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Cracks in MVA widen as Uddhav Thackeray is compelled to support Droupadi Murmu for President

Print edition : Aug 25, 2022 T+T-

Cracks in MVA widen as Uddhav Thackeray is compelled to support Droupadi Murmu for President

Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray.

Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray. | Photo Credit: SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

Congress says he has made the wrong choice.

Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray has said that he is supporting Droupadi Murmu, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance’s presidential candidate, only because she is a woman and from the tribal community, and, if elected, will be the first President from Odisha. This is allowing him to maintain a semblance of pride, but at the same time, by extending his support he is letting it be known that he has moved a few steps away from his Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) partners.

When Uddhav was Chief Minister, he had firmly said that there would be no going back to a partnership with the BJP. After his ouster, many of his party members encouraged him to rekindle the old relationship but Uddhav was adamant,  despite the now-known fact that his senior Ministers, like the current Chief Minister, Eknath Shinde, had been briefing him about supposed unrest among Ministers as well as in the ranks and urging him to repair the damage by breaking with the Congress and the NCP and forging the old saffron connection.

If Uddhav had been in a politically secure space he would have likely supported Yashwant Sinha, the common candidate of all the opposition parties. But he is not, and with every passing day more and more of his supporters are shifting to the Shinde camp. If he wants to stay politically relevant, he has no choice but to support Droupadi Murmu.

When the Shinde faction recently conveyed to Uddhav that it was still possible for him to mend fences with the BJP, he did not reject the idea outright. Supporting Droupadi Murmu could be seen as a step towards this.

While he has said that he was under no compulsion when he declared his support, in doing so he has tacitly agreed that he is in a corner and that he is ready to extend a hand.

The BJP at the Centre has welcomed his support but the Maharashtra State Congress has categorically said that he has made the wrong choice.

Congress Legislative Party Leader Balasaheb Thorat said: “The Presidential election is an ideological battle. It is an ongoing struggle for democracy and the defence of the Constitution. This is not a battle between women and men or tribals and non-tribals. Why did Shiv Sena support Draupadi Murmu? He [Thackeray] also gave some reasons for that, but what can we say about the real role of the Shiv Sena leadership behind [this decision]? The role played by Shiv Sena in this ideological battle when the State government was overthrown by adopting a non-democratic path and the existence of Shiv Sena was challenged is incomprehensible.”

Clearly, as the Sena draws closer to the BJP, the cracks in the MVA are definitely widening.

Uddhav Thackeray is at the cliff’s edge right now. In a minority in his own party, he is in that risky position where his leadership is being questioned. In Maharashtra politics it is always assumed that a Thackeray will lead the Shiv Sena. Despite being a registered political party it is in many ways run like a private company. There are no elections within the party and the concept of a supremo still exists with all its implications: his word is law.

So far, the Sena has survived on this principle and, indeed, thrived. But it worked under Bal Thackeray. Uddhav’s style was totally different and initially it did well. But the BJP’s ruthlessness devastated him.

Thackeray is definitely keen to stay in the ring, so he had little option but to support Droupadi Murmu.