Murmu gets boost with BJD backing
New Delhi/Rairangpur (Odisha): NDA candidate Droupadi Murmu on Wednesday appeared set for smooth sailing in the presidential election after she received the crucial backing of BJD, but an unfazed Opposition nominee Yashwant Sinha asserted that he is fighting an ideological contest and the country should not have a "rubber-stamp president".
With the support of Naveen Patnaik's party, Murmu, who belongs to the Santhal tribal community in Odisha, has around 52 percent votes (around 5,67,000 votes) out of a total of 10,86,431 votes of all electors.
This includes 3,08,000 votes of MPs of the BJP and its allies. The BJD has around 32,000 votes in the electorate which is around 2.9 percent of the total.
BJD president and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who is currently touring Italy, appealed to all members of the state Assembly to support Murmu, 64, in the July 18 election, describing her as the daughter of the state.
On Wednesday morning, Murmu, before heading for Delhi, sought divine blessings as she swept the floor of a Shiva temple in her home in a nondescript tribal-dominated Rairangpur town in Odisha's Mayurbhanj district at the crack of dawn. It has been a daily ritual for her since she returned in August 2021 after retiring as governor of Jharkhand.
Congress Legislature Party leader Narasingha Mishra, however, said BJP has fielded Murmu in the presidential poll keeping an eye on BJD's votes in the electoral college.
We may not support her in the elections even though she is the befitting candidate, he said.
Murmu, who will be the first tribal President and the youngest to occupy the post when elected, is also likely to get the support of other regional parties, including the AIADMK and the YSRCP.
She is likely to file her nomination on June 24 and is expected to be accompanied by top NDA leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Sinha, who will file his nomination for the presidential polls on June 27, held his first campaign strategy meeting on Wednesday at the NCP office in Delhi.
Talking to reporters, Sinha, 84, said the presidential election is not an individual battle but a fight for the issues plaguing the country.
"I am thankful to all the political parties that have given me the opportunity in the presidential polls. This election is not an individual fight for me. There are issues that the country is facing on which the electoral college has to take a decision," the former Union minister, who parted ways with the BJP in 2018 and has been a vocal critic of the Modi government, said.
"We will be going to various places in the country to campaign.... We are formulating a strategy for that. I congratulate Droupadi Murmu, but this is not me against her -- this is an ideological contest. We should not have a rubber-stamp president in the country," he said.
Leaders like KK Sharma (Nationalist Congress Party), Jairam Ramesh (Congress) and Sudheendra Kulkarni were present at the meeting on Wednesday.
In a statement, Sinha said if elected, he shall conscientiously uphold, without fear or favour, the basic values and guiding ideals of the Constitution.
He further alleged that the ongoing attacks on the federal structure of the Constitution, whereby the Centre is "attempting to rob the state governments of their legitimate rights and powers", will be treated as totally unacceptable.
"I shall raise my voice for the common people -- kisans, workers, unemployed youth, women and all marginalised sections of the society," Sinha said.
Both the candidates are likely to travel extensively in the country to seek the support of lawmakers and political parties. According to the latest official figures, the BJP on its own has 393 MPs, excluding four nominated Rajya Sabha members who cannot vote, out of the current strength of 776 members from both Houses, giving it a clear majority.
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