Droupadi Murmu: Who is the BJP nominee for Indian president

June 22, 2022
Droupadi Murmu was chosen from among 20 names under consideration.
Droupadi Murmu was chosen from among 20 names under consideration.

NEW DELHI — India's governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has named Droupadi Murmu, a tribal politician, as its candidate for the forthcoming presidential elections.

The 64-year-old former teacher, who comes from Odisha (Orissa) state, has spent decades with the BJP and had a stint as a state governor.

If elected, she would be the country's first tribal leader in the top post.

The president in India is the head of the state, but does not exercise executive powers. He or she is elected by the members of both the houses of parliament and of the legislative assemblies of states and federally-administered union territories.

Analysts say the BJP has enough numbers to ensure its nominee's success.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said he is "confident" that she will make a "great president".

Announcing her nomination on Tuesday after a meeting of the BJP's parliamentary board, party president JP Nadda said Murmu was chosen after a detailed discussion of 20 names that the party and its allies had considered.

Murmu said she learnt about her nomination from television and the news had "surprised" and "delighted" her.

"As a tribal woman from remote Mayurbhanj district, I had not thought about becoming the candidate for the top post," she told reporters after learning of her nomination.

Political leaders from all parties in Odisha welcomed her nomination, describing her as a "daughter of the soil". Murmu said she was "optimistic" about getting support from all the elected lawmakers in the state.

In the elections, Murmu will be pitted against the opposition candidate - veteran politician and former BJP leader Yashwant Sinha. A senior minister in the BJP government led by then prime minister Atal Bihar Vajpayee in the 1990s and early 2000s, Sinha is now a vocal critic of the party and Modi.

His nomination came after two veteran opposition politicians — Sharad Pawar and Farooq Abdullah — and Gopalkrishna Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi's grandson, rejected the opposition's offer to stand for the post.

The presidential election is to be held on 18 July and the results declared on 21 July.

The winning candidate will replace President Ram Nath Kovind whose term ends on 24 July.

Murmu first came into the limelight in 2017 when she was rumoured to be among the names under consideration by the BJP ahead of the presidential election that year. She was then serving as the governor of the state of Jharkhand.

Born on 20 June 1958 in Baidaposi village of Mayurbhanj district, Ms Murmu belongs to the Santhal community, one of India's oldest and largest tribal groups.

Daughter of a village council chief, she studied at the Ramadevi Women's College in the state capital, Bhubaneswar.

Beginning her career as a clerk for the Odisha government, she served as a junior assistant in the irrigation and energy department from 1979-1983.

She also taught at Sri Aurobindo Integral Education and Research Center in Rairangpur from 1994-1997.

Her political career began in 1997 when she was elected as a councillor in the local polls in Rairangpur, a city close to her hometown.

As a member of the BJP, she was elected to the state assembly twice - in 2000 and in 2009 - from the Rairangpur seat.

From 2000-2004, she was a minister in the state's coalition government, led by Naveen Patnaik of the Biju Janata Dal party. Initially in charge of commerce and transport, she later handled the fisheries and animal resources portfolios.

From 2006 to 2009, Murmu was the president of the BJP's state wing for "scheduled tribes" - tribal communities recognised by India's constitution as socially and economically disadvantaged.

She left active politics in 2015 after she was appointed as the first female governor of the neighbouring state of Jharkhand.

She was also the first tribal leader from Odisha to be appointed as governor of a state and held the position for six years until July 2021.

According to BBC Hindi's Ravi Prakash in Ranchi, Jharkhand's capital, Murmu won much appreciation as during her tenure, the governor's office was open to people from all communities and walks of life. — BBC

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