dhankhar: Jagdeep Dhankhar: A politician, lawyer who can hold his ground & More Live News

New Delhi: An astute lawyer, persistent as a rival and a survivor in politics with a confident and amiable personality who loves a good fight – this is how people, who have seen vice president-elect Jagdeep Dhankhar work, describe him.

In his latest assignment as the governor of West Bengal, Dhankhar had repeated run-ins with the state government over a range of issues — from post-poll violence to running of universities and alleged corruption and politicisation of administration. These exasperated chief minister Mamata Banerjee so much that she went to the extent of blocking him on Twitter to publicly urging the Centre to withdraw him from Bengal, and even urging opposition parties to make the “interference of governors” in state administration a political moot point against the BJP.

His time as the West Bengal governor is said to have boosted his image as someone who knew how to get his side of the story heard.

The 71-year-old, born in a family of farmers at Kithana in Rajasthan, entered politics in 1989 and was elected to the Lok Sabha from Jhunjhunu on a Congress ticket that same year and in 1990 became a union minister in the Chandra Shekhar government. He shifted to the BJP with the rise of Ashok Gehlot in the Rajasthan Congress. Dhankhar, who practised in the Rajasthan High Court and the Supreme Court, was designated a senior advocate in 1990. People who know him from those days see him as an expert on intellectual property rights.

“He has been a political survivor. He is accessible and knows to market his value, and humble which makes it easy for people to not dislike him … And by Rajasthan standards, quite a successful lawyer,” a person who has known him said. His being a Jat is also seen as one of the important factors why the BJP chose him, as the party prepares to intensify its campaign in Haryana and Rajasthan. He was also a member of the Rajasthan Vidhan Sabha from 1993 to 1998, representing the Kishangarh constituency.

But it was his Bengal assignment that brought him to limelight. Starting with the differences with the Trinamool government’s handling of anti-CAA protests and later Covid-19, Dhankhar regularly pulled up the state administration and police for their “failures” in enforcing the lockdown effectively, emerging as the foremost critic of the Mamata Banerjee government. Banerjee once told the media that his text message had upset her so much that she had to remind him that she was an elected chief minister of a proud Indian state, and he, a nominated governor. He was called a “Twitter Man” who tweeted all his opinions, complaints and grievances against the Mamata Banerjee government. He regularly called the chief secretary and other top officials to the Raj Bhawan and sought clarifications about the law and order situation in Bengal, which was never seen before in Bengal’s administrative culture. He was vocal about post-poll violence, investment scenario, political culture and, ahead of municipal polls, even held discussions with the head of the state election commission.

Always vocal about his views, Dhankhar invited the vice-chancellors of government-run and private universities, drawing ire of the state government. The West Bengal assembly passed a Bill in June to appoint the chief minister as the chancellor of all state universities, replacing the governor.

Dhankhar has never shied away from showing the political side of him. In May 2021, right after the TMC won the assembly polls with a landslide victory, he went on a tour of the state including to Sitalkuchi in North Bengal that saw the most controversial episode of violence during the polls. At the height of the conflict, TMC’s mouthpiece even warned “Ter Paben’ (he will face the consequence) but that did not stop Dhankhar. When the Ram temple verdict was announced in November 2019, he tweeted, “Long wait over – thanks to historic judicial verdict. Appeasement silence stance resonates. Ram Sita in our Constitution.”

As the national convener of the BJP’s law and legal affairs department in 2016, Dhankhar had provided legal advice to the BJP, RSS and its affiliates, though he isn’t seen as a shakha-going swayamsevak. He is also seen as someone who has an excellent relationship with Hindu groups such as the Ramakrishna Mission and Bharat Sewashram.

Known often for his gubernatorial propensity to speak out of turn and step out of line, Dhankhar maintained a friendly relationship with many across political parties, by virtue of his background in law, which would help him handle the Rajya Sabha, many say. In fact, a few weeks ago, Banerjee, her Assam counterpart Himanta Biswa Sarma and Dhankhar were photographed together in Darjeeling in what they later described as a courtesy meeting. Last year, refuting Banerjee’s charges that his name featured in the charge sheet of the Jain Hawala case, Dhankhar refused to take legal action against her, saying, she was afterall like his younger sister.

After the announcement of his name as the VP candidate, PM Narendra Modi posted a tweet about his excellent knowledge of the Constitution, and his expertise with legislative affairs. These are mainly being seen as Dhankhar’s biggest strengths.

“He knows the provisions, procedures and the process … he is an extremely confident political player who knows where the
Laxman rekha is. He is relentless in his aim, and pursuit doesn’t tire him… And along the way, there is a lot of posturing he does, as he plays the part,” said a person who has known him.

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