New Delhi: After a decade in electoral politics through the ’90s, Jagdeep Dhankhar, once a senior counsel at the Supreme Court, went into a political hiatus. His appointment as Governor of West Bengal in July 2019, surprised many, including his peers in the legal fraternity and his old colleagues in the BJP.
Dhankhar, a reasonably new face in eastern Indian political circles, has since had several run-ins with the state’s Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
From bringing snooping allegations against the chief minister’s office, to summoning senior officials — including the chief secretary and the director general of police — to Raj Bhavan routinely to seek reports about incidents of violence and issues related to government functioning, Dhankhar had indeed caused some political and administrative complications for the Bengal Chief Minister during his tenure as Governor.
His actions, letters and statements, have always been too sharp for the government to counter them on legal or administrative ground, though leaders of the ruling Trinamool Congress — including the Chief Minister — never shied away from calling him a “BJP leader’ and the Raj Bhavan an “RSS karyalaya”, blaming Dhankhar of “interference” in the government functioning.
The past four years, however, have been the most productive years for Dhankhar, since his brief stint as an union minister in former Prime Minister Chandrashekhar’s cabinet.
These four years have brought national prominence for Dhankhar, and given him direct access to Home Minister and BJP’s former national president Amit Shah.
As Governor, he had traveled across the West Bengal, visited the accident sports and sites of political violence, rushed to universities in case of any crisis — including Jadavpur University, when the vice chancellor was gheraoed.
While Dhankhar had been criticised by Bengal politicians for being “hyperactive”, all his actions were legally and constitutionally validated by the Raj Bhavan through his statements.
As the former Bengal Governor is voted India’s new Vice President (VP), a look back at his rise.
‘Kisan putra’, ‘people’s Governor’
Dhankhar is the first former state Governor to be elected Vice President since Krishan Kant — India’s Vice President between 1997 and 2002.
Krishan Kant was succeeded to the Vice President’s post by Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, a former Rajasthan CM. M. Hamid Ansari (politician and retired diplomat) — who had two terms as the VP — followed, before M. Venkaiah Naidu (a former union minister) took over.
Born in a village in Rajasthan’s Jhunjhunu district, he studied at a school in his village before joining a sainik school on full scholarship. His Jat identity is seen as one of the reasons for him to be nominated as NDA’s VP candidate.
Dhankhar, once among the most powerful advocates in Rajasthan High Court, has also been a senior SC counsel. In conversations with ThePrint, his junior colleagues in SC referred to him as “guru”, and credited him with having an “incisive mind” while questioning, reasoning and fighting a case.
His peers in SC remembered him as someone who was instrumental in making former finance minister Arun Jaitley the additional solicitor general (ASG) of the country.
And despite his public face-offs with CM Mamata Banerhee, the two have been known to be on cordial terms. Banerjee, on many occasions, visited the Raj Bhavan unscheduled. She has also called Dhankhar a “bhalo manush (a good person in Bengali)” several times, while Dhankhar has referred to her as “hamari choti behen (my younger sister in Hindi)”.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)