TODAY -

President-elect Droupadi Murmu is the first tribal about to live in Rashtrapati Bhavan

Lakshmana Venkat Kuchi *



As was mentioned in the passing, to conclude a recent write up of mine of last month, speculation about a tribal leader entering the Rashtrapati Bhawan came true. There were a few political pundits who were mentioning the name of Droupadi Murmu, a tribal leader who rose through the ranks to become a Governor and has held many administra-tive posts in her illustrious public life.

But none was sure given the penchant of the BJP and NDA leadership to spring political surprises that eventually turn out to be political googlies that the Opposition finds difficult to deal with.

Nomination, and the subsequent election of Droupadi Murmu and more important the nature of her victory with cross voting from MPs and MLAs — breaking the Opposition ranks—goes to show how her choice by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi led NDA formation caused a rift within the fledgling Opposition formation and secured a victory for their candidate that was much larger than anticipated.

Murmu, 64, received 64 percent of the votes of the electoral college and became the youngest person ever to be elected to the position of the head of the Nation. It is such an honour and pride for Murmu to be adoring the high office for a person who just wanted to read, educate herself to teach.

In her journey from a tiny, remote tribal village to the Rashtrapati Bhawan, it is her commitment to education that comes out strongly, all through her working life and twists and turns in her career that took her to politics eventually. She excelled first as a student, and then as a teaching. She completed her graduation; Murmu joined the Irriga-tion Department of the Government of Odisha as a Junior Assistant.

After she got married, she left the job and began teaching at Aurobindo Integral Education Centre in Rairangapur township where her husband was working. Down to earth, Murmu continued her association with fellow teachers, and students, even after she entered politics and rose tbrough the ranks to become a Minister and later a Governor.

Perhaps it was her grounding in spiritualism that she found in the Bramha Kumaris that made her the person she is, one who could absorb so much personal pressure, trauma and challenges that life throwed at her. Elated at the eleva-tion, she has thanked each and every one—MLAs and MPs—from all over India for choosing her to serve as the 15th President.

She tweeted, "I extend my heartiest gratitude to all my brothers and sisters throughout India who have supported me to reach the Highest Commandant of Indian Army. I am devoted to work for the people of my great motherland India."

She further said, "When I was nominated as NDA's Presidential candidate from that day, I took oath in my mind that if I became President, first of all I will work for more development of , tribal and Adivasi brothers and sisters of Whole India & Odisha. Now that time has come, I will keep my promise."

If the choice of Presidential nominee by Modi was a political googly that fetched the NDA good returns in terms of cross voting—that indicates weakening of the Opposition, the Vice-Presidential race already is witnessing fissure within the Opposition. TMC leader and West Bengal Chief Minister Mama.

Banerjee has already questioned the choice of former Lok Sabha Speaker Margaret Alva as the common Opposition candidate, claiming that TMC was not consulted and indicated that she would abstain from the VP polls. The NDA has nominated West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankad to the post, being vacated by M VertIcaiah Naidu after competition of his five-year term.

While the formal election of the new Vice President is yet to happen, there is no doubt that this race too is pretty easy to predict — the NDA nominee is set to romp home with ease. Now, all this only goes to show how the BJP, with its stint of hard work of over four decades and more, captured the pole position in Indian politics and replaced Congress as the party that benefits from the Opposition vote split.

Till the advent of the BJP as the strong ruling party with a majority of its own in Lok Sabha, it was the Congress that benefitted from the multi directional split of the votes for parties ranged against it Now it is the turn of the BJP to enjoy and benefit from that position.

On top of it, if the Congress is unable to put its own house in order and manage its relations with the Opposition parties that it intends to lead will only be advantage BJP and NDA in future electoral battles. The Congress, or rather the BJP, ensured that there was enough cross voting from MLAs and MPs to cause concern in the Opposition camp.

After the votes from the electoral college for Presidential polls were counted, it was clear that her victory was more facile than was being anticipated. The late swing of Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren to put his weight behind fellow Santhal candidate in Murmu was a bonus for NDA poll managers. His reason-ing is something that should sound an alarm in the minds of the Opposition grouping's leaders.

Here, the Opposition candidate Yashwant Sinha had his worst performance from his home State. He got only 9 out of the 81 votes in Jharkhand but in neighbouring Odisha Murmu got 137 out of the total 147 votes in Bhubaneshwar. As per the final results, 126 MLAs spread across 18 States and 17 MPs defied their respective party diktats and cross voted in her favour.

Now this is significant given the attempt of the Opposition to turn the Presidential polls into a battle of ideologies. The result clearly boosts the confi-dence, image and showcases its ability of poll management. The nomination of a tribal leader to the highest post in the land also gives the BJP a fresh Constituency—tribal popu-lation spread across the country—to attract and nurture.

Now with the big statement of its pro-ST credentials, the BJP can hope to consolidate its position by winning the goodwill of tribal population in not only Odisha and Jharkhand but also in West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and in North East.


* Lakshmana Venkat Kuchi wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is a senior journalist tracking social, economic, and political changes across the country.
He was associated with the Press Trust of India, The Hindu, Sunday Observer and Hindustan Times.
He can be reached on kvlakshman(AT)gmail(dot)com
This article was webcasted on July 25 2022.



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