Who is Droupadi Murmu, the woman likely to become India's first tribal president?

Santhal politician declared candidate for presidential election after BJP approval

India's governing Bharatiya Janata Party's presidential candidate Droupadi Murmu greets wellwishers in Raigangpur, Odisha. AP
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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist party has nominated a tribal female politician as its presidential candidate.

Droupadi Murmu, 64, was declared candidate for the presidential election on Tuesday after India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party approved her running during a meeting with the National Democratic Alliance.

Ms Murmu is a Santhal, a marginal tribal community and is from Mayurbhanj in eastern Odisha state.

If elected, she would replace incumbent President Ramnath Kovind and become the second woman to hold the post after Pratibha Patil, who served from 2007 to 2012.

She would become the first president born after India’s independence in 1947.

Who is Droupadi Murmu and what is her background?

Ms Murmu was born to a village headman in Baidaposi in 1958. Before entering politics, she worked as a schoolteacher and later as a junior assistant in the irrigation department until 1983.

She was married to Shyam Charan Murmu and had two sons and a daughter but she tragically lost both her sons and her husband.

An arts graduate, Ms Murmu has spent nearly two decades in politics and social services.

How did she become involved in politics?

Ms Murmu was elected as a village councillor in 1997 and later served as the vice-president for BJP’s tribal wing.

She entered formal politics after becoming a junior minister, holding the portfolio of Commerce and Transport, in the BJP and Odisha state’s Biju Janata Dal coalition government in 2000.

She was chosen by the Odisha Assembly as the best legislator of the year in 2007.

She was appointed the first tribal governor of Jharkhand, a tribal dominated state, in 2015.

Known for her accessibility and a down-to-earth attitude, she was described as a “compassionate and balanced” administrator in Jharkhand.

She was considered for president in 2017 but Ram Nath Kovind, a Dalit parliamentarian and governor of Bihar, made the cut as nominee.

What is the role of India's president?

As ceremonial head of state, the Indian president has few real powers and acts chiefly on the advice of the government.

But most political parties regard a candidate's election campaign as an opportunity to display their nationwide political strength, as well as symbolism.

Parties often nominate candidates from marginalised groups such as the Dalits — formerly known as untouchables — and from the lowest rung in the Hindu caste hierarchy, women and religious minorities.

Hundreds of national and state legislators will vote to elect the president for a term of five years, with the BJP commanding about 48 per cent of the share of the ballot.

Updated: June 22, 2022, 11:43 AM
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