Thursday, February 2, 2023

Sena to support NDA candidate Murmu: Uddhav

Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray on Tuesday announced his party’s support to NDA’s Presidential candidate Droupadi Murmu in growing backing for the tribal leader and sparking fresh divisions within the opposition which has fielded Yashwant Sinha.
The announcement that came as a setback for the opposition camp was made by Thackeray at a news conference in Mumbai. With this, the vote share of parties who have extended support to Murmu for the July 18 Presidential elections has crossed 60 per cent. The Shiv Sena is virtually split into two factions, one led by Uddhav Thackeray, a former chief minister, and another by Eknath Shinde who became the CM last month with BJP support after his revolt against the former. The Shinde faction has already extended support to Murmu.
Thackeray said the Sena is announcing support for Murmu without any pressure.
“Actually going by the present political atmosphere, I should not have backed her (Murmu) because she is a candidate of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). But we are not narrow-minded,” he said while acknowledging that this is the first occasion wherein a tribal woman is getting the opportunity to become the President.
“Nobody pressured me in the meeting of Sena MPs,” Thackeray said, referring to the meeting of Sena MPs held at his residence in Mumbai a day earlier.
Thackeray’s ally Congress said the Sena decision was “unfathomable”.
“The Shiv Sena is a part of Maha Vikas Aghadi, but it has not discussed its decision with us. It is unfathomable why the party is supporting Murmu when its government (in Maharashtra) was brought down in a non-democratic way,” senior Maharashtra Congress leader Balasaheb Thorat said in a statement. The NCP is the other constituent of the MVA.
After getting the support of some regional parties like the BJD, YSR Congress, BSP, AIADMK, TDP, JDS, Shiromani Akali Dal and now Shiv Sena, the vote share of Murmu has already crossed 60 per cent. It was around 50 per cent at the time of her nomination on June 24.
Major non-BJP parties like the Congress, TMC and NCP have named Yashwant Sinha, a former union minister, as the joint nominee for the presidential elections.
Murmu and Sinha travelled to some more states on Tuesday seeking the support of legislators for their candidature.
Murmu, who was in Amaravati in Andhra Pradesh, said her candidature for the post of President was the “manifestation of social justice and women empowerment”.
Sinha, who was in Chandigarh, said the country does not need a “silent president” but the one who uses his or her moral authority and discretion.
Sinha said this at a news conferene in Chandigarh as he accused the BJP-led Union government of misusing central agencies against its political rivals.
In Mumbai, most MPs of Shiv Sena had urged Thackeray to back Murmu’s candidature. The Sena has 19 MPs in the Lok Sabha including 18 from Maharashtra. It has three MPs in the Rajya Sabha.
“I am clarifying my stand. Tribal leaders of my party told me that this is the first time that a woman from the tribal community is getting the chance to become the president. Respecting their views, we have decided to back Droupadi Murmu’s candidature,” Thackeray said at his news conference.
Thackeray recalled that the Shiv Sena had backed United Progressive Alliance’s (UPA’s) nominees Pratibha Patil and Pranab Mukherjee in the Presidential polls held in 2007 and 2012 respectively, even though the Sena was a constituent of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance(NDA) at that time.
“Even at that time, the Shiv Sena had thought beyond politics and did what is good for the country,” Thackeray said.
Murmu met BJP MPs and MLAs from West Bengal to seek their support.
BJP state president Sukanta Majumdar and Suvendu Adhikari, the Leader of the opposition in the state assembly, along with central leaders of the party were present at the hour-long meeting held in a hotel in Kolkata.
Around 65 MLAs and 16 MPs of the saffron party were present at the meeting and assured her of support in the presidential poll, according to sources in the state unit of the BJP.
“All of us have assured full support to her and wished her success,” BJP national vice-president Dilip Ghosh said.
Union Minister Smriti Irani told reporters in Howrah that if the TMC does not support Murmu it will prove that the party is against tribals and the poor.
“If Mamata Di (Mamata Banerjee) cannot support Droupadi Murmu, then she should herself judge whether she is against the poor and tribals or not,” Irani said when asked to comment on West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee recent remarks that opposition parties might have considered backing Murmu had BJP held discussions with them before fielding her.
Murmu also visited the ancestral house of Swami Vivekananda in north Kolkata. She was accompanied by BJP leaders Suvendu Adhikari, Sukanta Majumdar, Agnimitra Pal and others.
She garlanded the statue of Swamiji at his ancestral home on Shimla Street and paid obeisance to him.
Murmu met MPs and MLAs of Andhra Pradesh’s ruling YSR Congress and urged them to “bless and support me”.
“I am a tribal leader from a remote village in Mayurbhanj district in Odisha. AP and Odisha are neighbours and have many similarities in food habits, dress and customs. I belong to Santhal community, one of the major tribes of India,” she said.
Accompanied by Union Tourism and Culture Minister G Kishan Reddy, Murmu arrived in Amaravati and drove to Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy’s residence at Tadepalli, where he hosted tea for her.
“Andariki namaskaraalu”, Murmu began her address in Telugu, greeting all those present.

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