With the BJP nominating Droupadi Murmu (64), a Santhal from Odisha, as its candidate for the top constitutional office, India may finally receive its first tribal President.
JP Nadda, the BJP's national president, announced Murmu's candidacy after the party's parliamentary board accepted what is widely seen as Prime Minister Narendra Modi's choice for Rashtrapati Bhavan.
“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,” tweeted the PM.
If elected, Murmu will be the second woman to serve as President, following Pratibha Patil (2007-12), who was endorsed by the UPA.
With the BJP-led NDA, which is short of a majority in the electoral college, confident of making up the difference with regional players like BJD's Naveen Patnaik and YSRCP's Jagan Mohan Reddy — the chief ministers of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, respectively — Murmu appears to be the frontrunner to succeed incumbent Ramnath Kovind, a Dalit from Uttar Pradesh, after the July 18 elections.
Murmu checks a lot of BJP's political boxes as a contender. The party's message regarding the PM's care for tribals, Dalits, and women is likely to be amplified by her candidacy and likely elevation.
Furthermore, the party has been eager to capitalise on the advances it has achieved in Odisha and West Bengal's tribal areas, where the Congress has weakened as a political force. She also follows a pattern in which the BJP has attempted to convey political signals through its selections for Rashtrapati Bhavan.
B L Santosh, the party's general secretary, highlighted the effort by tweeting photos of Murmu alongside those of Kovind and A P J Abdul Kalam."There were three occasions when BJP as part of NDA could choose presidential candidates. On all three ocassions, it was inclusive, respectful of diversity and chose small town and self-made persons. When you are driven by a vision, your choice reflects that vision."
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik quickly tweeted his support for NDA Presidential candidate Droupadi Murmu, who had previously served in the BJD-BJP Odisha partnership. Patnaik tweeted, "It is indeed a proud moment for people of Odisha. I am sure Smt Murmu will set a shining example for women empowerment in the country." According to observers, the BJD will find it difficult to resist a candidate who was born and served as a minister in the state.
Patnaik has been a strong advocate for women's rights, with his party fielding a record number of female candidates in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.