Mumbai: Fearing another split in the party, now by MPs, close on the heels of the rebellion by 40 MLAs, on Tuesday, the Shiv Sena president, Uddhav Thackeray, announced his party’s support to the NDA candidate Droupadi Murmu in the upcoming presidential election, slated for July 18. Thackeray made a formal announcement after most of the party’s 19 MPs, at the marathon meeting on July 11, had made a strong case for support to Murmu, who hails from a tribal community, instead of the opposition nominee, Yashwant Sinha.
Thackeray, who has launched daily interactive sessions for party cadres, office-bearers and elected representatives, in a bid to revive the party organisation after the coup engineered by Eknath Shinde, clarified that the MPs did not pressurize him to support Murmu but had left the decision to him.
“In the last few days, tribals and Shiv Sainiks working in that community have requested that the party support Murmu. Representatives from the ST-SC community requested that for the first time, a person from a tribal community is getting the chance to become the President and therefore, the Shiv Sena should support Murmu. Respecting all these requests, the Shiv Sena will support Droupadi Murmu in the Presidential election,” declared Thackeray.
“We are happy if a tribal woman were to be the President of India. Earlier, the Shiv Sena had extended support to UPA candidates Pratibha Patil and Pranab Mukherjee, instead of backing NDA candidates in the presidential elections of 2007 and 2012. Even now, the Shiv Sena is taking a different stance and supporting the NDA’s Droupadi Murmu,” said Thackeray.
His announcement has come just before Murmu is expected to be in Mumbai, on July 14, for campaigning. Shiv Sena insiders said the NDA nominee may meet Thackeray and thank him for his party’s support. Thackeray’s move also comes at a time when the Shinde camp has reiterated that 12 of the 19 MPs from the Shiv Sena will soon jump ship.
With this, the Shiv Sena has distanced itself from allies NCP and Congress in the ensuing Presidential elections, in which the latter will support Sinha. Thackeray’s decision has also raised serious doubts over the survival of the Maha Vikas Aghadi in the state and it is being considered the prelude to Thackeray faction eventually supporting the BJP and the Shinde camp to stay politically relevant and retain its tally in coming general elections. The NCP and Congress have organised a meeting on July 17, in their support to Sinha, who is expected to be present. However, the Shiv Sena will skip this meeting, given its decision to rally behind Murmu.
While Uddhav Thackeray’s decision will alienate his MVA allies it will increase the chances of a patch-up with BJP and the Eknath Shinde camp.
Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut said the party had already gone beyond politics and given its support to presidential candidates, considering their stature and identity. He made it clear that supporting Murmu did not mean supporting the BJP.
“Draupadi Murmu is the first Adivasi woman presidential candidate. She figured in our discussion. There is a substantial population of the tribal community in Maharashtra. Many Shiv Sena workers and MLAs hail from the tribal community,” said Raut.
He added, “Even if it is true that there is a need to strengthen the opposition parties in the country, in the case of such elections, we must decide based on public sentiment. We had backed Pratibha Patil and have not supported NDA candidates in the past. She was the first woman from Maharashtra (to become the President). We had backed Pranabda, too.”