How Droupadi Murmu Reached Rashtrapati Bhavan

Droupadi Murmu will be India’s 15th president as she defeated Yashwant Sinha in a one-sided contest to become the first tribal woman to hold the nation’s highest office.

The former governor of Jharkhand, fielded by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance, crossed the 50% mark to emerge victorious after the third round of counting, PTI reported.

The fight was largely symbolic as the BJP and its allies, along with parties including the Biju Janata Dal, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, and Shiv Sena had pledged their support in the run-up to the election.

Murmu, 64, was selected by BJP’s parliamentary board after considering 20 names, party chief JP Nadda had said while announcing her name. The party decided to pick a candidate who was from east India, a tribal, and a woman. Murmu has been a BJP leader from Odisha, and a cabinet minister in Naveen Patnaik’s first government between 2000 and 2004.

Murmu was also said to be among the candidates that BJP considered five years ago. In the lead-up to the last presidential election in 2017, when Murmu was serving as governor, she was seen as a leading choice among those considered by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP leadership.

The NDA had gone on to nominate then Bihar Governor Ram Nath Kovind for the post. Kovind won the election against former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, and his term concludes this month.

Murmu is a former vice-president of BJP’s Scheduled Tribes Morcha, and will succeed Kovind, who had been president of the BJP Dalit Morcha.

Murmu’s ascent to India’s highest office also underscores the importance of India’s tribal communities in the BJP’s political fortunes. As BQ Prime columnist Amitabh Tiwari noted in a past article, nearly half of all Scheduled Tribes voters had voted for the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha general election.

Born to a Santhal tribal family on June 20, 1958, Murmu holds a bachelor’s degree in arts from Ramadevi Women’s College, Bhubaneswar, and served as a junior assistant in the irrigation and power department in the Odisha government. Later, she was also an honorary assistant teacher in the Shri Aurobindo Integral Education Centre, Rairangpur.

Murmu began her political career as a councillor in Rairangpur Nagar Panchayat in 1997, and rose through the ranks to become a minister in the Odisha government in 2000 and later the Governor of Jharkhand in 2015.

A two-term former MLA from Rairangpur, Murmu held on to her assembly seat in 2009 when the BJD had snapped ties with the BJP weeks ahead of the state elections, which were swept by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.

Murmu has diverse administrative experience, having handled ministries such as transport, commerce, fisheries and animal husbandry in the Odisha government. She was elected as the district president of Mayurbhanj (West) unit of the BJP in 2010 and re-elected in 2013. She was also named as member of the BJP National Executive (ST Morcha) the same year.

Murmu’s personal life was marked by tragedies. She was married to Shyam Charan Murmu and the couple had two sons and a daughter. Her husband and two sons have died. Her daughter Itishree Murmu is a banker.

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