Prez polls: Chinks appear in united Oppn façade, Akhilesh Yadav’s uncle Shivpal endorses BJP pick

The upcoming presidential poll will not only give the country its next President but is also being seen as a litmus test for Opposition unity. As leaders from opposition parties came together in support of presidential poll candidate Yashwant Sinha last month, it was seen as a great show of strength.

But as the day of the election draws closer, more and more chinks seem to have appeared in the façade of a ‘united Opposition’. Top leaders are breaking ranks and coming out in support of the NDA presidential candidate, Droupadi Murmu.

The shifting loyalties during this high-stakes presidential race have underscored the fault lines between poll-time allies and opposition leaders who profess to be bosom buddies.

Take for instance the Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party, which was floated by Shivpal Singh Yadav after the split in the Samajwadi Parivaar. Though Shivpal tied up with nephew Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party in the UP assembly polls this year, Shivpal has now backed Droupadi Murmu’s candidature.

“I had already said that I’m going to vote for the one who asks for it. Neither Samajwadi Party called me, nor asked for my vote. CM Yogi Adityanath invited me yesterday to meet NDA’s Presidential candidate Droupadi Murmu and I decided to vote for her,” Shivpal Singh said on Saturday.

READ | Why Shivpal Yadav and Akhilesh are at daggers drawn again

He was talking about an invitation by UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath — it was to a banquet hosted on Friday night in honour of Murmu, who was in Lucknow to campaign ahead of the presidential polls on July 18. Along with Shivpal Singh, several key Opposition leaders attended the dinner party. In a major setback to Opposition candidate Yashwant Sinha’s hopes of clinching the presidency, most of them have now espoused their support for the NDA nominee.

The morning after the banquet organised by Yogi Adityanath, SP ally and Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party (SBSP) Om Prakash Rajbhar, Jansatta Dal leader Raghuraj Pratap Singh alias Raja Bhaiya, and BSP leader Uma Shankar Singh announced that they will be voting for Murmu.

Apparently miffed after SP chief Akhilesh Yadav did not invite him to the opposition leaders’ meeting to drum up support for Yashwant Sinha, Rajbhar had already made it clear that he would take a call on the presidential polls on his own.

Jansatta Dal leader Raghuraj Pratap said both MLAs from his party will vote for the NDA pick. “In today’s condition, selecting Droupadi Murmu as a candidate for President is very important. This is why political parties other than BJP are also supporting her,” he said.

READ | Murmu for President: How NDA is splitting opposition further across states

Mayawati’s BSP had already publicly declared its support to Murmu, who belongs to the Scheduled Tribes, and Uma Shankar Singh’s presence at last night’s gala reconfirmed it.

Another close friend of Akhilesh Yadav, Trinamool Congress supremo and West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee recently hinted at her inclination towards NDA nominee Droupadi Murmu.

“BJP’s presidential candidate Droupadi Murmu has better chances (to win presidential polls) because of Maharashtra development. If the BJP had asked for our suggestion before announcing the name of Murmu, we could have considered it, too, bearing greater interests in mind,” she said on July 1.

This was something of a turnaround for Mamata Banerjee, as it was she who had written to several opposition parties across the country last month, asking them to attend a meeting in Delhi to decide on a common candidate for the upcoming presidential polls.

Ultimately, former Union minister Yashwant Sinha emerged as the consensus presidential candidate of 13 opposition parties, including the Congress and TMC. He resigned from the TMC shortly before opposition parties met to declare his candidature.

— ENDS —

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