What Sena backing Murmu signifies

The Shiv Sena’s decision to back National Democratic Alliance (NDA) nominee, former Jharkhand governor Droupadi Murmu, for the presidential election might not change the outcome for the poll to elect India’s first citizen (she was winning anyway), but it has major implications, in Maharashtra and nationally. Ms Murmu, having already secured the support of several non-NDA parties such as the Biju Janata Dal, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the YSR Congress Party, is virtually sure of a victory in the July 18 election over Opposition candidate Yashwant Sinha. Sena’s support is merely a morale booster.

But the decision – which came only after an overwhelming majority of Sena parliamentarians told Uddhav Thackeray to back Ms Murmu – holds significance for India’s richest state. It indicates that after striking a combative pose, Mr Thackeray is hitting conciliatory notes (last week, he said that the doors of Matoshree, the seat of Sena power, were open to rebels who brought his government down) because he realises that any more confrontation with chief minister Eknath Shinde will lead to further splintering in the party. It shows that his hold on the party remains tenuous and despite his public gratitude to alliance partners, the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party, the Maha Vikas Aghadi is on its last legs. It indicates that the Sena is yet to recover from the vertical split it suffered last month, and continues to play catch-up. And, it has underlined the Bharatiya Janata Party’s astuteness in nominating an Adivasi woman to the highest office, making it politically and symbolically tough for parties to oppose her elevation.

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