Draupadi Murmu, India’s first tribal woman Governor, is BJP candidate for President

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The governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has picked former Jharkhand Governor and tribal leader Draupadi Murmu as its presidential candidate. She will run against opposition candidate Yashwant Sinha of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) for the election to be held on July 18. The new President will take office on July 25, a day after incumbent President Ram Nath Kovind’s term ends.

Murmu, who hails from the eastern Indian state of Odisha, becomes the first woman tribal leader to contest for the country’s highest Constitutional post. Before this, she was India’s first tribal woman Governor.

Her six-plus years tenure as Jharkhand governor was seen as not only non-controversial, but also memorable. After her tenure came to an end, Murmu moved back to Odisha’s Rairangpur village on July 12, 2021. She has been living there since then.

Her selection for the top post is seen as BJP’s strategy to make inroads into India’s tribal communities, which have, so far, been supporting the Congress party. The BJP is eyeing upcoming state Assembly elections, and tribals are its main focus in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

Murmu has served twice as a state lawmaker and once as a minister in Odisha, before being sworn in as the governor of Jharkhand on May 18, 2015. Her five-year term ended on May 18, 2020, but was automatically extended due to non-appointment of a new governor due to the ongoing Covid pandemic.

A former teacher, Murmu is regarded as an expert in tribal affairs, education, law and order and health, something that came to the fore during her gubernatorial tenure in Jharkhand.

Senior Professor at Jharkhand’s Vinoba Bhave University Dr Shailesh Chandra Sharma said that Murmu had organised Lok Adalats on issues related to higher education in the state, in which about 5,000 cases of university teachers and employees were settled. In order to centralize the enrolment process in the state’s universities and colleges, she created the Chancellor’s portal.

Born on June 20, 1958 in Odisha in a Santhal tribal family, Murmu started her political career in 1997. She was elected councillor of the district board in Rairangpur in 1997. Prior to joining politics, Murmu worked as an honorary assistant teacher at Sri Aurobindo Integral Education and Research Centre, Rairangpur and as a junior assistant in the Irrigation Department, before joining politics. She has been MLA twice in Odisha and also got a chance to work as a minister in the Naveen Patnaik government, when the BJP was in coalition with the Biju Janata Dal (BJD).

Murmu was also awarded the Neelkanth Award for Best Legislator by the Odisha Legislative Assembly.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said she has devoted her life to serving society and empowering the poor, the downtrodden and the marginalized. “She has rich administrative experience and an outstanding gubernatorial tenure. I am confident she will be a great President of our nation,” Modi said. “Her understanding of policy matters and compassionate nature will greatly benefit our country.”

Odisha Chief Minister and BJD President Naveen Patnaik on Wednesday appealed to all MLAs in the state to support Draupadi Murmu, who has been named as the NDA candidate in the presidential election.

Patnaik, who is in currently touring Rome, made this appeal on Twitter.

“Appeal all the members of Odisha Legislative Assembly, cutting across party lines, to extend unanimous support to elect the daughter of #Odisha – Smt #DraupadiMurmu to the country’s highest office,” he tweeted, clearly indicating that his party will support the NDA candidate in the race for Raisina Hill.

HOW IS INDIA’S PRESIDENT ELECTED?
The new President is chosen by an electoral college consisting of the elected members of both houses of parliament (M.P.s), the elected members of the State Legislative Assemblies (Vidhan Sabha) of all States and the elected members of the legislative assemblies (MLAs) of union territories with legislatures, i.e., National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir, and Puducherry.

The nomination of a candidate for election to the office of the president must be subscribed by at least 50 electors as proposers and 50 electors as seconders. Each candidate has to make a security deposit of ₹15,000 (approximately US$192) in the Reserve Bank of India.

The election is held in accordance with the system of proportional representation by means of the instant-runoff voting (IRV) method. The voting takes place by a secret ballot system.

Each elector casts a different number of votes. The general principle is that the total number of votes cast by Members of Parliament equals the total number of votes cast by State Legislators. Also, legislators from larger states cast more votes than those from smaller states. Finally, the number of legislators in state matters; if a state has few legislators, then each legislator has more votes; if a state has many legislators, then each legislator has fewer votes.

The actual calculation for votes cast by a particular state is calculated by dividing the state’s population by 1000, which is divided again by the number of legislators from the State voting in the electoral college. This number is the number of votes per legislator in a given state. Every elected MP enjoys the same number of votes, which may be obtained by dividing the total number of votes assigned to the members of legislative assemblies by the total number of elected representatives of Parliament.