Is Venkaiah Naidu being offered a second term as Vice President?

Venkaiah Naidu, who was sworn in as Vice President on August 8, 2017, could be the third VP, after Dr S Radhakrishnan and Hamid Ansari, to get a second consecutive term as VP

Is Venkaiah Naidu being offered a second term as Vice President?

Saiyed Zegham Murtaza

Two Vice Presidents of India -- Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan and Hamid Ansari --served two consecutive terms as VP; and now Venkaiah Naidu, who was sworn in as Vice President on August 8, 2017, could be the third to get a second term. But who can really tell till it is announced?

With BJP nominating former Jharkhand Governor Draupadi Murmu as NDA’s Presidential nominee, chances of Naidu to continue as Vice President has brightened. There is no reason for the NDA to risk a new and untested person as VP who is also the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha. He has been more than useful as the RS chairman in keeping the opposition quiet in the House.

But unlike the outgoing President Ram Nath Kovind or the NDA’s Presidential nominee Draupadi Murmu, Vice President Naidu’s family runs a business empire, point out his critics within the NDA. The family runs NGOs, Trusts and foundations, which claim they do not receive or even accept any grant from governments. But donations, CSR funds and schemes funded by the government which they execute depend on Naidu being in office, they say. Once he is out of office, the Trusts could come under closer scrutiny, they maintain.

His critics or even his ‘enemies’ within the BJP have been gleefully waiting for Venkaiah Naidu to retire. The funds to the NGOs would then dry up, they hoped, and with some luck, the Income Tax and Enforcement Directorate could also come sniffing, given the present government’s perceived allergy to Trusts and NGOs.

The Naidu family set up the Swarna Bharatha Trust in 2001 and it has grown phenomenally since July 2002, when Naidu first became minister for rural development in the then AB Vajpayee government.

What critics question is Naidu’s continued and overt interest in the family NGO. Even as the Vice President he has continued to attend various events and programmes hosted by the family NGO. “One in three flights he takes out of Delhi lands in Hyderabad and off he goes to attend one event or the other by the NGO,” claimed one of his critics in Hyderabad, alleging a clear conflict of interest. What is the point of boasting that you don’t accept funds from the government when the Vice President of the country regularly attends your events?

An impartial inquiry into the CSR funds diverted by other foundations run by different companies which benefitted when Naidu was the Urban Development Minister, and the contracts related to the development of a new capital of Andhra Pradesh at Amravati, they say, would prove their point.

There are legitimate businesses too run by the family, which benefit from access to power. A Toyota dealership receiving a contract worth several hundred crores of rupees to supply vehicles to Telangana Government is perfectly above board but wouldn’t come your way unless you can move powerful strings.

Founded in 2001 the Swarna Bharatha Trust has three chapters, one in Hyderabad, another one in Vellore and the third one in Vijayawada. The organization has been conducting skill development programme, vocational training and other educational programmes.

(This was first published in National Herald on Sunday)

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