National Democratic Alliance (NDA) presidential nominee Droupadi Murmu on Tuesday met BJP lawmakers in Kolkata. Nearly 60 MLAs and 16 MPs of the BJP met Ms. Murmu at a hotel in Kolkata. Among those who met the NDA presidential candidate was State BJP president Sukanta Majumdar, Leader of the Opposition Suvendu Adhikari and party’s national vice-president Dilip Ghosh.
Mr. Ghosh told journalists that all the BJP lawmakers present assured their support to Ms. Murmu. However, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) leadership maintained silence. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee remained in Darjeeling and participated in the swearing-in of members of newly elected Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA). The Chief Minister had softened her stand on Ms. Murmu’s candidature saying that she would have reconsidered their stand had the BJP announced about her candidature in advance.
A section of BJP leaders, including Mr. Ghosh, said that given the statement from the TMC chairperson, many of its lawmakers might vote in favour of the NDA nominee.
“The TMC members are in a dilemma about whom to vote for after Ms. Banerjee’s comment,” Mr. Ghosh said. Union Minister Smriti Irani, who was also in the State, taunted the Trinamool Congress and the Chief Minister on the issue of presidential polls. “The BJP had fielded an Adivasi woman for the first time for the office of the President of India. Mamata ji should clarify whether she is opposed to an Adivasi candidate who comes from a humble background,” Ms. Irani said.
With speculation that some TMC members may vote for the NDA nominee, Kolkata Mayor Firhad Hakim said the Trinamool was a disciplined party and no member would cross-vote. Elections to the office of the President are scheduled on July 18.
Meanwhile, there are reports that Opposition candidate Yashwant Sinha might skip from campaigning in West Bengal. It was Ms. Mamata Banerjee who called for the Opposition parties to come together on fielding a candidate for the presidential polls. She visited the national capital and participated in a meeting on June 15 where representatives of 17 Opposition parties, including the Congress, decided to put up a candidate. On June 21, instead of the Chief Minister, her nephew and party general secretary Abhishek Banerjee participated in the meeting of the Opposition parties on the same issue. There is speculation over Ms. Banerjee’s softening of stand and many attribute it to the tribal vote in West Bengal.
Earlier in the day, Ms. Murmu visited the ancestral house of Swami Vivekananda in north Kolkata.