Yashwant Sinha, the opposition presidential candidate, today said former Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackery was ‘forced’ to support his opponent, NDA candidate Draupadi Murmu. “I am not fighting a political party, but the power of the central government,” Sinha added during an interview with journalists in Guwahati on the sidelines of his campaign.
Uddhav Thackeray – initially a supporter of the opposition candidate – declared his support for Ms Murmu earlier this week after being pressed by a group of 16 MPs from his party.
On Tuesday, Mr Thackeray said that ‘given the current political atmosphere, I shouldn’t have supported her, but we are not narrow minded’.
His statement, however, was seen as an attempt to stop the growing division in his party that cost him his government.
The alliance government in Maharashtra had collapsed before the presidential elections following the rebellion of Eknath Shinde, who is now the chief minister. Forty of Sena’s 55 lawmakers had backed Mr. Shinde. In parliament too, at least six deputies appeared to be on the other side.
Accusing the Center of trying by all means to weaken the opposition ahead of the presidential elections, Yashwant Sinha said it was “a misuse of the Directorate of Enforcement…Using agencies – they overthrow elected governments”.
The central government is trying to “break the opposition parties ahead of the presidential elections”, Sinha said.
But despite the willingness of regional parties to support Ms Murmu one after another, Mr Sinha appeared optimistic.
“The Trinamool Congress and Mamata Banerjee fully support me. The Aam Admi party will open its cards soon, I am aware of that. Only one party in the opposition camp supports the NDA candidate – that is the Shiv Sena. The Telangana Rashtra Samithi was not part of the opposition meeting, but she still supports me, so we have a lot of support from the opposition,” Sinha added.
Counting the parties that have already pledged to support her, Draupadi Murmu can expect more than 60% of the electoral college votes. Besides the Shiv Sena, the list includes Naveen Patnaik, Chief Minister of Odisha and Head of Biju Janata Dal, and Janata Dal United, Chief Minister of Bihar, Nitish Kumar.
Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren is expected to support her candidacy as Ms Murmu was Governor of her state.
No whips, however, can be issued for presidential elections and MPs and deputies are allowed to vote as they please.