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26 Jun, 2022
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Droupadi Murmu

Analysis: Is NDA’s Presidential Pick Draupadi Murmu The ‘Ace of Spades’ For BJP Government?

After the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) announced its presidential candidature, I could only recall just one dialogue: “Ab iss Raajneeti mein Chanakya-neeti laani padegi” (Web series: Tandav). Shortly after the opposition parties announced former Union Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha as their pick, BJP President JP Nadda revealed former Jharkhand Governor Draupadi Murmu’s name as the presidential pick of NDA. The Presidential election is scheduled to be held on 18 July 2022, and the results will be out on 21 July 2022.

While Yashwant Sinha has served as the Finance Minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee cabinet, Draupadi Murmu has served as the Governor of Jharkhand. The tribal leader Draupadi Murmu will be pitted against Yashwant Sinha in the upcoming Presidential election, and honestly, it can’t be more exciting to see. As for opposition parties, they were struggling to find a suitable nominee for becoming the first citizen of the country. After facing rejections from National Congress Chief Sharad Pawar, Former Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi and Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah, the parties finally picked Yashwant Sinha. However, when it comes to the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and the NDA, it just took them a short meeting to take a final call on the presidential candidate.

For the unversed, this is not the first time that Ms Murmu’s name has been recommended for holding the president post of India. In the 2017 Presidential Elections, Draupadi Murmu was a strong contender for the post. However, the NDA fielded the then Bihar Governor Ram Nath Kovind, a Dalit leader, for the President’s position. Without a doubt, the NDA did play the ‘Rajneeti’ and understood the then political wave in the country as Ram Nath Kovind won the presidential election.

As per BJP’s JP Nadda, the Parliamentary Board wanted to pick someone from the eastern part of India who is a tribal and a woman. Thus, it picked Draupadi Murmu. Well, before India gets its new President, let’s politically understand the ‘gains’ here if NDA’s pick Draupadi Murmu wins the Presidential Election!

Who Is Draupadi Murmu?

Before entering state politics, Draupadi Murmu, who hails from Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district, started out as a teacher. She has held the position of MLA twice on the BJP ticket. During the Bhartiya Janata Party – Biju Janata Dal (BJP-BJD) coalition government in 2000, Ms Murmu held the Commerce and Transport Department and the Fisheries and Animal Husbandry. In 2009, she again won even after the BJP paled against the challenge put up by the then estranged BJD.

Draupadi Murmu, a Tribal leader, has served as Councillor in the Rairangpur Nagar Panchayat and also as the Vice-President of the BJP’s Scheduled Tribes Morcha. In 2015, Ms Murmu was sworn in as the first woman Governor of Jharkhand.

Draupadi Murmu – The Trump Card of the Narendra Modi Government? 

Now comes the most important part, why did the NDA pick Draupadi Murmu’s name? There’s a very famous saying in politics: “In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way,” Picking Draupadi Murmu now versus not picking her during the 2017 Presidential Election can either be a coincidence or maybe a planned move? Nonetheless, the Narendra Modi government can register many ‘political gains‘ in the future if Draupadi Murmu becomes the next President of India. (The wave is very much towards the NDA’s pick!)

Draupadi Murmu can become the first president of India who hails from a tribal community of Odisha. The NDA has worked out a great strategy to hit the opposition camp hard. Since she has served as the governor of Jharkhand (a tribal majority state ruled by the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, a UPA partner),  it would be hard for the opposition not to support her.

Though Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) is a part of the opposition camp, Murmu, being a former Jharkhand Governor, enjoys a cordial bond with the state government. However, as part of the opposition, JMM is likely to support Yashwant Sinha. Well, the NDA has definitely put JMM in quite a tight spot! 

If you were unaware, Ms Murmu had been a firm tribal leader from the state. She had been a staunch supporter of the tribal community and has even failed the BJP government’s plan to amend Land Tenancy Acts. A supporter of tribal rights, Draupadi Murmu, had returned the bills introduced to amend the Chhotanagpur Tenancy (CNT) Act and Santhal Pargana Tenancy (SPT) Act. From these instances, it is clear that Draupadi Murmu is a strong administrative tribal leader and has a strong political hold in both Odisha and Jharkhand. 

Did the bell strike? The Bhartiya Janata Party is trying hard to strengthen its hold over Odisha and Jharkhand, where it lost the elections in 2019! 

Data shows that 8.6% of India’s total population is tribals, majorly placed in Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and the northeastern states. The BJP has found it challenging to win states like Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh which has a significant chunk of tribal population in the last elections. All of these major tribal states are held by the opposition parties, which means that ‘not supporting‘ a tribal candidate can even cost them a lot.

The Bhartiya Janata Party is also trying to create a ‘positive electoral impact‘ in the northeast by choosing Draupadi Murmu. The northeastern part of India houses more than 50% of the tribal population. 

A short-term gain for the BJP could be the upcoming Gujarat Assembly Elections, as Gujarat also has more than 14% tribal population. The tribal community dominates many districts of the state. 

When you see the caste equation, Draupadi Murmu fits in perfectly, but in comparison, Yashwant Sinha is nowhere to be seen! Many political pundits have pointed out that BJP has made an intelligent move by fielding Murmu against Yashwant Sinha, considering she is a woman and comes from a tribal background.

The BJP has always faced the wrath of being an ‘upper-class party‘; however, choosing Ms Murmu, who belongs to a particularly marginal group of India, is a big move in proving otherwise. The BJP also has a good base of ‘women voters‘, so what’s better than fielding a women candidate for the President’s post to woo women voters? 

Overall, Draupadi Murmu is better symbolically and politically when compared to the opposition’s choice, who has always been perceived as a Modi-baiter.

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