Shibu Soren’s JMM now backs Droupadi Murmu for President
The party is the senior partner in Jharkhand’s ruling coalition, which also comprises the Congress and RJD, but chose to back the NDA’s candidate who is the first Adivasi woman to be nominated for the highest office in the land and is also a former governor of Jharkhand. The Congress and RJD are backing Yahwant Sinha, the joint opposition's nominee.
The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) on Thursday announced its support for National Democratic Alliance candidate Droupadi Murmu in next week’s presidential election, becoming the latest party to break away from the Opposition’s ranks ahead of the prestigious poll.
The JMM is the senior partner in Jharkhand’s ruling coalition, which also comprises the Congress and Rashtriya Janata Dal, but chose to back the NDA’s candidate who is the first Adivasi woman to be nominated for the highest office in the land and is also a former governor of Jharkhand.
“You are aware that former Jharkhand governor who is a tribal woman is a candidate in presidential election. This is the first time post independence that a tribal woman would be getting honour to become president. After long deliberations, the party has decided to support Murmu in the election. All party legislators, MPs are directed to vote in favour of Murmu on July 18,” said the letter of JMM president Shibu Soren to party’s elected representatives.
The JMM draws its electoral strength from adivasis in the tribal-dominated state, and Murmu is also known to enjoy warm personal relations with chief minister Hemant Soren and his father, Shibu Soren.
Murmu had called on Shibu Soren, Rajya Sabha member, during her visit to Ranchi on July 4 and sought their support. JMM is the largest party in the 81-member Jharkhand assembly with 30 legislators. It also has two Rajya Sabha and one Lok Sabha member.
The decision is an embarrassment for Opposition candidate Yashwant Sinha, who was expected to visit Jharkhand and meet legislators on Saturday. JMM was one of the 17 parties that had announced Sinha as their joint candidate last month but chose to break away from its allies who continue to back Sinha.
In the presidential electoral college, comprising parliamentarians and members of state assemblies, Murmu holds a huge lead over Sinha and is set to win the July 18 election. But the support of JMM is significant because it signals distress in the Opposition camp and a symbolic victory for the NDA. Earlier this week, another Opposition party, the Shiv Sena, also announced its support for Murmu, indicating that Sinha was losing support quickly amid dissension in the Opposition ranks.
JMM’s decision came amid a legal tangle ensnaring Hemant Soren,before the Jharkhand high court and the Election Commission of India. While the EC is hearing a complaint from the BJP seeking disqualification from the assembly for allegedly holding an office of profit, the high court is hearing two PILs seeking CBI inquiry against the CM for holding the mining lease and allegedly parking ill-gotten money through steel companies.
The party, which had authorised Shibu Soren to take a call on the presidential election after a meeting with elected representatives and senior leaders on June 25, announced the decision two days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the state.
“The JMM could give whatever justification for its decision to support Murmu, but politically speaking and in context of the prevailing condition the chief minister has landed himself in, this decision needs to be seen as a step by the JMM to get closer to the NDA,” said Sudhir Pal, a political commentator in the state.
Congress leaders did not respond to calls and messages till the time of filing the report.
“We welcome the decision of JMM to support the NDA candidate in presidential election. I have confidence that parties and independents would also help in making first tribal person president of the country,” said Jharkhand BJP president Deepak Prakash.
JMM general secretary Vinod Pandey said Droupadi Murmu spoke to Shibu Soren on phone and thanked him for the support.