Presidential Polls: As Voting Day Draws Closer, Disarray In Opposition Over Droupadi Murmu’s Candidature Increases
In the run-up to the Presidential polls, the opposition was aiming to showcase unity and its ability to form a strategy, despite differences.
Far from achieving their goal, they have unmasked the hollowness of their claim and lack of a national vision.
The presidential poll candidate of National Democratic Alliance (NDA), Droupadi Murmu, has put the opposition on the back foot.
With many of the parties weaning away their support for the opposition candidate, Yashwant Sinha, Murmu seems all set for a convincing victory, leaving senior leaders such as Sharad Pawar and Mamata Banerjee looking ill-prepared to take on the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
A month ago, the opposition parties were hoping to make a political statement with the presidential poll. Before Murmu’s candidature was announced, parties led by Trinamool Congress (TMC) supremo Mamta Banerjee had approached Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar and Gopalkrishna Gandhi as consensus candidates. However, both refused considering the dismal possibility of a win.
Finally, they settled with Yashwant Sinha, who, too, took the nomination with utmost seriousness. He resigned from the TMC, which had joined only recently and rushed to Delhi to kickstart his campaign.
However, once Murmu’s name came forth many of the parties in the opposition camp chose to go with NDA’s candidate. Even the TMC, which had intended to take lead in the opposition’s campaign, has changed tunes.
Banerjee has stopped Sinha from visiting her state and has rued about the BJP keeping the opposition in the dark on its intent to make Murmu a candidate. According to her, if she had known earlier, Murmu could have been a consensus candidate. However, it is not clear what is stopping the opposition from withdrawing Sinha’s name from the race.
Sinha, who called Murmu a “rubber stamp” choice, has not been able to make much difference to the race. Even Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) which has been an alliance partner in United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and was the first to show support for the opposition’s candidate, was left in a fix after BJP’s move. JMM could not afford to be seen as opposing a tribal candidate. Murmu has also served as Governor of Jharkhand, making her a natural choice for Chief Minister Hemant Soren’s party.
In Andhra Pradesh, where BJP does not have any MLAs or MPs, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the YSR Congress Party, the two principal parties in the state, have declared their support for Murmu.
Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray, too, is facing pressure from his own MPs on declaring his faction’s support in Murmu’s favour. In the past presidential elections, Shiv Sena, despite being a BJP ally, went with the opposition candidates. But, this time, Thackeray is unable to back the rival candidate, even at the cost of coming across as weak against the BJP.
With this, Thackeray is willing to keep his goodwill with the NCP supremo Sharad Pawar, who has been the charioteer of Sinha’s campaign, at stake. Surely, for the Thackeray scion, the priorities have changed after Eknath Shinde’s rebellion, costing him his chief ministership and control over the party.
Murmu’s probable elevation to the President’s seat would be a transformative moment for tribal people in India. There are already predictions being made on how her nomination would positively impact BJP’s chances in the state elections due in 2023 in Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, among other states.
In the run-up to the polls, the opposition was aiming to showcase unity and its ability to form a strategy, despite differences. Far from achieving their goal, they have unmasked the hollowness of their claim and lack of a national vision.
Mamata Banerjee wanted to replace Congress as the focal point of opposition. But she preferred to leave the battleground instead, even before the bugle was sounded. Sharad Pawar, who is touted as the master strategist, lost his charm, owing to the sudden fall of the Maha Vikas Agadhi (MVA) government in Maharashtra, and then the poor response among the opposition parties to support Sinha.
NDA, on the other hand, has come across as stronger. NDA allies and supporters like Janata Dal (United) and Biju Janata Dal, too, have been quick to put their weight behind Murmu’s candidature, giving little leeway to the opposition to break unity within the ruling coalition.
In the Vice-Presidential election, the opposition would wait for NDA to announce its candidate first before it makes any move. The confidence among the opposition has, quite evidently, been shaken. They will be, now, putting their foot forward with even more caution and trepidation.
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