President of Shiv Sena Uddhav Thackeray has announced that it will support the National Democratic Alliance’s candidate Droupadi Murmu. But the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in West Bengal was left red-faced as a few MPs and MLAs skipped a meeting with Murmu on Tuesday. At a press conference in Mumbai, Thackeray said that his party would support Murmu.
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In Kolkata, the scene was, however, different. Out of the 68 BJP legislators who were asked to attend the meeting with Murmu, 65 were present. Of the three MLAs who skipped the meeting, two were from North Bengal, namely Niraj Zimba Singh from Darjeeling and Bishnu Prasad Sharma from Kurseong. The third absentee legislator was Mukut Mani Adhikari from Ranaghat (South) Assembly constituency in Nadia district. Two Lok Sabha members of the BJP also skipped the meeting, namely Raju Singh Bista from Darjeeling and Subhas Sarkar from Bankura. Sarkar also happens to be the Union Minister of State for Education.
BJP’s current strength in the West Bengal Assembly is 70, out of which the state committee had asked 68 legislators to be present in the meeting. The party’s MLA from Bhatpara Assembly constituency, Pawan Singh, was deliberately kept out of the meeting as the BJP leadership is not quite clear about his stand after his father and erstwhile BJP Lok Sabha member from Barrackpore, Arjun Singh, recently joined the Trinamool Congress. BJP legislator from Balurghat and former chief economic advisor to the Union government, Ashok Kumar Lahiri, was not called for the meeting since he is currently outside the state for medical treatment.
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Meanwhile, Trinamool Congress spokesman Kunal Ghosh ridiculed the development and said that it would be interesting to see after the Presidential poll as to how many BJP legislators on record have voted otherwise. BJP’s national Vice President Dilip Ghosh said he is sure that a number of Trinamool MLAs will vote for the NDA candidate in the Presidential poll.