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Venkaiah Naidu Front-Runner As BJP Looks South For Veep: Sources

NEW DELHI: The ruling BJP is expected to meet this evening and name its candidate for vice president. Top sources in the party have indicated that it is likely to be a person from South India.

Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu is said to be a front-runner, though sources are non-committal because it is for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to decide whether he will spare a cabinet minister. This was seen to be why a senior minister was ruled out in the presidential polls.

PM Modi and BJP president Amit Shah met last week for discussions and are likely to share their views at the meeting of the party's top body, the parliamentary board later today.

Voting is taking place today for the presidential poll, which the BJP's candidate Ram Nath Kovind is set to win easily. The ruling party's vice presidential choice is also expected to get the support of 557 of total 787 MPs.

Sources say the BJP and its advisers have a three-factor requirement of their candidate: a background as a rigorous subscriber to the core values of the BJP and its ideological mentor the RSS; the ability to run smoothly the Rajya Sabha, of which the Vice President serves as the Chairman and where the government is currently in a minority; and to represent a key support base of the BJP, just like Ram Nath Kovind, a Dalit leader.

In May, Mr Naidu had used his trademark word-play to rule himself out from the presidential and vice presidential race.

"I neither want to become Rashtrapati (president), nor do I want to become uprashtrapati (vice-president). I am happy being Usha's pati (wife Usha's husband)," Mr Naidu quipped when questioned by reporters.

Party insiders say Mr Naidu's nomination will boost the party's appeal in states like Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

Opposition parties last week named as their vice presidential candidate Gopalkrishna Gandhi, a former governor who was also briefly considered by them for the post of president.

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