Droupadi on highest pedestal
It wouldn’t be wrong if one call it a historic moment for the Indian Republic, as DraupadiMurmu, 64, the BJP-led NDA’s presidential candidate got elected as India’s first Tribal and 15th President of India in the recently concluded presidential elections. From being the first girl in her village to go to college to now being country’s first tribal President of India, DroupadiMurmu’s journey comes as an inspiration for crores of people, especially women coming from the downtrodden section of the society. The former Jharkhand governor Murmu has registered an emphatic win over her rival YashwantSinha in presidential election, becoming the first woman tribal candidate to occupy the highest office in the country.
Born in a Santali tribal family on June 30, 1958 in Uparbeda village coming under Mayurbhanj district in Odisha, she had her education from Bhubaneswar and went on to work first as a junior assistant in the State Irrigation and Power Department from 1979 to 1983. After this short stint as a clerk, she became a teacher at Sri Aurobindo Integral Education Centre at Rairangpur till 1997.
Murmu took a political plunge in 1997 by joining the BharatiyaJanata Party (BJP). She was first elected as the councilor of the Rairangpur Nagar Panchayat and then went on to become the chairperson of the same panchayat in 2000. Later, she also served as the national vice president of the BJP Scheduled Tribe Morcha.
Murmu became a member of the council of ministers in the BJP and BijuJanata Dal coalition government in Odisha, first becoming the minister of state with independent charge for commerce and transportation from March, 2000 to August, 2022 and then minister for fisheries and animal resources development from August 2002 to May 2004. A legislator from Rairangpur assembly constituency in the years 2000 and 2004, she was conferred Nilkhantha Award for the best MLA by the Odisha assembly in 2007.
In 2015, Murmu became the first woman governor of Jharkhand. She also became the first woman tribal leader from Odisha to be appointed as the governor of a state. In 2017, Murmur came into limelight when as governor of Jharkhand, she refused to give her assent to a bill seeking amendments to the Chhotanagpur Tenancy Act, 1908 and the SanthalPargana Tenancy Act, 1949 and sought an explanation from the Raghubar Das led BJP government as to how the changes being made, are going to bring well being for the tribal community.
In Jharkhand, officials and politicians describe her as a “compassionate and balanced” administrator who remained “accessible and down to earth” — and recall two key junctures where she played a crucial role in allaying fears among tribals while “giving proper directions” to the government.Officials add that she was “never a rubber-stamp governor”, and an ardent advocate of tribal welfare.
In fact, in 2017 she refused to give assent to a bill approved by the Assembly seeking amendments to the Chhotanagpur Tenancy Act, 1908, and the SanthalPargana Tenancy Act, 1949.
Some political insiders maintain that Murmu’s decision to not sign the bill was the reason why she wasn’t picked as the NDA’s Presidential candidate in 2017 and Ram NathKovind was finally nominated by them.
The BJP’s move to name Murmu as its presidential candidate comes ahead of assembly elections in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. The four states have 128 seats reserved for Scheduled Tribes, of which the BJP had won just 35 seats in the last assembly elections.
With Murmu as its presidential candidate, the party can hope to strengthen its appeal among tribal voters. Odisha CM and BJD leader NavinPatnaik not only welcomed Murmu’s candidature but stood behind her. At the same time, Murmu’s candidature had also put Jharkhand chief minister and JMM leader HemantSoren in a fix. Soren’s party is known for its tribal politics and it would have been difficult for him to oppose a tribal woman, especially one who has been the governor of his state. Interestingly, the loosing UPA presidential candidate, Yashwant Sinha, is also from Jharkhand.
It is no secret that DroupadiMurmu was on the short list for the top position in 2017 as well. She herself acknowledged it when the BJP leadership announced her candidature this time. At that time, at the age of 59, she was considered to have time on her side. In 2022, the time seems to have arrived for a woman tribal candidate to occupy the highest office in the country, the beating heart of the Indian Republic, so to speak.
However, during her political journey, she faced several lows in her life. Her husband Shyam Charan Murmu, a banker, died in 2014. She also lost both of her sons all in a span of just 4 years.
Murmu devoted her life to serving society, empowering poor, downtrodden and marginalized section of the society. She has rich administrative experience and an outstanding gubernatorial tenure in Jharkhand. Murmu has made a special identity in public life by spreading awareness about education in tribal society and serving the public for a long time as a public representative.
Prime Minister NarendraModi said that millions of people, especially those who have experienced poverty and faced hardships, derive great strength from the life of DroupadiMurmu. Her understanding of policy matters and compassionate nature will greatly benefit the country.With Murmu becoming President of the India, the all round development of the tribal community and women is sure to take new heights. This move is not only going to give a new direction to women empowerment but is also set to restore the rich tribal identity. With Murmu becoming the President of India, the already accelerated development of the tribal community under PM Modi, is sure to receive another big boost.
By Nilabh Krishna