Heavy cross-voting amid a lack of opposition unity paved the way for a big win for Droupadi Murmu on Thursday as she became the new President of the country, underscoring that the prospect of a larger opposition front against the Narendra Modi government remains a mirage.
The presidential and vice presidential electoral fights were largely symbolic with the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA)’s candidates expected to win from the start. But it is the nature of the current presidential election, with Murmu polling nearly 70 per cent of all votes, that has exposed the fissures in the opposition ranks and even inside the UPA camp. As many as 17 MPs and nearly 102 MLAs cross-voted for Droupadi Murmu, apart from about half-a-dozen non-NDA parties that refused to side with the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA). The number of cross-voting MLAs is expected to further go up when the counting is complete.
Worse, the Trinamool Congress on Thursday announced that it would abstain from voting in the vice presidential elections and not side with UPA candidate Margaret Alva, unlike the case of voting for Yashwant Sinha in the presidential elections. TMC, one of the largest opposition parties in Parliament, said it was not consulted by the Congress before Alva was announced as the UPA’s vice president pick.
This is expected to pave the way for a similar big victory for NDA’s vice presidential candidate Jagdeep Dhankhar, who incidentally was the thorn in the eye of the Mamata Banerjee government in West Bengal as the governor. The UPA failing to bring the TMC on board for its VP nominee is, hence, a telling blow to the efforts towards forming a larger opposition front against the Narendra Modi-led BJP come 2024, and signals an even bigger falling-out between the Congress and Trinamool, the two biggest opposition parties.
A senior BJP leader told News18 that little can be expected in the form of opposition unity when UPA allies and non-NDA parties were not able to come together for presidential and vice presidential contests that are symbolic and do not involve going before the people for a mandate.
“NDA’s choice in Droupadi Murmu, a tribal woman, was a clincher too as a Congress ally in power in a state, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, was forced to back her. Many other UPA public representatives have cross-voted for Murmu as they were either tribal MPs or MLAs, or wanted to vote for a woman, or simply did not want to vote for a person like Yashwant Sinha,” he said.
The BJP leader pointed out that even in Congress-ruled Chhattisgarh as well as Jharkhand, UPA MLAs have cross-voted for Murmu. The results so far show 22 MLAs in Assam, 6 in Chhattisgarh, 10 in Jharkhand, 19 in Madhya Pradesh, 16 in Maharashtra, and 10 in Gujarat cross-voted for Droupadi Murmu. Among MPs, 540 voted for Murmu, showing a big division amongst the non-NDA camp there.
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