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Shiv Sena, TDP, JD(S), now JMM? Murmu as NDA’s presidential nominee leaves oppn splintered

Bonhomie between PM Modi & Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren of JMM during their meet Tuesday sets off buzz as party yet to make its stand clear on Droupadi Murmu. 

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New Delhi: The camaraderie and bonhomie seen between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren Tuesday — while the former was in the state for the launch of many projects, including the Deoghar airport — has set political circles abuzz. 

This, especially with the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) yet to make its stand clear on supporting the BJP-led NDA’s presidential candidate Droupadi Murmu, a former governor of the state known to share a warm equation with Soren. 

The JMM is an ally of the Congress and has formed the state government in alliance with it. 

As they met Tuesday, Hemant Soren went the extra mile to convey his gratitude to the Modi government, praising it profusely for its “cooperation”.  

On his part, Modi refrained from attacking the Jharkhand government or the ruling parties, rather unusual for the PM visiting a non-NDA-governed state. 

All he said was that “those who do politics of short-cut will never build new airports, will never build new and modern highways”, he said. 

Jharkhand, he added, has been a backward state for years. “Now it is moving ahead with the cooperation of the central and state governments,” he said. 

Soren added, “Today, in the presence of Hon’ble Prime Minister, Deoghar airport and other schemes are being inaugurated and the foundation stone is being laid. The dream that we saw about Deoghar airport almost a decade ago has come true today. For this, I would like to thank the honorable Prime Minister.”

However, the JMM termed it a routine affair and said the event should not be viewed from a political prism. 

“It is a tribal tradition to accord the highest respect to any visitor and, in this case, this is the Prime Minister of our country,” said Lok Sabha MP Vijay Kumar Hansdak. 

“Why should anyone give it political colour? The event was related to the development of our state and if the chief minister received the PM or gave him respect and was present at the same event then it should be seen as a positive step,” he added. 

Also Read: Droupadi Murmu isn’t just symbolic. She is central to RSS-BJP’s Hindutva project

The Murmu question

Both the presidential candidates — opposition’s Yashwant Sinha and Droupadi Murmu — have links to Jharkhand.

Former Union minister of finance and external affairs Yashwant Sinha comes from Jharkhand, and has been fielded by a group of opposition parties. 

However, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance’s decision to field Murmu, a tribal from Odisha who has served as Jharkhand governor, has put the JMM in a fix, given its tribal support base.

The JMM has yet to declare its support for Sinha, and has rather been tilting towards supporting Murmu. 

Sinha had earlier said that the “consensus among the opposition over his candidature is a good sign”.

Even so, Murmu’s candidature appears to have challenged the unity, with the Shiv Sena being the latest opposition outfit to express its support for her. 

Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray has said that the decision to support Murmu stems from her being a tribal and none of the Sena MPs had pressured him into doing so. 

“Actually, going by the present political atmosphere, I should not have backed her. But we are not narrow-minded,” said Thackeray Tuesday. 

The Telugu Desam Party (TDP) has also pledged its support to Murmu. The TDP used to be an ally of the NDA before it walked out of the alliance in 2018. 

In Karnataka, the Janata Dal (Secular) has also indicated that it will extend its support to Murmu. During Murmu’s visit to Bengaluru, JD(S) leader H.D. Kumaraswamy had said a final decision on this will be taken soon. 

In 2018, when Kumaraswamy was sworn in as chief minister, his swearing-in ceremony had become the stage to unite all the opposition parties symbolically on the dais. The JD(S) had entered into an alliance with the Congress then.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has also softened her stand on Murmu, and stated that had the BJP discussed the nomination before the announcement, she would have discussed it at the opposition meeting to discuss a presidential nominee. 

“If we had got suggestions about who their [BJP’s] candidate was, we could have discussed at the all-party meeting…,” she has said. 

Tribals have a sizeable presence in at least five Lok Sabha seats in Bengal and, therefore, Murmu’s candidature has put Banerjee — who led the opposition efforts to decided a consensus nominee — in a quandary.

(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)

Also Read: ‘Thaw with Shinde, signal for patch-up with BJP’ — why some Sena MPs want to back Droupadi Murmu


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