This Article is From Aug 11, 2022

Jagdeep Dhankhar Takes Vice President Oath: Why "Kisan Putra" Has Value Beyond Symbolic

Jagdeep Dhankhar, veteran politician from Rajasthan, won by the highest winning margin in the last six Vice-Presidential elections since 1997

Jagdeep Dhankhar Takes Vice President Oath: Why 'Kisan Putra' Has Value Beyond Symbolic

Jagdeep Dhankhar taking oath as 14th Vice-President of India.

New Delhi:

Jagdeep Dhankhar, the political veteran from Rajasthan who also served as Governor of Bengal, today took oath as the 14th Vice-President of India. In the election on August 6, he defeated the Congress's Margaret Alva, who was the Opposition candidate, getting 74.36 per cent of the votes — the highest winning margin in the last six V-P elections since 1997.

The oath was administered by President Droupadi Murmu, who too was elected recently. Mr Dhankhar succeeds M Venkaiah Naidu. He becomes chairperson of the Rajya Sabha by default. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has cited Mr Dhankhar's farming background as a standout credential — repeatedly calling him "kisan putra" (farmers' son) in his tweets. And that's not without meaning.

Mr Dhankhar's home state goes to polls next year. Placing a Jat and a "farmers' son" like him in the second highest Constitutional position in India may help the BJP's narrative against Ashok Gehlot's Congress government there. 

Jhunjhunu, the district where Mr Dhankhar was born in village Kithana, is part of a larger cultural region that stretches beyond Rajasthan, into Haryana and Uttar Pradesh too. 

In Haryana, too, Jats form a significant chunk -- it is due for polls just after the Lok Sabha elections in 2024. Here the BJP, led by a non-Jat chief minister, could not retain power on its own last time, and had to take support from Dushyant Chautala's party that has some heft in the community. 

Incidentally, Dushyant Chautala is a great-grandson of former deputy prime minister Devi Lal, in whose tutelage Mr Dhankhar started his political career. "I never thought, even in my dreams, that a person with a humble background like me will get this opportunity," Mr Dhankhar, 71, said at the time of filing his nomination papers. 

Before coming to the BJP nearly two decades ago, Jagdeep Dhankar had stints in the Congress and Janata Dal. 

He was a lawyer at the Rajasthan High Court when he entered politics, winning the 1989 Lok Sabha election from home base Jhunjhunu on the Janata Dal ticket. In the short-lived, Congress-supported government of Chandra Shekhar, he was a minister. 

He joined the Congress ahead of the 1991 Lok Sabha election but lost from Ajmer even as the party came to power and PV Narasimha Rao became PM. He then shifted to state politics and served as MLA (1993-98). But, as Ashok Gehlot rose to the top of Congress in Rajasthan, Mr Dhankhar saw his chance dim. After years of being in the shadows, he shifted to the BJP by the 2000s.

In the BJP, he mostly worked within the organisation for nearly two decades before his name made national headlines again three years ago. In 2019, he was appointed Governor of West Bengal.

Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress government there accused him of doing the bidding of the BJP-led central government. Mr Dhankhar did not try to hide his dislikes either. The controversy-a-day tenure gave more prominence to Mr Dhankhar. He resigned last month to get into the Vice-Presidential contest.

Mr Dhankhar, the second Vice President from Rajasthan after Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, had the support of several non-NDA parties too. The Trinamool Congress, though, decided to abstain from the voting. It did not back Margaret Alva, either, for it was unhappy with "the manner in which the Opposition candidate was chosen".

On the personal front, Mr Dhankhar started education in his village and later joined the Sainik School in Chittorgarh on a scholarship, according to his profile in the Bengal Raj Bhavan website.

In Jaipur for further studies, he got a bachelor's degree in physics from Maharaja College, and then got his law degree from the University of Rajasthan. 

He has a daughter, Kamna, with wife Sudesh Dhankhar.