As India prepares itself for the 16th presidential elections, all set to take place on July 18, an important page in its history seems to be in the writing. On June 21, Draupadi Murmu was named the ruling NDA’s presidential candidate for the upcoming elections. If elected, she will be the first tribal and the second female to hold the prestigious office of the President of India. With the majority swinging her way, with huge support from the ruling party and opposition alike, she is set to become the first Indian President to be born after Independence.
Born in Mayurbhanj, Murmu belongs to the Santhal community. Belonging to one of the most remote and underdeveloped parts of the country, she faced extreme poverty growing up. Despite the socio-economic hurdles in her way, Murmu managed to complete her Bachelor’s in Arts from Ramadevi Women’s College in Bhubaneswar. Thereafter, she served as a junior officer in the department of irrigation and power in the state government of Odisha. She then worked as a teacher in Rairangpur.
A teacher with no political backing, Draupadi Murmu first entered politics as a councilor in Rairangpur Nagar Panchayat and the Vice-President of BJP’s Scheduled Tribe Morcha in Odisha in 1997. With her down-to-earth and accessible style of politics, Murmu rose through the ranks. She became an MLA from Rairangpur on a BJP ticket when the BJP-BJD coalition government first came to power in Odisha in 2000. She then held independent charge of the Commerce and Transport and then the Fisheries and Animal Resources Development Ministries. In 2009, even as the BJP fared very poorly in the assembly elections as the BJP-BJD alliance broke apart, she held on to her seat and won the election. In 2007, she was conferred with the Nilkantha Award for best MLA by the Odisha Government. Her vast administrative experience led to her being nominated as the Governor of Jharkhand in 2015. This was the first time that a tribal leader from Odisha was elected and completed their full term as the Governor of a state.
Thus, without any political lineage, Murmu carved a name for herself as a grassroots politician working for the upliftment of the tribals, the downtrodden, and the poor. Despite seeing much tragedy in her life, losing her spouse and her two sons, her successful journey as a politician overcoming all hardships made her an inspiration to women and tribals all over the country. It is probably for this very reason that Murmu is getting support even from opposition leaders, such as Mayawati of the BSP, in her presidential candidature. With this move, the BJP will also get a big push for its tribal support base. Most importantly, the country will greatly benefit from such an experienced and people’s leader holding the top post of the country. With the BJP-led NDA in power, Murmu is likely to win the presidential elections, whose counting will be done on July 21. If elected, it will indeed be a moment of pride for the tribals, women, and the underprivileged, as the daughter of Mayurbhanj and the Santhals will represent India.
Research Intern at CPRG India