Tuesday, November, 29,2022

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On July 18, the BJP and especially the astute politician that PM Narendra Modi is… once again showed his political prowess and the Opposition cut an extremely sorry figure as far as the presidential elections were concerned. To start with, the way the candidates’ names, especially in the Opposition camp was announced and the thereby rejection from the candidates themselves only reduced the stature of the Opposition. The presidential race has clearly exposed the “myth” called Opposition unity and also displayed the clueless lot of parties and their divided and half-hearted attempts to take on the Saffron might. By just naming Draupadi Murmu, PM Modi gave it a check and mate status and the BJD which (understandably) stayed away from the Opposition meeting in this regard (other than AAP and TRS) was the first party to fall in line owing to the fact that Murmu was the daughter of Odisha!

And what happened on the voting day was the full feature film which exposed the fragile and brittle unity of the Opposition camp (if there’s anything left in this regard!). Yashwant Sinha, the Opposition’s pick for President, looked already defeated. Though his name was finally announced by the Trinamool supremo after the rejections from Gopal Krishna Gandhi and Farooq Abdullah… yet the TMC made no real-time efforts to campaign solidly for Sinha. Instead, days before the presidential polls, Mamata herself said, “Draupadi Murmu, who represents the tribal community and is a woman, would have been a preferred choice as a consensus candidate, had BJP informed about her name as presidential candidate well ahead.

This itself may have been so disheartening for Yashwant Sinha and only he must have understood how it felt thereafter to continue in the race. Also, it may be recalled that the Congress, which also seconded Sinha, made almost cipher efforts to solicit support for Sinha and Rahul Gandhi was away on a trip abroad (his fifth foreign trip this year) and returned on the voting day. By naming Murmu, the BJP made its political goal clear - to woo and win back allies like the Akali Dal, which supported presidential and the vice-presidential candidates Murmu and Dhankhar.

Even Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who these days hardly agrees with the BJP on any issues, also fell in line and followed the Saffron party’s strictures regarding the presidential polls. If all these was achieved before the battle was won, guess what happened on the day the war was fought? A day later on Tuesday while this article was being written, news reports trickling in from various parts of the country weren’t very bright for the Opposition camp.

In Maharashtra, three MLAs… one from the Congress and two from Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) came on record and said they voted for NDA candidate Draupadi Murmu. In Gujarat, the sole NCP legislator, Kandhal Jadeja (also on record) said he sided for Murmu.

Gujarat NCP president Jayant Patel ‘Bosky’ immediately cracked down and sought an explanation from Jadeja for his act but it may be noted here that the party did not issue a whip, although its legislators were instructed verbally to vote for Sinha.

Another NCP MLA, Kamlesh Singh (from Jharkhand), cast his ballot in favour of Murmu. Haryana Congress MLA Kuldeep Bishnoi, who cross-voted in last month’s Rajya Sabha polls, said he voted according to his conscience. Indicating that he cast his ballot in favour of Murmu, Bishnoi said, “Like in Rajya Sabha, I have cast my vote in this election too as per my conscience.” Heavily criticising Yashwant Sinha for once allegedly calling SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav “ISI agent”, Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party chief and brother of Mulayam Singh… Shivpal Yadav said, “Hardcore SP leaders, who follow “Netaji’s” principles, will never support a candidate who levelled such allegations.”

In Assam, AIUDF legislator Karimuddin Barbhuiya alleged that at least 20 Congress MLAs voted for Murmu. A Congress MLA from Odisha, Mohammad Moquim, voted for Murmu, as the NDA presidential nominee is a ‘daughter’ of (his) state and so he went by his “conscience” call.

ROBIN ROY   The writer is Senior Associate Editor, Free Press Journal, Mumbai and former Managing Editor, First India

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