Venkaiah Naidu is a visionary with a dictionary. A rhetorician who is committed to word contortion without any sense of proportion. A hyper wielder of hyperbole. And he is likely to be India’s next vice president.
The senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader is well known for his extensive political career: Four Rajya Sabha terms, former BJP president and holder of several ministerial portfolios both under Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and in this current government. But in recent years Naidu has become as well known for his ability to turn, or at least torture, a phrase as for its political utility.
This is after all the man who, as BJP president, made “Ek haath mein BJP ka jhanda aur doosre haath mein NDA ka agenda” (the BJP flag in one hand and the National Democratic Alliance’s agenda in the other), the party’s maxim ahead of elections in 2004. The BJP recorded a surprise loss, and Naidu stepped down afterwards, but his phrase-turning did not end there.
That year India Today dubbed them Venkaiahisms, and there are now plenty of those.
“We have commitment, caliber, capacity, conduct, discipline, dynamism, dedication, devotion,” he said, addressing the Congress in Parliament in 2016. “You only have commotion to create emotion for your own promotion.”
In February 2017, he decided to even take his poetry to Facebook, where he wrote a paean to the state of Jharkhand.
And indeed, right as speculation about him being picked as the BJP candidate for either president or vice president came up, Naidu said “I neither want to become rashtrapati [president] nor do I want to become uprashtrapati [vice president].” He drew his wife into the picture: “I am happy being Usha’s pati”, Usha’s husband.
The quips are endless and relentless. Here is one he pulled out about the Samajwadi Party in 2016: “As I always say, dynasty in democracy is nasty, but tasty to some people.”
Sometimes that ad-libbing doesn’t work out so well, such as when he seemed to believe that Agha Shahid Ali collection of poems, The Country without a Post Office, which was used as the title for a cultural event last year, was a literal indictment of India’s infrastructure under Modi.
“The heading of the poster says: ‘A country without a post office’. Is India without post office? The entire world is looking towards India under the great leadership of Shri Narendra Modiji today.”
This even made its way to official press releases from the government. As Information and Broadcasting Minister, Naidu offered this gem at a photo exhibition.
“Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu said that information with confirmation is ammunition and photo confirms the information.”
After the BJP’s stunning electoral victory in 2014, Naidu said that the BJP had won “the mainland, the island and the highland” – referring to the cowbelt, the highland of Ladakh and the Andaman and Nicobar islands, where his party was victorious.
That victory over the United Progressive Alliance inspired Naidu a lot, prompting him to say, “During UPA, it was PM presides, Madam or Boy decides. Now PM presides, Team decides.”
From Venkaiahisms, however, we have graduated to Venkronyms. Of late Naidu, like his beloved prime minister, has been given to offering alternative full-forms for abbreviations, usually in praise of his party and leader.
When the country was discussing flaws in the Electronic Voting Machines, Naidu said that EVM stands for “Every Vote Modi”. Naidu was the one to insist that Modi stood for “Modifier of Developing India”, which the party decided to officially adopt as well. He suggested that Young actually refers to “You Owe U and Nation Greatness” and that City is actually just short for, “Civic Infrastructure To You”.
This even resulted in a parody account, called Venkronym Naidu, with an appropriate bio: “National Acronym Innovation & Design University (NAIDU) Pradhanamantri Acronyms Replied On Demand Yojana(PARODY).”
Invoking a version of Poe’s law, the parody was believable enough for the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, which was then headed by Naidu, to re-tweet a post from the account featuring a full-form of MoHUPA – Ministry of Helpful Ultra Powerful Acronyms – only to delete it soon after.
But Venkronyms and Venkaiahisms may not cover the most important of Naidu’s phrases from the last few years. These two don’t have any wit or full-form phraseology to them, and yet they might explain why Naidu has remained relevant despite once being under the tutelage of LK Advani: “Modi is god’s gift for India. He is the messiah of the poor. He inherited challenges in each and every sector. He is steering clear of them.”