The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha on Thursday announced that it will support the National Democratic Alliance’s candidate in the Droupadi Murmu presidential elections, ANI reported.

“For the first time after Independence, an Adivasi woman has got the opportunity to become the president of India,” the party said while extending its support to Murmu.

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

The Congress, which has picked Sinha for the president’s post, is an ally of the Hemant Soren-led Jharkhand Mukti Morcha. The two parties are part of a coalition government in the state.

Moreover, in June, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha had attended a meeting of Opposition parties to field a common candidate for the presidential elections.

Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee had invited leaders of all Opposition parties to decide on a joint candidate for the polls. Sixteen Opposition parties attended the meeting and four skipped it.

Murmu had visited Jharkhand earlier seeking the support of Soren’s party, according to The Times of India.

Murmu reportedly met the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha’s Executive President Shibu Soren and Chief Minister Hemant Soren.

The Sorens and Murmu belong to the Santhal ethnic group, which has a sizeable population in Jharkhand and Odisha. Murmu, 64, is from Odisha. She served as the governor of Jharkhand from 2015 to 2021.

Thackeray forced to support Murmu, says Yashwant Sinha

Meanwhile, Sinha on Wednesday said that Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray was forced to support his opponent Murmu due to the split in his party, NDTV reported.

“As you all know the Shiv Sena is broken,” the former Union minister said during a press conference in Guwahati. “They are helpless and had to offer support to the Opposition’s candidate. But I must say that a rebellion like this just before the presidential elections is doing of the Central government.”

The Shiv Sena witnessed a split after 40 of its MLAs led by Eknath Shinde joined hands with the Bharatiya Janata Party 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.

On Tuesday, Thackeray said his party will extend support to the National Democratic Alliance’s presidential candidate.

The announcement came after 16 Shiv Sena MPs urged Thackeray to support Murmu. The party has 19 MPs in the Lok Sabha and three in the Rajya Sabha.

Thackeray, however, said that he took the decision to respect the views of Adivasi leaders in the Shiv Sena.

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

Thackeray stated 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.

In Wednesday’s press conference, Sinha alleged that the Centre was trying to break the Opposition parties before the presidential elections.

“It is all about the misuse of the Enforcement Directorate,” Sinha alleged, according to NDTV. “By using agencies, they are pulling down elected governments.”

‘Will ensure CAA is not implemented’: Yashwant Sinha

At Wednesday’s press conference, Sinha also said that if he is elected as president, he will ensure that the Citizenship Amendment Act is not implemented.

The Citizenship Amendment Act, approved by Parliament on December 11, 2019, provides citizenship to refugees from six minority religious communities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, on the condition that they have lived in India for six years and entered the country by December 31, 2014.

The law, however, is yet to be implemented as rules under the Citizenship Amendment Act are not framed. The government had said that the formation of the rules was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic and has sought multiple extensions.

“Citizenship is a major issue for Assam,” Sinha said, according to PTI. “The government wanted to bring in the Act across the country but has not been able to do so yet.”

He further added: “Earlier, the government gave the excuse of Covid-19, but even now they have not been able to implement it because it is an Act foolishly drafted in a hurry.”