Cross-voting for Droupadi Murmu: Congress MLAs in Jharkhand wanted not to be on wrong side of history

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Cross-voting for Droupadi Murmu: Congress MLAs in Jharkhand wanted not to be on wrong side of history

When at least nine Congress MLAs cross-voted in Jharkhand to elect former Governor Droupadi Murmu to occupy the top post in the country, they apparently did not want to be on the wrong side of history.

After the NDA fielded Droupadi Murmu, more than 10 crore Indians, spread across 700 tribal communities, saw a reflection of themselves, as one among them who will occupy the highest constitutional office in the country. Murmu ignited hope and aspiration in the hearts of millions of young girls and boys from the Dalit and the Adivasi samaj.

No wonder, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha broke ranks and supported Murmu, but the Congress leadership stuck to support Mamata Banerjee’s candidate Yashwant Sinha and refused to root for a consensus candidate and, as Tribal Affairs Minister Arjun Munda said when the country was adding a new chapter in the country’s history in the 75th year of Independence.

At one level, Murmu got the endorsement of a substantial group of non-NDA parties like the BJD, YSR Congress, JMM and the Shiv Sena, but she was verbally attacked by the senior Congress leader Ajoy Kumar, who said she represented “the evil philosophy of India”. She was also accused of being just a murti (sculpture) by Tejashwi Yadav.

So, the Congress was seen on the wrong side of history when the country was electing the first Adivasi woman as President. She is also the first President to be born after independence and is the youngest to occupy the top post.
This diatribe did not go down well with the Congress MLAs in Jharkhand. Several Congress MLAs, particularly tribal ones said in private that they should support Murmu keeping the tribal support base in view in Jharkhand. Senior Congress leader and Finance Minister Rameshwar Oraon had already hinted that he should favour Droupadi Murmu. “Droupadi Murmu is my first choice but he was bound by the party decision,” he had said a day before the elections.

Out of 18 Congress MLAs, six represent seats reserved for tribals and others had won their elections with a sizeable vote base of Adivasis as they fought the last elections in coalition with the JMM.

Congress insiders said that those MLAs, particularly the tribal ones, in whose constituencies tribal voters influenced the results have sided with Murmu. “So that they may tell their voters in the next elections that they had defied the party diktat to support a tribal presidential nominee,” said a Congress leader.

Political watchers add another angle to the cross-voting. “It is possible that the JMM, which had already decided to vote for the NDA candidate, might have asked these MLAs to support Murmu. It was a kind of giving message to those Congress leaders who corner Chief Minister Hemant Soren on reconstituting boards and corporations and getting share in governance. In a way, the JMM has said that it can split the Congress anytime with two-third members (i.e. 12) if they create any trouble for the government,” they pointed out. According to sources, RJD Minister Satyanand Bhokta, a former BJP man, has also extended support to Murmu.

“Post the presidential elections, the Congress is virtually caught between devil and deep sea in Jharkhand. It is widely believed that the BJP is also trying to split the Congress and form an alternative government if Hemant Soren is forced to resign in view of serious corruption cases pending in the Jharkhand High Court. So, “Mujhe gainron (read BJP) se to khatra hai hi, apno (read JMM) se bhi khatra hai,” mused a senior Congress leader.

BJP state president Deepak Prakash did not see much into it. “Droupadi Murmu had been governor of Jharkhand for six long years and she had personal rapport with MLAs across the party. So, there is nothing beyond it,” he clarified.

Congress state president Rajesh Thakur, however, said that this cross-voting would not have any impact on the government or the coalition. To drive his point home, he said that only yesterday the Chief Minister had lambasted the Central Government giving a message that there is no question of dumping the present coalition.

“However, we will discuss under what circumstances these MLAs voted for Droupadi Murmu if they have cross-voted at all,” he said.