The Shiv Sena will support the National Democratic Alliance’s presidential candidate Droupadi Murmu, party chief Uddhav Thackeray said on Tuesday, PTI reported.

Thackeray said that if Murmu wins the elections, India will get its first adivasi woman president.

“Nobody pressured me in the meeting of Sena MPs,” Thackeray added.

The party chief was referring to a meeting of Shiv Sena MPs at his Mumbai house on Monday during which 16 of them had asked him extend his support to Murmu.

The presidential polls will be held on July 18. While Murmu is the Bharatiya Janata Party-led NDA’s pick for the presidential polls, the Opposition has nominated former Union minister Yashwant Sinha.

The Shiv Sena has 19 MPs in the Lok Sabha and three in the Rajya Sabha.

On Tuesday, Thackeray said he took the decision to support Murmu to respect the views of adivasi leaders in the Shiv Sena, PTI reported. He said that MLC Aamshya Padvi, former MLA Nirmala Gavit and Eklavya Sanghtana’s Shivajirao Dhavale had urged him to back Murmu.

“Actually, going by the present political atmosphere, I should not have backed her because she is a candidate of the BJP,” he added. “But we are not narrow-minded.”

Thackeray said that his party had supported the United Progressive Alliance’s candidates Pratibha Patil and Pranab Mukherjee in the presidential race in 2007 and 2012 even when the Shiv Sena was part of the BJP-led NDA faction.

“Even at that time, the Shiv Sena had thought beyond politics and did what is good for the country,” he said.

Earlier in the day, Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut had said that “supporting Murmu does not mean supporting the BJP”, NDTV reported.

He had said the party had goodwill towards the Opposition’s candidate.

“The Opposition should remain alive,” Raut had added.

Thackeray’s statement came at a critical time when the Shiv Sena witnessed a split after 40 of its MLAs led by Eknath Shinde joined hands with the BJP to form a government in Maharashtra.

The crisis had started when Shinde and several other MLAs of Thackeray’s party rebelled against the Maha Vikas Aghadi – a coalition of the Congress, the Shiv Sena and the Nationalist Congress Party – government in June. Subsequently, the coalition was ousted from power.

Shinde was sworn in as the Maharashtra chief minister on June 30, while BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis took oath as his deputy.

After Thackeray announced his decision to support Murmu, a Shiv Sena official said that a delegation will likely meet the NDA’s presidential candidate to convey the party’s support to her, PTI reported.

Meanwhile, Shinde, too, has extended his support to Murmu, ANI reported.

“All our MLAs will vote for her under the guidance of PM Narendra Modi,” Shinde said.

At the time of filing her nomination, the vote share for Murmu was around 50%, PTI reported.

The vote share has now crossed 60% with the support of Shiv Sena and other parties – the Biju Janata Dal in Odisha, Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party and Telugu Desam Party in Andhra Pradesh, Bahujan Samaj Party, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in Tamil Nadu, Janata Dal (Secular) and Shiromani Akali Dal in Punjab.

There is no whip for presidential polls and the MPs can vote as per their will.