On expected lines, the Shiv Sena on Tuesday announced that it will support the NDA's Presidential candidate Draupadi Murmu vis-a-vis the non-BJP Opposition's contender for the top post, Yashwant Sinha.Sena President Uddhav Thackeray made the formal announcement after a series of consultations with the party MPs, MLAs and other leaders including tribals.
"There have been absolutely no pressures from the MPs, as claimed in the media. However, many Sena leaders and office-bearers from tribal communities have requested usa We have taken a decision to support Draupadi Murmu for the President's elections," Thackeray told mediapersons.
The Sena chief recalled that in the past when it was with the NDA, it had supported the rival candidates in Presidential polls."For the first time a tribal woman is slated to occupy the country's top post... We are not small-minded and we shall back her candidature.
Even in the past we had supported the candidature of Pratibha Patil (2007), Pranab Mukherjee (2012) when we were with the NDA," said Thackeray.Earlier on Tuesday, Shiv Sena MP and Chief Spokesperson Sanjay Raut had given strong indications to the party's possible stance while interacting with the media.
"Backing Murmu does not mean supporting the Bharatiya Janata Party. The decision will be taken keeping in view public sentiments," Raut made it clear, amid a clamour from its former saffron ally Bharatiya Janata Party to toe its (BJP) line.
Raut said on Monday, Thackeray had discussed the Presidential polls issue and other matters in detail at a meeting of most Sena MPs from Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha besides some other top leaders."In the past even Balasaheb Thackeray used to hold such consultations with party leaders on major issues and the decisions were made on the basis of the view of the colleagues.
At yesterday's meeting, the candidature of Murmu was also discussed," said Raut.While emphasising that supporting Murmu doesn't imply backing the BJP, he said the Sena has all the goodwill for Sinha."A majority of our MPs were present at yesterday's meeting barring Shinde's son, Dr. Shrikant Shinde and Bhavana Gawali.
The party does not take any decisions under pressure and whatever is finally decided, would be binding on all MPs and MLAs," Raut said.Nationalist Congress Party and Congress, the other Maha Vikas Aghadi - of which the Sena is a part - have not yet reacted to the developments, though sources indicate both parties are not too surprised by its ally's decision.
Meanwhile, both Murmu and Sinha are expected to be in Mumbai this week to campaign for the Presidential elections and are likely to meet the top leaders of all political parties to seek their support.