BJP chooses Draupadi Murmu, India’s first tribal woman governor, as its presidential candidate

Draupadi Murmu with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Ranchi/New Delhi (IANS): The BJP on Tuesday chose former Jharkhand governor and tribal leader Draupadi Murmu as its candidate for the post of President of India against opposition candidate Yashwant Sinha for the July 18 election.

Murmu, who hails from Odisha, becomes the first woman tribal leader to contest for the country’s highest constitutional post. She was also the first tribal woman governor in the country.

BJP chief J.P. Nadda announced Murmu’s name during a press conference at the party headquarters in New Delhi. The decision was taken by the BJP Parliamentary Board, the party’s top decision-making body.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union ministers Amit Shah, Rajnath Singh and Nitin Gadkari, Nadda and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan were present at the meeting.

Announcing Murmu’s name, Nadda said that the BJP is trying to build a consensus among all the parties.

“After opposition parties announced their candidate, the BJP, after talking to all the NDA allies, decided to field Murmu as its Presidential candidate. Detailed discussions were held on 20 names and a consensus was built that someone from the East and from the tribal community must be made the President of India. After discussions, the Parliamentary board decided to name Draupadi Murmu as the Presidential candidate,” Nadda said.

Earlier on Tuesday, the opposition parties announced former Union minister Yashwant Sinha as their consensus candidate for the post of President.

“We (opposition parties) have unanimously decided that Yashwant Sinha will be our common candidate for the Presidential election,” Congress leader Jairam Ramesh told mediapersons soon after the meeting of opposition parties held at the Parliament Annexe.

Draupadi Murmu

Murmu’s tenure as the governor of Jharkhand for more than six years was not only non-controversial, but also memorable. After the completion of her tenure, she left the Jharkhand Raj Bhavan for her village in Odisha’s Rairangpur on July 12, 2021, and has been living there since then.

Harinarayan Singh, editor-in-chief of a Hindi daily published from Ranchi, said that the name of Murmu for the post of President was also discussed in 2017.

Murmu has a rich experience of more than six years as a governor. The BJP, with her candidature, is trying to give a symbolic message to the whole of country in many ways.

Her selection for the top post can also be a part of the BJP’s strategy to make inroads into the tribal society, which has been a bastion of the Congress so far. The BJP is eyeing upcoming state Assembly elections, and tribals are its main focus area in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh where their votes are crucial for the party’s scheme of things.

Murmu had served twice as an MLA and once as a minister in Odisha, before being sworn in as the Governor of Jharkhand on May 18, 2015. Her five-year term as governor was to end on May 18, 2020, but was automatically extended due to non-appointment of a new governor because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

She was always aware of the issues related to tribal affairs, education, law and order, and health in Jharkhand. On several occasions, she questioned decisions of the state governments, but always with constitutional dignity and decency. During her tenure as the ex-officio Chancellor of the Universities, the vacant posts of Vice-Chancellor and Pro-Vice-Chancellor were appointed in many universities of the state.

Senior Professor at Vinoba Bhave University Dr Shailesh Chandra Sharma recalls that she herself organized Lok Adalats on issues related to higher education in the state, in which about 5,000 cases of university teachers and employees were settled. In order to centralize the enrollment process in the universities and colleges of the state, she created the Chancellor’s portal.

Born on June 20, 1958, in Odisha in a simple Santhal tribal family, Murmu started her political career in 1997. She was elected councillor of the district board in Rairangpur in 1997. Prior to joining politics, Murmu worked as an honorary assistant teacher at Sri Aurobindo Integral Education and Research, Rairangpur, and as a junior assistant in the Irrigation Department before joining politics. She was MLA twice in Odisha and also got a chance to work as a minister in the Naveen Patnaik government, when the BJP was in a coalition with the Biju Janata Dal.

Murmu was also awarded the Neelkanth Award for Best Legislator by the Odisha Legislative Assembly.