Thackeray said the decision was taken without any pressure. “Nobody pressured me in the meeting of Sena MPs,” he added.
The decision came a day after Shiv Sena lawmakers urged Thackeray to extend support to NDA presidential candidate Droupadi Murmu.
Earlier, Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut said the party will back her but said it does not mean it was supporting the BJP. “The Shiv Sena does what it thinks is right. In the past also we have extended support to Congress nominee T N Seshan and UPA nominees like Pratibha Patil and Pranab Mukherjee. The Sena has the tradition of going beyond politics. We believe in backing people in the national interest,” Shiv Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut told The Indian Express.
“Droupadi Murmu is the first tribal woman likely to be the President of India. There is a lot of tribal population in Maharashtra. There are a lot of Shiv Sainiks who come from tribal areas. There are MLAs too,” said Raut.
“The decision of supporting Draupadi Murmu doesn’t mean we are supporting the BJP,” added Raut.
The presidential elections will be held on July 18. MPs can vote as per their will as there is no party whip issued.
At the meeting called by Uddhav Thackeray on Monday, a majority of MPs said the party must support NDA’s presidential nominee Droupadi Murmu. Raut said only two MPs—Eknath Shinde’s son Shrikant Shinde and Bhawana Gawli—were not present at the meeting.
A top Shiv Sena leader, who is close to Uddhav Thackeray, said, “After yesterday’s meeting with MPs, our party chief has decided to extend support to NDA presidential nominee. The party MPs wanted a tribal leader to be supported. There is nothing wrong with it. Earlier, too the Shiv Sena has backed the right candidate no matter which party he or she came from,” he said.
After the meeting, Sena MP Gajanan Kirtikar had told the media that they had urged the party chief to support the NDA candidate as she belonged to a tribal community. “Though Droupadi Murmu is an NDA presidential nominee, she is from the tribal community and a woman. Most of the MPs demanded that Shiv Sena should support her. Our party chief told us that he will decide in a day or two,” said Kirtikar.
Reacting to the support from the Shiv Sena for Murmu, BJP leader Sudhir Mungantiwar said, “We will welcome it whole-heartedly.”