Being from Odisha I consider June 22, 2022, as a historic day, as that was the day Droupadi Murmu filed her nomination papers for President at the Parliament House.
The BJP-led NDA’s Presidential candidate is the favourite to win as the 15th President and the second woman President of India. Political affiliations notwithstanding, as a woman it was heartening to see the big show of support from the who’s who of politics as they sat beside at Parliament House while she filed her nomination. She is only the second person from the scheduled tribes to be nominated for this position.
I support her candidature as a woman and for the tremendous journey, she has led to reaching here.
Why the nomination of Droupadi Murmu matters
Her nomination is significant in itself and if she wins (when she wins) she will be India’s first tribal woman to be seated in the highest post in India. She is from the Santhal tribal community and has served the society in different roles and now she’s slated to be the next President. She became the Governor of Jharkhand in 2015, again the first tribal woman to do so.
Our PM Narendra Modi summed up why her candidature matters, “Millions of people, especially those who have experienced poverty and faced hardships, derive great strength from the life of Smt. Droupadi Murmu Ji. Her understanding of policy matters and compassionate nature will greatly benefit our country.”
I only knew she is from Odisha so I was curious and started reading up on her and I came across some amazing facts about her. Murmu belongs to the forest dependent Santhal tribe of Odisha. The tribe is spread over four states and is India’s largest scheduled tribe after the Bhils and Gonds.
Not many know that over 84 million people belonging to 698 communities spread across India are identified as members of scheduled tribes. They continue to be marginalized —socially, economically and culturally. Tribes are generally poor and lack access to healthcare and education in remote villages. Many hope including me that her tenure will help India’s marginalised indigenous population.
I was amazed to know that she is one person who doesn’t hesitate to exercise the power vested in her. An example of this is when she was the Governor of Jharkhand, she returned two controversial bills — the Chhotanagpur Tenancy (CNT) Act and Santhal Pargana Tenancy (SPT) Act — given the widespread agitation from tribes after the state sought to dilute their rights over their land. So she instils hope that she will take into consideration the welfare of the people as President of India.
It is but natural to feel proud of a woman to rise, even more so when she is from a marginalised community. Even the Chief Minister of Odisha voiced that pride, “Congratulations Smt #DraupadiMurmu on being announced as candidate of NDA for the country’s highest office. I was delighted when Hon’ble PM @narendramodi ji discussed this with me. It is indeed a proud moment for people of #Odisha.”
Her early life was not a bed of roses
Murmu was born on June 20, 1958, in a small village called Baidaposi in the Mayurbanj district of Odisha to Biranchi Narayan Tudu. From her childhood, she was excellent in her studies and after facing many hardships she completed her schooling and then joined Rama Devi University in Bhubaneswar for her graduation. After the completion of her graduation, she joined Shri Aurobindo Integral Education Centre in Rairangpur as a school teacher.
Her father and grandfather were village heads under the Panchayati Raj system and were highly respected in the village. I am sure this is where she picked up leadership skills and the determination to do something for society.
As soon as she reached marriageable age Murmu was married to Shyam Charan Murmu and the couple went on to have two sons and a daughter. However, Murmu has suffered multiple tragedies in her personal life. Her husband, Shyam Charan Murmu passed away following a cardiac arrest. Later in 2009, one of her sons died under mysterious circumstances. Just three years later, in 2012, her second son died in a road accident. Murmu’s daughter Itishree is married to Ganesh Hembram and settled in Bhubaneswar, where she works with UCO Bank. Itishree’s husband Ganesh Hembram is a rugby player and the young couple has a little daughter.
Her political journey was an inspiration Draupadi Murmu journey
It was while working as an educator at Rairangpur that she started her political journey. She was elected as a councillor of the Rairangpur Nagar panchayat in 1997. Later on, she joined the BJP in 1997 and was elevated to the post of the National Vice President of the BJP, her tremendous zeal as a party worker got her this post. Seeing her calibre she was made the Governor of Jharkhand, the first tribal woman to become so.
During the BJD and BJP coalition government in Odisha, she served as a minister of Commerce and Transport and subsequently Fisheries and Animal Resources department between 2000 and 2004.
As proof of her diligence and dedication as an MLA, she was awarded the Nilkantha Award by Odisha Legislative Assembly in 2007 for being the best party worker and MLA.
When her candidature was announced by the BJP-led coalition last month, Murmu declared, “I am surprised as well as delighted. As a tribal woman from remote Mayurbhanj district, I had not thought about becoming the candidate for the top post.”
The counting of votes is expected to take place on July 21 while the next president will take oath on July 25 and I hope it will just be a confirmation of her victory.
Party allegiance notwithstanding, her elevation to the post of President of India will be a proud moment as a woman who believes in equal opportunities for people. Once someone reaches the highest position they cease to represent a party. They represent the people of India. Droupadi Murmu is a living example of the indomitable spirit of humans at grass root level and womanhood.
The views expressed are the author’s own.