New Delhi, July 17: The BJP today named Union minister M. Venkaiah Naidu, who once called Narendra Modi "God's gift to India", as the NDA's vice-presidential candidate who will take on Opposition nominee Gopalkrishna Gandhi.
BJP president Amit Shah described the 68-year-old as "one of the senior-most leaders across party lines" with more than 40 years of experience in public life who had "from childhood" been associated with the parivar.
Shah highlighted Naidu's humble origins as the son of an Andhra Pradesh farmer who had started out as an ordinary party worker.
Prime Minister Modi tweeted: "Have always admired his hardwork & tenacity. A fitting candidate for the office of Vice-President."
Naidu, a former BJP national president, is known for his indefatigable ability to shower praise on Modi and attack political rivals using quirky rhymes.
"Modi is God's gift to India. He is the messiah of the poor," he had said last year at the BJP national executive. About the Congress, he has said in Parliament: "Dynasty is nasty but for some it is tasty."
Shah said the party's parliamentary board had unanimously decided Naidu's candidature in consultation with NDA partners.
The selection of Naidu is believed to be an effort to court voters in south India, where the BJP is desperate to expand its base, and the region's parties such as the AIADMK, Telangana Rashtra Samithi and YSR Congress that have supported NDA presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind.
His nomination also "gets the caste balance right", party sources said. While Kovind is a Dalit from Uttar Pradesh, Naidu belongs to the landed upper caste Kamma.
Besides, the party believes Naidu has the astuteness and the stature to manage the Rajya Sabha --- one of the Vice-President's prime responsibilities --- where the government is in a minority.
"The Prime Minister told Venkaiahji that he didn't want to lose a senior minister like him but needed someone who could manage the Rajya Sabha," a BJP politician said.
Naidu, the urban development and information and broadcasting minister, too was keen to make the shift, sources close to him said.
Given the NDA's comfortable majority in the electoral college - the two Houses of Parliament combined - Naidu is poised to be elected Vice-President.
If that happens, it will create another vacancy in the Union cabinet after Manohar Parrikar's exit to take charge as Goa chief minister burdened finance minister Arun Jatiley with the additional charge of the heavyweight defence portfolio. A possible shuffle could be on the cards.
Like Modi, Naidu has a knack for coining acronyms and is on record saying: "'Modi' stands for Making of Developed India."
Naidu is known to publicly boast of his days as a Sangh pracharak (whole-timer), saying the organisation "has given us character, calibre, capacity and conduct".