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India gets its 1st tribal woman President as Droupadi Murmu beats Yashwant Sinha

Murmu, the NDA candidate, got 2824 votes, compared to opposition candidate Yashwant Sinha's 1877. She will be sworn in on 25 July, a day after President Ram Nath Kovind's term ends.

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New Delhi: Droupadi Murmu, 64, is all set to become the 15th President of India after the Electoral College’s votes were counted Thursday. She will be the first member of a tribal community, and the second woman, to be voted to the top constitutional post.

Murmu, a former governor of Jharkhand, secured 2824 votes, whose electoral value is 6,76,803 out of a total of 10,86,431. A total of 4,754 votes were polled, out of which 4,701 were valid. Murmu secured 64.03 per cent of the vote.

The joint opposition candidate, Yashwant Sinha, received 1,877 votes, with an electoral value of 3,80,177, or 35.97 per cent of the vote.

Congratulations started pouring in, with incumbent President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders being among the first to felicitate Murmu.

Murmu will be sworn in on 25 July, a day after incumbent President Ram Nath Kovind’s term ends.

Her election was a given, considering she had the support of 44 political parties. But the fact that she crossed the halfway mark in the third round, with one more round of counting left, shows that many MPs and MLAs cross-voted in her favour. Sources in Parliament said that some 17 MPs from the opposition camp had cross-voted in favour of Murmu.

As parties can’t issue a whip in presidential elections, legislators are free vote to vote for any candidate without fearing disqualification. Over 100 MLAs had cross-voted for Murmu till the third round.

Besides the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA), which nominated Murmu to the post, several opposition parties including the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), YSR Congress Party, Janata Dal (Secular), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), All India Anna Dravida Munetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), Shiromani Akali Dal, Shiv Sena, and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) also voted for Murmu.

Odisha Chief Minister and BJD chief Naveen Patnaik was the first opposition party leader to have announced his support for Murmu, who comes from Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district and is a member of the Santhal tribal community.   

Of the total votes, the BJP and its allies have a total share of 49.8 per cent. With 31 MPs and 151 MLAs, the YSR Congress holds about 4.2 per cent. Its rival and NDA ex-ally Telugu Desam Party has also come out in support of Murmu. The party, with four MPs and 23 MLAs, has a vote share of about 0.6 per cent.

The Shiv Sena, which is partly in the NDA as of now, also has about 1.4 per cent of the vote share. The fragmented party mostly active in Maharashtra has collectively supported Murmu. The AIADMK, whose equation with the BJP-led NDA is sometimes patchy, has also come out in support of Murmu, bringing an additional 1.4 per cent of the vote to her kitty.

With 0.7 per cent of the vote, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, which is in power Jharkhand in alliance with the Congress, has also extended its support to Murmu. The Janata Dal (Secular), led by H.D. Kumaraswamy in Karnataka, whose government the BJP toppled in 2019, has also extended its support with 0.5 per cent of the vote. The BSP has also extended support with their 0.8 per cent vote share in Murmu’s favour.

Clubbed together, these non-BJP parties announcing their support to Murmu hold 12.6 per cent of the vote.

It was India’s first President, Rajendra Prasad, who won with the highest ever margin in a presidential election till date — 98 per cent of the vote — when he stood for his third term in 1957.

Also Read: Droupadi Murmu: NDA presidential pick is ex-teacher, took BJP head on as Jharkhand governor

Tribal outreach

The NDA’s decision to field Murmu as its candidate was politically significant and seen as an outreach to tribal communities ahead of assembly elections in crucial states, including Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan — all of which have a sizeable tribal population.

Assembly elections in Gujarat are due later this year, while the other three states will go to the polls in 2023.

The NDA’s decision to nominate Murmu had led to a split in the opposition camp, with parties including the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha announcing their decision to support her. Shortly before, the JMM had been part of the opposition bloc that nominated Sinha as their presidential candidate. 

Even West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had softened her stand on Murmu, saying that had the BJP discussed Murmu’s nomination before the announcement, she would have discussed it at the opposition meeting.

Tribals make up a sizeable portion of Jharkhand’s population, and have a significant presence in at least five Lok Sabha seats in Bengal.

Sinha’s candidature was supported by a joint opposition bloc that included the Congress, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the Samajwadi Party (SP), and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD). 

Murmu’s name was also under consideration for the President’s post in 2017 but the NDA chose to go with Ram Nath Kovind, a Dalit.  

First tribal governor 

Murmu was also the first tribal leader to have been appointed governor of a state.

An arts graduate, her political innings started in 1997 when she contested the civic polls in Rairangpur, her hometown in Odisha, and was elected to the Nagar Panchayat.

In 2000, Murmu contested the Odisha assembly election from Rairangpur and won, becoming a minister in the BJD-BJP coalition government in Odisha under Naveen Patnaik. 

The two-time BJP MLA was appointed governor of Jharkhand in 2015. Her term would have ended in 2020, but it was extended for another year amid the Covid pandemic. 

(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)

Also Read: Why Dhankhar and Murmu are perfect fit in Modi’s Mission 2024

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