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Presidential Election: What Cross-Voting From Opposition Members In Favour Of Droupadi Murmu Means

At least 126 MLAs from and 17 MPs from the Opposition camp cross-voted in favour of BJP-led NDA's candidate Droupadi Murmu.

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President-elect Droupadi Murmu PTI

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance's (NDA) candidate Droupadi Murmu was on Thursday declared as the winner of presidential election.

While Murmu's victory was certain as Naveen Patnaik's pledge to support her had taken her vote share past the 50 per cent-threshold in June itself, her final share of 64.03 per cent was higher than expected.

It's explained by cross-voting in her favour, with at least 126 MLAs and 17 MPs going against their party lines to vote for Murmu.

Here we explain the cross-voting and what it means for Opposition unity barely two years before 2024 general elections.

Cross-voting for Droupadi Murmu

Cross-voting refers to the act of a person voting for a party other than their own or going against the party line during the vote. 

Ten MLAs in Gujarat, 22 in Assam, 12 in Uttar Pradesh, and 4 in Goa cross-voted for Murmu, reported The Indian Express citing BJP leaders.

This is not the first time that the Opposition has been hit with cross-voting. In Maharashtra legislative council polls last month, both Shiv Sena and Congress were embarassed by cross-voting. While Shiv Sena was short by three votes, the second Congress candidate lost as the pledged support of allies was not met as MLAs cross-voted for BJP.

In Uttar Pradesh, Shivpal Singh Yadav has said his letter to Samajwadi Party (SP) lawmakers led to cross-voting. Amar Ujala further reported that 12 SP lawmakers cross-voted for Murmu. 

The biggest instance of cross-voting was reported in Assam, where 26 non-BJP lawmakers voted in favour of Murmu. 

In all, cross-voting took place in 17 states, according to The Times of India

Political meanings of cross-voting

Political observers have noted this as cracks in Opposition unity and the rise of a tribal political constituency.

Moreover, the extent of cross-voting also suggests that the Opposition's efforts at creating a gap between BJP and its allies are not working. Take the case of Bihar where the NDA has 127 MLAs. Murmu received 133 votes there. In Chhattisgarh, the Congress has 71 MLAs but Yashwant Singh only got 69 votes.

CNN News-18 noted, "The numbers are worrying for the Opposition in both states. Tejashwi Yadav’s RJD has been hoping that growing rifts between BJP and JD(U) will offer it a chance to make a dent in the ruling alliance in Lok Sabha elections and from thereon carry the momentum to topple the Nitish Kumar government in 2025."

The Times of India noted that such cross-voting not only underlines NDA’s dominance and superior managerial skills but also gives first hints at the emergence of a tribal constituency.

"While Assam reported the highest number of MLAs cross-voting at 22, Madhya Pradesh, which has a significant number of tribal members on Congress benches, recorded 19 votes for Murmu from across-the-aisle," noted ToI.

India TV further reported, "Murmu's tribal background appeared to have drawn support from Opposition MLAs from Jharkhand too, where the ruling Jharkhand Mukti Morcha had already announced support to her."

Signs for the future

The presidential election comes two years before the 2024 general election. 

As things now stand, the Opposition cannot even secure their onw votes. A tussle is also believed to be there between various Opposition elements.

Trinamool Congress (TMC) on Thursday announced that it would abstain from the vice presidential election as party supremo Mamata Banerjee was not consulting while finalising veteran Congress leader, former minister, and former Governor Margaret Alva was nominated as a presidential candidate. 

CNN-News 18 noted, "The UPA failing to bring the TMC on board for its VP nominee is, hence, a telling blow to the efforts towards forming a larger Opposition front against the Narendra Modi-led BJP come 2024, and signals an even bigger falling-out between the Congress and Trinamool, the two biggest Opposition parties."

Therefore, while the cross-voting in favour for Droupadi Murmu might not look like much at first, its indicative of problems within the Opposition camp. 

Moreover, with Murmu's candidature, the BJP has again demonstrated that it can still attract people and parties from across the aisle, as several non-NDA groups supported Murmu such as Naveen Patnaik's Biju Janata Dal (BJD), Shiv Sena, JMM, and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD). While BJP gets votes from across the aisle, the Opposition fails to hold onto their own votes. 

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