The Shiv Sena led by Uddhav Thackeray has given in to its MPs’ demand and will support Droupadi Murmu, the BJP-led NDA’s candidate, in the Presidential polls on July 18. The party is already stunted after Eknath Shinde broke away and replaced Mr Thackeray as Chief Minister of Maharashtra with the BJP’s support.
The decision to support Ms Murmu comes a day after 16 of the party’s 22 MPs told Mr Thackeray to support her “because she is a woman from a tribal community”. If elected — which is all but done as the NDA has the numbers — she’ll be the first tribal woman to be President of India. That’s a factor in Maharashtra, where nearly 10 per cent of the population is of Scheduled Tribes.
Team Thackeray’s Sanjay Raut had said yesterday that supporting Ms Murmu would “not mean supporting BJP”.
During the Sena mutiny last month, Mr Shinde’s faction had been demanding that Uddhav Thackeray ditch the Congress and NCP, to get back with “natural ally” BJP. But Mr Thackeray refused and had to resign after the majority of his MLAs sided with Mr Shinde.
Yesterday was another test of strength as Uddhav Thackeray called a meeting of the party’s MPs — 22 in all, including 19 in the Lok Sabha, three in Rajya Sabha. Six of them who are with Eknath Shinde — thus already standing in Ms Murmu’s corner — did not turn up. And the view of the 16 Thackeray loyalists was also in sync, in favour of Ms Murmu. The party had little choice as there is no binding ‘whip’ in these elections, so the MPs can vote as they please.
The Shiv Sena was earlier backing former union minister Yashwant Sinha — who had a long stint with the BJP before a fallout some years ago — as a “joint Opposition candidate”, though several non-NDA parties have chosen to back Ms Murmu citing her tribal identity.