of Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi -- who received 244 votes, according to polling officials.

Gandhi was hoisted for the contest by Congress and several other smaller opposition parties. 

Naidu, considered close to Modi, held the post of a federal minister before being nominated as vice president.

"I promise to uphold the constitution and the high standards set by my esteemed predecessors," Naidu said on Twitter. 

"It's an honour for me to become Vice President from a family of an ordinary farmer. This speaks for the beauty and strength of our democracy," the winner said

The vice president presides over the upper house of parliament and can take temporary charge of the largely ceremonial presidency in the event that the incumbent dies, resigns or is impeached. 

Modi congratulated Naidu in a tweet and said, "I'm confident (he) will serve the nation as a diligent & dedicated Vice President, committed to the goal of nation building."

The BJP and its allies enjoy a majority in the 545-member lower house of parliament but not in the upper house, weakening its ability to pass legislation.

The BJP rules 18 of India's 29 states either directly or in alliance with regional parties. 

Naidu's victory means the top three constitutional offices are now held by BJP leaders following the election of the party's candidate Ram Nath Kovind as president earlier this month.

The Congress president Sonia Gandhi -- of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, not related to Mahatma Gandhi -- in a statement hoped that Naidu, from nationalist BJP, will play a "non-partisan role" as vice president.