Friday, August 19th, 2022 17:20:46

Can new president Droupadi Murmu assert her independent decision?

Dr. Santosh Kumar Mohapatra
Updated: August 2, 2022 6:47 am

As expected, BJP-led NDA’s nominee Draupadi Murmu emerged victorious in the Presidential election.  She succeeded Ram Nath Kovind and also became the first tribal leader and second women to hold the top constitutional post in the country.

But what is important for Odia people is that the first person from Odisha to become the first citizen of the nation. Being an Odia, I obviously congratulate her.

From one of the most remote and backward regions of the country to almost certain to hold its highest office, the journey of Droupadi Murmu is an example of overcoming all struggles and hardships with determination and dignity to make a mark in life.. Undoubtedly, she has suffered a lot in her life while advancing her political career and reaching  Raisina Hill from  remote Rairangpur  of Mayurbhanja . She has struggled a lot since her childhood.

She is a seasoned politician from Odisha coupled with an extensive background in the field of academics and was Governor of Jharkhand from (2015 to 2021). she also holds the record of being the first tribal woman Governor in the country.

Born on June 20, 1958 in a poor tribal family in a village of Mayurbhanj, a backward district in Odisha, Draupadi Murmu completed her studies despite challenging circumstances. She is from a humble background. She taught at Shri Aurobindo Integral Education Centre, Rairangpur., she pursued BA at Ramadevi Women’s College Bhubaneswar. She served as a junior assistant in Irrigation and Power Department between 1979 and 1983.

She is from a humble background, She started her political career as Rairangpur NAC vice-chairman. Draupadi Murmu was a member of the Odisha Legislative Assembly from Rairangpur between 2000 and 2004. As a minister, she held portfolios of Transport and Commerce, Animal Husbandry, and Fisheries. She again served as MLA in the Odisha assembly from 2004 to 2009.

In 2007, the Odisha assembly honoured her with the ‘Nilakantha Award’ for best MLA.She has held several organisational posts in BJP and was vice president of state ST Morcha in 1997. She  was a national executive member of BJP’s ST Morcha from 2013 to 2015 and served as BJP district chief of Mayurbhanj (West) in 2010 and 2013.

Her tenure as the Governor of Jharkhand for more than 6 years was not only been 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 is living there since then.

But what is reprehensible is that the ruling BJP is propagating the matter in a way to derive maximum political mileage since her nomination. It wants to woo voters of Odisha and Scheduled tribes belonging to a nation. Certainly, her background makes her worthy of this coveted post but telling her frequently that she belongs to Odisha or Scheduled tribes undermines her worthiness.

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.

Obviously, one will derive the conclusion that it is not the efficiency of Smt Draupadi Murmu or Modi’s love for Odisha but rather the BJP’s electoral prospects that facilitated her nomination ahead of others. While she is quite competent, her opponent Yashwant Sinha was equally competent and there will be around a large number of leaders who are equally worthy of adoring Rashtrapati Bhawan. But only one can be the first citizen of the second most populous country.

Further, when one gets civil services, he/she gets it because of efficiency, talent and hard work. But when one becomes Governor, vice president or president, efficiency or hard work does not matter but whom part has a higher percentage of votes nominated. It is not talent, ability but nomination that matters most. By telling this I do not tell that she is not efficient or capable. She can be more capable than others, though, she has failed to do any tangible thing in her native place while being ministers.

MoS Tribal Affairs Renuukaa Sinngh says “Modi hai toh mumkin hai’, so this dream has become a reality because of PM Modi Ji. I congratulate & wish the best to Droupadi Murmu and hope the country flourishes in her tenure”.

Piyush Goyal says,” This new history will speed up India’s progress, in political, social, economic & all other aspects. The whole country has celebrated her win today. PM Modi has delivered a message which will be remembered for years to come. Draupadi Murmu will rewrite history:”:

External Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar says ,”Today is a remarkable day for Indian democracy. Smt Droupadi Murmu’s election as the 15th President is a statement of an authentic and inclusive India. It will serve as an inspiration to millions of our citizens. New India is not just an aspiration; it is becoming a reality”

The messages from  ministers reveals that it is PM Modi who has selected her but not the BJP party. Do we derive the conclusion that in our democracy, the president is elected or nominated by the prime minister? Attributing her elevation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi does not hold our democracy in good taste.

President or vice president or governor (in states) are ornamental posts. Though, they have to act as “custodians of the Constitution” but have to play a little role in development or decision making.  Basically, they favor the decisions of the ruling parties.

Our constitutional provision requires a president and it is good news that a lady belonging to Odisha and Scheduled caste has been elevated. But linking her elevation to development, prosperity, and new India appears to be unrealistic.

One must know that many good people do not join politics because money and muscle power play a dominant role and one loses own independence and has to act in line with party decisions. The process through which one is elevated to a higher position has gone by the system that has helped to reach any higher level. Sometimes A pro-people leader becomes pro-rich, pro-corporate, or anti-people after being elected as people’s representative because she is guided by her party’s decision.

Smt Droupadi Murmu is undoubtedly a great personality and person of sacrifice, but the party behind her elevation believes in pro-rich, pro-corporate or anti-people, anti-public sector policies coupled with the “poisonous politics of polarisation”. The recent imposition of GST on food items is a glaring example. The question is how far she can go against such a decision of the party which is behind her elevation.

Further, power and position have no gender, no caste, and no religion. Powerful people always struggle to retain their position and have little contribution to vulnerable sections of society. Just electing a president or vice president or prime Minister from any neglected community /tribe does not help those communities in our exploitative and repressive system.

Before  Droupadi Murmu, India had 14 the presidents and three persons such as  Basappa Danappa Jatti),   Mohammad Hidayatullah, V. V. Giri had played role of acting presidents . V V  Giri who had played both roles. Three persons such as  Zakir Husain ( 1 year, 355 days),   Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed (2 years, 171 days), , A. P. J. Abdul Kalam (5 years), were president while Mohammad Hidayatullah was acting president for  35 days. They were from Muslim communities

Despite India getting 4 presidents from Muslim Communities, there is no substantial development in their living standards. What is disconcerting is that despite Muslim leaders contributing enormously to our freedom struggle,  hatred is created against Muslim communities deliberately and they are not accepted as Indians by some reactionary and communal forces.

Similarly, Pratibha Patil  ( 5 years)   was chosen to honour the sentiments of women. But has she been able to contribute anything extra to the upliftment of women?  Similarly,  K. R. Narayanan (5 years) was the first person from the Dalit community to hold the post of president and vice president.. Ram Nath Kovind ( will complete 5  years) is second person   from the Dalit community to hold post of president .

But had India witnessed any development of Dalit community during their tenures? So, how does one will expect that the living standards of scheduled tribes and women will see enormous improvement during the presidency of Smt Droupadi Murmu?

Further just representation in top posts from any community does not portray that  same community is flourishing and poor, and vulnerable sections of society can aspire to similar positions.  Nobody can contest an election without money and muscle power with some exception

The average assets of Lok Sabha MP is nearly Rs 20 crore while that of Rajya Sabha is Rs 55 crore. Around 43 per cent of Lok Sabha MPs have criminal background. Hence, despite few people from humble, poor, or lower background reaching top positions does not mean the system/governance  is pro-poor and pro-people as publicized by the ruling class.

Let us celebrate, and be happy with the election of Smt Droupadi Murmu as president , but prevent the ruling party to derive political mileage and creating the illusion of development . When people will fight to change exploitative and repressive systems, then there will be allaround progress and development.

 

By Dr. Santosh Kumar Mohapatra
(Views expressed in this article are personal)

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