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Why BJP’s choice of Droupadi Murmu has put Jharkhand Mukti Morcha in a fix

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It will be tough for the Hemant Soren-led party to not support Droupadi Murmu, the first tribal woman to be nominated for the top post in India

Presidential polls: Why BJP’s choice of Droupadi Murmu has put Jharkhand Mukti Morcha in a fix

NDA’s Presidential candidate Droupadi Murmu arrives at Parliament House ahead of filing her nomination papers. PTI

The race to Rashtrapati Bhavan is gathering pace with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance’s candidate, Droupadi Murmu, filing her nominations today in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and senior leaders of the ruling party, including BJP president JP Nadda.

News agency PTI reported that Prime Minister Modi was her first proposer and senior Union Ministers Rajnath Singh, Amit Shah and BJP president J P Nadda were signatories on the nomination papers.

Murmu will be contesting the Presidential elections, scheduled for 18 July, against the Opposition’s pick of Yashwant Sinha, who shall file his papers on 27 June.

However, the Presidential race has put the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) in a bind and divided the Opposition’s camp. We take a look at who is extending support to which candidate and why the JMM has been caught between a rock and a hard place.

JMM in a fix

The Hemant Soren-led party from Jharkhand had been one of the 17 parties that had backed the candidate of Yashwant Sinha as its Presidential pick.

However, the BJP’s pick of Droupadi Murmu, a Santhali tribal from Mayurbhanj in Odisha, has put the park on the backfoot. This is because as a regional party in tribal-dominated Jharkhand, the JMM cannot be seen as a party, which despite its tribal credentials does not back the “historic move” to send the first tribal to the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Explaining their conundrum, a senior JMM leader was quoted as telling the Hindustan Times, “Ideologically, it will be difficult (for JMM) to be seen on the wrong side of history when a significant development for the community is being registered. Though Yashwant Sinha is also a Jharkhand leader, Murmu would be difficult to ignore, especially when parties like Biju Janata Dal (BJD) have extended their support to Murmu, making it difficult for Sinha to pull a contest.”

Another reason that will make JMM’s decision harder is the personal connect that Murmu shares with the Soren family. Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren’s wife Kalpana Soren also hails from Mayurbhanj district. His sister Anjali Soren is also married in the Mayurbhanj belt.

Additionally, Droupadi Murmu, who has been a two-time MLA from Jharkhand, also served as the governor of the state from 2015 to 2021, becoming the state’s first governor to complete the five-year tenure. She was also Jharkhand’s first woman and tribal governor.

As of date, the JMM has remained mum on the issue, but it has been reported that the party will hold a meeting of its MLAs and MPs on Saturday.

However, there are enough signs that show that the JMM despite being a part of the Opposition will support Murmu for the Presidential post. On Wednesday, JMM spokesperson Manoj Pandey welcomed Murmu as President. Pandey said, “She is a deserving candidate. A tribal has been given this opportunity which we welcome. There should be a unanimous selection for the highest post,” added Pandey.

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Support swells for Murmu

Even as the JMM remains non-committal on their support to Droupadi Murmu, there are other parties that have already backed her candidacy.

The Naveen Patnaik-led Biju Janata Dal (BJD), who keeps equidistant from both NDA and Opposition, hailed Murmu’s candidature, with Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik saying it was a proud moment for the people of his state.

“I was delighted when Hon’ble PM @narendramodi ji discussed this with me. It is indeed a proud moment for people of Odisha,” Patnaik said in a tweet while congratulating Murmu on her candidature.

Patnaik further said he is sure that Murmu “will set a shining example for women empowerment in the country.”

On Thursday, Patnaik also urged all lawmakers in Assembly “cutting across party lines” to extend their support to the state’s daughter.

The YSR Congress of Andhra Pradesh also batted for Droupadi Murmu, saying it was a good sign that a tribal and also a woman had been nominated for the first time in independent India’s history. “That’s why the party is extending support to Droupadi Murmu contesting for the post of President of India.”

Number game

With the support of BJD and YSR Congress, Murmu’s path to Rashtrapati Bhavan is almost a given.

Based on the current numbers, the NDA has about 5.26 lakh votes in total which is roughly about 49 per cent of the total vote. This means that the NDA needs one per cent more votes to get its candidate elected for the President.

For the remaining one per cent, it needed the support of either the YSR Congress or the BJD or the AIADMK.

The three parties in 2017 had also backed the NDA’s choice of President and it seems to be the same case this time around too, stacking the odds against Yashwant Sinha.

With inputs from agencies

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