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Mrunal Manmay Dash

Ahead of NDA presidential candidate Draupadi Murmu's Odisha visit to campaign for the July 18 election, the ruling BJD seems to have gone all guns blazing gathering support for ‘Odisha Daughter’ with party President and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik seeking support of State MLAs for her.

After Naveen Patnaik called upon the State's lone independent MLA Makarand Muduli from Rayagada at his residence - Naveen Niwas on Tuesday and asked him to vote for Murmu, a team of BJD leaders met Congress Legislature Party leader Narasingha Mishra and OPCC Chief Sharat Pattnaik and sought their support for the "Odisha daughter" in the Presidential poll on Wednesday.

BJD MLA, Snehangini Churia said, “Draupadi Murmu is the pride of Odisha and the Chief Minister has already announced his support for her. We urged some Congress leaders to support her too.”

Noting that Murmu is the pride of Odisha, Muduli said votes of all MLAs and MPs from the state should go in favour of her.

It is pertinent to mention here that several major opposition parties, including the Congress, the NCP, and the TMC, fielded former Union minister Yashwant Sinha as their candidate for the upcoming presidential poll.

So, BJD’s ‘extra mile’ on Murmu to gather support from Congress despite already knowing that their Presidential candidate is Sinha, has been looked upon suspiciously by experts and some Congress members.

Terming BJD’s Murmu campaign as a drama, Congress leader and Jeypore MLA, Tara Prasad Bahinipati said, “They say we are not with the BJP but we support Murmu. This is a drama. Some BJD leaders had also contacted me and asked for support, but I asked them to stop this drama.”

Even some experts opined that BJD’s campaign is nothing but a vote bank politics to make sure the BJP does not take all the mileage and tribal vote share by nominating a tribal woman as their Presidential candidate.

However, the BJP did not seem to be perturbed by BJD’s onslaught. Deputy Leader of Opposition in Assembly, Bishnu Charan Sethi said, “It is absolutely fine if they are supporting us. In fact, a lot of other parties including the Akali Dal, Bahujan Samaj Party, TRS are supporting us too.”

Responding to a question of a reporter, BJP Odisha unit president Samir Mohanty said that Murmu is likely to come here for campaign on July 8.

She is likely to meet BJD and BJP MLAs in the Assembly. Sources said Murmu will have a one-on-one meeting with the chief minister at his residence in Bhubaneswar.

BJP sources said that the saffron party has planned for a grand function at its headquarters here on the occasion of Murmu's visit to the state.

Immediately after the announcement of Murmu's name as the NDA candidate for the presidential election, Patnaik had appealed to all the Odisha MLAs cutting across party lines to support the "Odisha daughter".

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